#Pandemic

“When you emerge from the burning, covered in the ashes of the person you once were, remember how even the most devastating wildfires burn away debris and nourish the soil so that new trees grow.” | Nikita Gill

The above quote touched me and reminded me of how significant growth is and how adapting to change is vital. A year ago, our county in Steamboat Springs went into lockdown, and our mountain closed. I remember being so worried about what would happen to our valley that is so dependent on our beautiful mountain and tourism. How were businesses going to survive, would we have enough food, my family’s jobs, so much fear and unknown. I even found myself panic-buying and somehow came home with six bottles of disinfectant. While this pandemic has humbled so many of us and forced us to put things into perspective, it’s also shown how strong the human spirit is and how amazing our community truly is.

Most of us are still dealing with the effects and anxiety of this time; it’s been labeled as pandemic fatigue. Pandemic fatigue is not a medical condition but is a term used to describe the natural response people feel to the prolonged uncertainty and disruption. People “have made huge sacrifices to contain COVID-19,” says Dr. Hans Kluge, World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe. “In such circumstances, it is easy and natural to feel apathetic and demotivated, to experience fatigue.” But I think it’s essential to also look at the positives this experience has taught us. Some days I am pushed to my limit, out of my comfort zone, and forced to accept that I can’t always make hard times better. I had never filed for unemployment, never done meditation, never asked for a free community meal, had to respect not being able to leave my home, be my child’s full-time teacher, and most of all figure out how I was going to pay my bills. It’s overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, and honestly not anything I ever would’ve expected in my lifetime. But, I not only survived but started new habits and began looking at my time like I never have before. I wanted to share a few of my take-aways from this past year as victories, and in hopes a few of the ideas might help you as well.

Daily Habits Matter. Research has proven that it takes 21 days to create a habit. But, when you practice that habit for 90 days, you’ll have built a lifestyle. Everyone is unique in what they consider self-care. Explore different methods and see what makes you happier personally. I started using Headspace every night before bed because it came as a perk with my employment. I realized it helped calm my mind, sit with my feelings, breathe deep, and most of all has allowed me to cope with my anxiety. I recently even started the practice with my daughter, and surprisingly when you are reminded to breathe, you’re giving your body permission to calm itself. Journaling was also essential in having a place to dive into the emotions and remind me what I have to be grateful about.

As we all know, moving our bodies is so crucial for our mental health, releasing endorphins, tension, as well as for our physical bodies. A simple walk, stretch session, quick yoga exercise, Just Dance game, or online video can be just what we need to feel more in control. Be your body’s friend; it has carried you through so much and deserves to be cared for. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and make time for something that makes you smile each day. Media intake needs to be kept in check to control our thinking, avoid comparing ourselves too much and keep our minds off things we can’t change. Rather than focus on what you can no longer do, look for ways that you can take advantage of your situation.

Remember It’s Healthy To Cry. This whole year has been a lot to process. Between financial stress, shocking news, scary statistics, and uncertainty, it’s no wonder we are all feeling the effects. Many of us, including myself, feel like crying feels like giving in or that we aren’t as strong as we’d like to be. It’s important to cry and is a natural reaction to help our bodies feel better. Studies have shown that crying has numerous benefits, including decreasing stress hormones, releasing the tension, removing toxins, and helping your body feel better. Benefits from crying include the release of oxytocin and endorphins, hormones that soothe us and make us happier. A 2014 study showed that crying drops you into your parasympathetic nervous system, thereby allowing you to relax and release stress. If you feel your suppressing sadness, look for ways to help release it, like watching a sad movie, listening to deep music, calling a trusted friend or a therapist. While it can feel uncomfortable, remember that human emotions are there for a reason, and getting them out will benefit us long term.

Growth Isn’t Always Easy. During both lockdown and when I’ve had mandatory quarantine, I was forced with time on my hands like I hadn’t had since my youth. To not make me feel like I was living Groundhog Day, I started adding small attainable goals to my daily calendar. Whether it was cleaning out my storage closet, learning to cook a new recipe, organizing photos, researching a psychology topic, starting a new book, trying a new craft, working on business goals, the important thing was making sure I wasn’t wasting my day. Growth can be different things for each one of us. It can mean accepting, embodying, adjusting, observing, releasing, or relearning a new way of living our lives. This past year made us all painfully aware of injustice and that not saying anything is still taking a side. But, voices were heard, and critical issues were brought to the forefront. This pandemic has transformed lives and made us all reflect on what’s truly important.

Don’t Be Ashamed To Accept Help. Being raised in a family that taught self-reliance and hard work, I find it hard sometimes to accept help. For many years, our family always offered financial assistance, made meals, or helped others in the community. This past year the tables were turned, and it was humbling to be the family that needed help. The generosity shown touched me, that many in our community kindly dignified us and stepped up where they saw a need. From free meals to a friend gifting us a laptop, dropping off flowers, fixing things in our home, helping with technology, gifting us a free art class, a community membership, it was heartwarming to see how others gave to us without asking or wanting anything in return. In the end, I realized that when we are feeling our lowest, the best thing can sometimes be doing something nice for someone else. Remember, someone always has it worse than you, and be grateful for what you are blessed with.

Kids Need Extra Support And Time. While we all have struggled with missing social activity, it’s harder on children. Their lives are heavily dependent on social interactions and significant milestones that are formative. Try seeing things from their perspective and acknowledge how hard it truly is. While I always have prided myself in communication with my daughter, I’ve realized that children’s feelings and emotions are different from adults in this pandemic. We know how to process better, understand where emotions stem from, and learn how to cope. Recent studies have shown that many children will withdraw or not express their feelings, not worry their already stressed parents. They may quickly get upset over small things from unexpressed frustration. Instead of minimizing their feelings or trying to look on the bright side, validate their expressions, and focus on supporting and valuing their abilities.

A few ways to help them express difficult emotions could be during physical activity, allowing them to rant, using art, screaming into their pillow, talking to a therapist, anything that gets those challenging feelings out. Avoid lectures or lessons, which can cause children to tune out and become more about the parent’s feelings. Instead of asking why something happened, ask how they feel about something like a failed test or problem. Sharing our emotions and even challenges can remind them we all struggle and show we respect their feelings. Always remember to ask their opinion and be open to changes that might contribute to happier home life. Sometimes deep conversations can be best without eye contact, so try it during watching a show or even driving in the car. Show patience and remember this is also a new way of life. Make a schedule that reflects your family’s current situation and set screen time limits.

Our goals for this year are attainable and can be simpler than any resolution. Be patient with yourself and others around you. Focus on your mental health. Allow whatever emotions you need to feel. Fill your mind with what lifts you up. Whether by a text, call, email, card, or video chat, reach out to someone you care about to remind them you care. Above all, congratulate yourself on surviving the last year. Be grateful you are alive, but also hopefully this unprecedented time has taught you more about yourself. No matter what each day brings, you cannot only get through it but can come out stronger on the other side. Be kind to your body and mind, remembering you’ll have good and challenging days. Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent. You will never speak to anyone more than when you talk to yourself in your head, so be gentle. We have the strength inside us to endure and come out stronger despite our circumstances.

#CreativeHustle

“Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, own a house, as if life is some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks if you are happy.” | Heath Ledger

When Life Changes Know Where To Turn

Many of us grew up being told by the world around us what success is. If the above quote teaches us anything, it’s that money, career, relationships, and financial accomplishments do not equal happiness. Sadly we’ve seen many in Hollywood struggle with mental illness and pressure from the demands of the business. I’ve had many job titles over the years, but the titles didn’t always equal satisfaction. So much of the time I pushed myself for companies who didn’t care about my well-being and in the end didn’t appreciate me. That’s when I realized being my own boss was the only way to take control and live the life I wanted. It was hard and challenging, but I slowly found my calling. Life is too short to not be doing something that makes you feel passionate and alive.

I’ve been having this conversation a lot lately with my daughter about what she see’s on YouTube and social media. How people might look happy, but deep down, they might not be. While it’s good to have goals, work hard, and enjoy life, we must remember to do it on our own terms. There can be a price to pay when we get too focused on what other’s think or expectations put on us. Each person deserves to find their definition of happiness.

It took me years to get to the point where I have stopped caring so much what others think, because the truth is that they aren’t living my life. Stop comparing your life to other’s and try to be grateful for what you have. Set goals that are important to you and no one else. You will never disappoint yourself if you listen to your gut. It’s alright to walk away from what isn’t serving you or giving back what you put in.

A recent podcast I listened to made an excellent point that we need to change how we view debt. If your debt meant getting a degree, making a needed change, leaving a toxic relationship, provided you with a deserved break, got you needed medical care, or allowed you to experience life to the full, then be grateful you had that experience. While no one enjoys the weight of debt, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. Stop with the guilt and come up with a reasonable plan. Educate yourself on your options, ask for financial advice, and research steps that can help you. Remember, your debt does not define you.

Writing for a financial institution recently educated me on some great advice that I wanted to share. I hope you find this information helpful and gives you some insight. Keep in mind you can accomplish anything you put your mind to and strive for. End each day knowing what you did matters in this world, and dedicate time every day to work toward the life you want. Never has there been a time in history when so many things are uncertain. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. While the times we live in have made us all value our loved ones, health, and appreciate the simple things in life, many of us are struggling with financial uncertainty. We are all looking for security and ways to reduce our stress, which can be provided quickly by a personal loan. 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many have lost income, retirement funds, and business revenue. A U.S. News survey found that 1 in 3 American’s used their stimulus check to pay for essentials, which shows how many are struggling. The great news is while in the past personal loan’s APR ranged from 6% – 36%, the Federal Reserve has held interest rates lower, which is excellent news for those with solid credit and steady income.A quick Personal loan has become increasingly popular in our society. Experian notes it’s important to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a personal loan. Whether it’s consolidating credit cards into one monthly payment, refinancing student loans, making needed home repairs, medical bills, funding a small business, paying for a wedding, financing a large purchase, or some other unexpected life event, a personal loan can significantly help your budget. Most of us have significant credit card debt, and a personal loan can save you thousands over time. 

Repaying a personal loan is different than repaying a credit card. You pay fixed-amount installments over a set time period. Loans vary anywhere from $1,000 – $100,000 and loan terms are usually under five years. A positive to getting a personal loan is that Investopia noted it can even help your credit score. Paying off high-interest debt may lower your credit utilization ratio and thus give you a better credit score. While your credit score is usually the main factor, companies will also consider job information, savings, and other variables. 

Educate yourself on common loan terms to make sure you ask the right questions. The principle is the amount you need to borrow. You’ll pay a monthly interest charge in addition to the portion of your payment that goes toward reducing the principal. Interest is usually expressed as a percentage rate. APR stands for annual percentage rate. When you take out any kind of loan, in addition to the interest, the lender will typically charge fees for making the loan. APR incorporates both your interest rate and any lender fees to give you a better picture of the actual cost of your loan. Comparing APRs is a good way to compare the affordability and value of different personal loans. The term is the number of months you have to repay the loan is called the term. When a lender approves your loan application, they’ll inform you of the interest rate and term they’re offering. Every month during the term, you’ll owe a monthly payment to the lender. This payment will include money toward paying down the principal of the amount you owe, as well as a portion of the total interest you’ll owe over the life of the loan. Personal loans are often unsecured loans, meaning you don’t have to put up collateral for them. With a home or auto loan, the real property you’re buying serves as collateral to the lender. However, some lenders offer secured personal loans, which will require collateral, and could provide better rates than an unsecured loan.

First and foremost, don’t rush into any agreement without understanding the big picture. Make sure you know your credit score and don’t over-borrow what is truly needed. Shop around for the most competitive rates, which can vary by state, income levels, credit score, and debt to income ratio. Take the time to look for companies with great reviews and offer affordable approaches to lending. Have a clear understanding of terms, fees, interest rates, payment schedules, restrictions, penalties, the company’s history, customer service, and taking the time to read the fine print. Many companies offer the option of having a co-signer to help you qualify and also get better rates. In these challenging times, many companies offer to delay payments if you become unemployed, which can give you more peace of mind. Give you and your family something to smile about and advocate to live your best financial life today. 

Original article posted at https://www.todays-woman.net/2020/articles/when-life-changes-know-where-to-turn/

#Teatime

” A woman is like a tea bag, you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt.


An Herb That Could Change Your Life

Lots of ladies in my life lately are proving this infamous quote true. I was never a big tea fan until my mom took me to the Brown Palace for high tea. There I experienced that high quality, loose leaf tea, cream, and sugar, could actually taste incredible. I still fondly carry on this tradition with my daughter and cherish the memories with friends.

When I went to London, that experience was taken to another level with flavors and I was officially hooked. Now I drink tea on a daily basis and have seen numerous benefits. I recently had the pleasure of writing an article for Organic India and it’s research inspired me to try herbal tea on a regular basis, I’ve had great results.

No matter what our age, health, or goals in life, we all want to feel our best. For many years foreign cultures have known the value of herbs as medicine. The best part is taking a more natural approach to health has fewer side effects, is more cost-effective, and in the long run, provides long-term solutions that heal us. As we do our best to navigate through this stressful time, it is important to remember to care for our mental health. It’s helpful to acknowledge that change in itself is stressful, and it can take a toll on us. Being adaptable to changing times is key, and fortunately, some plants can support us to do this better.

A little herb that’s gotten a lot of press lately is Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil. This leafy green plant native to Southwest Asia has a solid history in Indian medicine for over 5,000 years for numerous health conditions, therapeutic uses, to support a healthy response to physical, emotional, and environmental stress. Modern research has classified Tulsi as an adaptogenic herb known to support the body’s healthy stress response.

Adaptogenic herbs have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to promote and support health. Multiple studies show adaptogens reduce the intensity and negative impact of the stress caused by mental tension, emotional difficulties, poor lifestyle habits, disease, infection, pollution, and change, just some of the stressors we might associate with a global pandemic. The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine states “Emerging science on tulsi, suggests that tulsi is a tonic for the body, mind, and spirit that offers solutions to many modern-day health problems.”

Mental Health Benefits

Especially important in these times we are living in, Tulsi’s properties have been scientifically proven to help with anxiety, depression, stress, sleep, and promote mental balance. Healthline reports “According to the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, holy basil has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties comparable to antidepressant drugs.” It is an anti-stress agent, which is known to promote mental wellness. It also regulates cortisol levels and helps reduce anxiety and emotional stress.

Positive Physical Effects

The amazing effects of this herb have been reported to help with diabetes, cholesterol, joint pain, digestive issues, healing from surgery, respiratory disorders, colds, coughs, the flu, sore throat, skin issues, heart disease, dental health, and many other health problems. Tulsi is high in antioxidants and helps our bodies detox, especially with so many toxic chemicals around us. Multiple studies have shown that Tulsi also adds nutritional value being high in vitamins A and C, iron, zinc, calcium, and chlorophyll. “Tulsi is an excellent all-rounder when it comes to maintaining overall wellness. It prevents a multitude of ailments and is a great way to stay healthy naturally,” Shruthi Hegde, Ayurveda Expert at The Himalaya Drug Company, said in a statement.

Enlighten Yourself

Regular consumption of adaptogens such as Tulsi can enhance your capacity to maintain the balance of mind, body, and spirit in stressful times. Winding down with tea each evening can have a similar effect compared to yoga. It helps to foster clear thoughts, relaxation, and bring perspective. Tulsi tea is caffeine-free and full of so many great properties. Having Tulsi as a herbal tea infusion is an easy and delicious way to incorporate a little Tulsi magic into your daily life. While the pure herb is from the mint family, its unique flavor is best combined with other flavors to create an indulgent experience. A cup every day is an excellent way to support and enhance our ability to remain calm and resilient so we all come out the other side stronger.

By making Tulsi an integral part of your daily routine, you can help your system relax and your body function more effectively.  Another easy and effective way of consuming this herb is by including a Tulsi supplement in your diet. Make sure you do your research for the highest quality product, select a company focused on sustainability, quality, and superior products. Whether it’s warming up with an herbal tea or adding a special supplement into your routine, the health benefits are worth the small adjustment.

Always make sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement and confirming there are no interactions with current medications or health conditions.

Originally published at https://www.abandonedcubicle.com/herb/

#Reflections

“I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her.”| Kaci Diane

As 2020 wraps up, it can be easy to think of all the challenges we faced and even disappointments. While it’s beneficial to reflect on what obstacles we’ve overcome, lessons learned, and trials endured, what’s most important is acknowledging the growth we’ve all made. While some days just felt like surviving, other moments made us laugh, and in the end, we all were reminded how fragile we all are and what truly matters. I took the above photo on the London Eye, which was like a dream and is a memory I cherish, especially with not being able to explore the world right now. I also wanted to take a moment to commend those who inspired me and challenged me to reflect on who I am. While I enjoy marketing and blogging for companies, giving life to others’ dreams, this personal blog of mine is close to my heart, and I enjoying sharing truths that inspire me to be a better being inside. Here are a few realizations I learned that I hope might help you as well.

IT’S ALRIGHT TO FAIL. No one is immune to this human trait. When we think of personal failure, we might think of fear, sadness, shame, and heartbreak. While it’s alright to admit our mistakes or wish we made a better decision, failure pushes us to grow. We need to accept failure as an opportunity for learning, gaining knowledge, character, bravery, courage, and strength. One of my favorite speakers, Brene Brown, states it eloquently, “The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear to be more whole or acceptable, but our wholeness, even our wholeheartedness actually depends on the integration of all our experiences including the fails.” So, be vulnerable with others, share your struggles and challenges. It will endear the right people to you, and connections are made stronger by the vulnerability. No one attains perfection, so open yourself up and accept your failures. If you can reflect and learn, then you can move forward stronger.

FIND A CAREER THAT INSPIRES YOU. I am a huge advocate of finding work that fulfills you. While waiting for a dream job isn’t realistic, look for something you can be proud of. For years doing marketing and sales, I worked myself to death, worried about my titles, salary, career choices, but in the end, if you dread going to a job every day, you are wasting precious time. In this challenging job market, with sometimes limited options, I found I had to get creative. Meaning, I walked away from what wasn’t fulfilling me, even though it meant taking a large pay cut. I chose to not to be my own boss, but look for opportunities that didn’t suck the life out of me. This has included being a barista, dog walker, florist, hostess, wedding planner, being in retail, and finally, where I found my real passion, freelance writing. Yes, it meant juggling schedules, maybe swallowing my pride, but in the end, I could sleep better at night, enjoy my free time more, and be proud that each position I worked was helping me be happier. It’s never to late too take a different path, learn a new skill, go back to school, apply for a career you’re curious about, but the bottom line is doing what makes you happy. Worry about your character, not your reputation. Your character is who you are, and your reputation is what others think you are.

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. While it can be tempting to stick with what’s comfortable, growth requires continued education and challenging ourselves to become better. As many of you struggled with as well, remote learning comes with a massive set of challenges, but I learned a great concept from my daughter’s school counselor that was profound. She had the children visualize a Yeti. In doing so, it strands as a reminder that although we may not be able to do something now, it just means that we can’t quite do it YET. But, if we don’t give up trying, we can get there. With that attitude, anyone can achieve incredible things. No matter how difficult something appears, how many times it takes you to get where you want to be, always keep working at it. A great way to integrate the power of YETI in all you do is to identify where you’re using the word can’t. Using yet instead brings hope, ignites a can-do attitude, and is a more encouraging environment. You must be willing to learn from your mistakes and persevere. We must develop more patience and belief in ourselves. Remember, life is a journey where there’s no room to give up. Yet is a powerful word that means an implied time, still, even, or nevertheless. Have no fear of perfection or success; it’s something that can never be fully reached.

ASK FOR HELP. All of us deal with trauma, pain, heartache, wounds, addictions, anxiety, depression, and challenges in this complicated world. Know it is alright to get professional help, knowing it takes strength and is a huge testament to you as a person. Everyone has a breaking point, but not everyone is aware that it is a choice to remain broken. Getting help for stress, anxiety, depression, and mental illness isn’t easy, but it takes more energy to repress it than to get to the root cause and work at healing it. Getting over a painful experience is sort of like crossing monkey bars as a kid; at some point, you have to let go to move forward. Sadly pain moves through a family until someone is ready to feel it. The earlier you can dig into your issues, the easier it will be to make changes in your thinking. Therapy isn’t about blame or excuses; it’s about understanding who you are and what you can be done to be happier and be more in control. There’s truth in the statement, “Unpack your baggage, so your kids don’t have to carry it.” Lu Hanessian. In a recent counseling session, my therapist listened to my words describing my chronic nightmares I was suffering from PTSD. She patiently listening and simply said, “You are a warrior.” It made me stop, and I was at a loss for words. But, her stating that also reminded me that I am powerful. Yes, I have endured much I wish to forget, but I keep fighting, and that’s all the matters. That’s what I want to pass onto my daughter. It’s never too late at any age, phase in life, relationship status, or any other circumstance to get help to be a better person.

SELF-CARE IS MANDATORY. A great quote I read recently was, “Self-care is not indulgent. It’s a discipline. It requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities. A deep respect for both yourself and the people you spend your life with.” Tami Foreman. Every single person needs it every single day. While I have always enjoyed journaling, as a writer, this pandemic required I take it to the next level. It meant no matter how tired I was, writing down my thoughts, and more importantly at least three things I am grateful for each day. I even tried a new approach with my daughter and purchased a journal we shared. It was time away from devices each evening before bed, to listen to each other and express our thoughts. A skill that can never start at too young of an age. I also got into the habit of using a meditation app before bed. It was a reminder I needed to breathe, calm my mind, and take charge of my thoughts. Burnout can come from resentment of doing everything for everyone but yourself. Preventing it is about knowing yourself well enough to see what you need and when it’s time to do something that makes you relax, smile, and enjoy life. Know it’s alright to say no and set boundaries. Make sure to also move your body every day in whatever way you can. It isn’t about weight; it’s about your health. Everyone is different from what refreshes them, but daily take a few moments to fill yourself back up.

EMBRACE YOUR IMPERFECTIONS. A friend trying to provide comfort about my divorce recently shared a powerful concept that can be very helpful when overcoming many stressful life events. It’s the centuries old Japanese art of Kintsugi. While most of us would throw away a broken vase, teapot, bowl, plate, or other household items, this art form takes precious broken pieces and repairs them with a lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The technique consists of joining fragments and refining the piece. As a philosophy, it treats the breakage as part of the pieces history, rather than something to disguise. It’s an essential metaphor for healing ourselves that sometimes in repairing things that have broken us we can actually create something more unique, beautiful, and resilient. Each of us are works of art with individual stories.

BE ADAPTABLE IN YOUR LIFE. A great analogy I read the other day was to look at a palm tree as an example. Paradise can be where you’re planted, so make the best out of where you live. Stand tall in the world, don’t compare your growth to others. Grow alongside others who rise up with you. Find the light even when things don’t feel sunny; there will be both good and hard days. Use your resources to help nourish the community. When you are feeling your lowest, do something positive for someone in need. While this might seem a bit basic, there is truth to this concept. In nature, nothing ever stays the same; change is constant, so we must expect the same in our lives. So, here’s to those who have the strength to lift up their roots from underneath them and plant their wounded hearts to face new light.

In conclusion, I’d like to end with a message from the inspiring Maya Angelou, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” We all had a lot to handle in 2020, but let’s not forget to remember the blessings, positives, and memories that were made. Who knows exactly what 2021 holds, but know we have much to look forward to, and no matter what, there will be good times to be had. Try to be grateful for life each day and know we are all a work in progress.

#Thoughts

“To anyone out there who’s hurting, it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s a sign of strength.” ~ Barack Obama

Being September was National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I wanted to share my thoughts and some great insights that others have shared which are game-changers. Many of us have sadly lost someone to suicide and with the pressures around us in the world right now, honest conversations about this subject are more important than ever. With so many around the globe being isolated, depression has become very common in these uncertain times. Many coping with income loss, fear of the future, decrease in social activities, relationship problems, it’s a difficult time for many of us and takes a mental toll. Mental illness, depression, and anxiety are very complex problems that have no quick-fix solutions. Whether you or someone you know is struggling, know that there’s help, resources, and solutions. Remember how many around you truly love and care about you, ask for help or reach out to someone you know, everyone’s life is precious.

The most tragic part of suicide is that it can affect anyone. The statistics are quite horrific and no age, culture, gender, or community is not affected. While mental health conditions can be a factor, it can also be brought on by stress, life changes, addiction, and feeling that one’s problems are just too much. As I’m sure many of us have experienced, it can happen to someone we didn’t realize was unhappy or struggling. Especially in these times of social media content that breeds so many into posting only the positive aspects of their lives, it can lead to not understanding how even close friends are doing. We’ve turned into a culture of only digital communication, making it hard to know or understand the feelings of even close friends and family. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, it could save you or someone else’s life.

One very important concept we all can put into practice is to try to remember our thoughts and emotions aren’t always real. In actuality, thoughts are influenced by our moods, environment, lack of sleep, hunger, physical health, hormones, and many other factors we can’t always control. Our thoughts directly influence how we feel. It’s not invalidating feelings, but to gently work at not letting them take over our lives. Our thoughts do not exist outside of our awareness. They are like mental habits. What can make thoughts feel real is focusing our attention on them. Simple actions like thanking your mind, listening, and acknowledging what it’s trying to tell you can make youbfeel more in control. We hear so much talk about mindfulness, but it truly is a huge key. Find what works for you individually, whether it’s deep breathing, focusing on your faith, exercise, art, meditation, journaling, music, talking out your problems, but take control over your mind. We become what we repeatedly do and think, so show your brain whose boss. Remember thoughts are not permanent, and there are always coping solutions for any problem.

As with mental illness, our society must get over the stigma, which prevents so many from getting the help they need. Just as so many of us know we must work at taking care of our bodies, that same energy needs to go into our mental health. We need to be more comprehensive in our approach which means getting to the root issue of emotions, learning new coping skills, educating ourselves, and partnering with both mental and physical health care providers for assistance. There are simple steps we can all take to help someone struggling. Don’t shy away from asking, stepping in, be there to listen, help them connect to someone professional who can help, then continue to follow up. It’s worth the effort to take care of ourselves and each other.

This information is only meant to bring awareness from my personal journey, comes from a place of true concern, please reach out to a professional with questions if you or someone you know needs help.

Below are a few resources with helpful guidance and information:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline/24 Hour: (800)273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/

Suicide Prevention Resource Center: http://www.sprc.org/

#YouGotThisMama

“Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.”~Glennon Melton

With a whirlwind summer finally winding down, and kids heading back to school in various forms, I wanted to share my thoughts on a topic that isn’t discussed much. While so many of us strive to be good parents, sometimes the pressure of being perfect can take the fun out of it. Too many times we as mothers don’t want to admit our struggles because we want to seem like to have it all together. Especially in our social media obsessed culture. In reality, if we shared the tough times, challenges, and issues, we’d realize it’s a continual learning process that no woman has down exactly.

Being an artist and writer, empathy and connection has always been important to me and helps me make sense of this crazy world we live in. Sometimes we can parent from a state of anxiety, fear, or have unrealistic expectations, myself included. When we are too hard on ourselves, we can also become too hard on our children, which is not honoring them or ourselves. Take time to stop and reflect on your child’s great qualities. Enjoy a fun afternoon with them being in the moment just letting them be who they are. If you have concerns, sometimes is easier to write them down, then share with them so emotions don’t take over. Psychotherapist Nicole McGuffin recently shared this great insight; to raise resilient children we need to connect with them, create emotional safety without judgment, allow them space to show emotions, don’t define their self-worth with performance and help them learn to problem solve.

During quarantine this winter, I was organizing old boxes in our basement and found a book a friend had given me from my baby shower over ten years ago. I remember at the time, I thought it was kind of an impractical gift, being I was a single mother with no job and wondered if she remembered how as a new mom you have no time to barely function, let alone read a book! Thankfully I decided to read it now, as I did have some extra time on my hands. Its called “Because I Said So” by Camile Peri and Kate Moses, and it ended up being one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Mainly because its a collection of stories told by mothers who aren’t afraid to discuss deep topics, be vulnerable in sharing, and come to terms with the challenges that don’t always have an easy solution. I became obsessed over the years with parenting books, but what many are lacking is the truth of how hard it is to be a mother and there is no one size fits all. In the end, you have to do what’s best for you personally and your specific child, because at the end of the day you know you and your child best. I highly recommend all mom’s read books like this that are honest, real, fierce, and touching, and be quick to share their experiences as they navigate the hardest job in the world.

I wanted to share a few great thoughts I took away that I hope might help other mom’s raising children in a world that we ourselves have a hard time figuring out and handling, let alone raising a child in. One great point made by Karin L. Stanford is that we have an opportunity through our words and example to provide our children with courage and a candid understanding of the challenges we all face. Children respect honest conversations and truth when they ask questions. Give them that respect and validation to be open with them. I am continually surprised how perceptive and accurate my daughter’s thoughts are about situations, so have those hard discussions and gain their trust. Teach them independence and personal strength are to be commended when they are standing up for what they believe. A very accurate statement Karin makes is that when it comes to daughters, “teach her fairy-tales belong in books, but that heartfelt dreams, despite surprising twists and turns, are always worth reaching for.” Go against the cultural norms, don’t teach your daughter to look for happiness in prince charming, help her find her own purpose, and remind her what a strong line of women she comes from.

When it comes to loss and challenges, it can be hard to make sense of pain. As a parent, big feelings and negative emotions can be tough to work through. Imagine and remember how overwhelming it can be for a child. We have to help our child and sometimes reach out to therapists for help with emotional regulation. This is such an important part of a child establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Remember to hold space for your child’s feelings, acknowledge that at that moment it’s hard, it might hurt, it’s a struggle, but make sure they’re feelings are validated.

Sadly in this life, many things are unfair and adults have a hard time understanding when bad things happen to good people. Marianne Pearl makes a bold statement I could not agree with more when her son was asking questions about his father’s suicide, she boldly stated “I have no choice but to tell him the truth because you cannot escape from your own story. With each mountain, you climb you reach a new summit within yourself. You have to have a sense of purpose that is stronger than whatever obstacles you find in your way. If you are to give birth, you must also give hope.” I aspire to do the same for my daughter when she asks questions about not having a father in her life or other challenges shes faced. While we must only share what their minds can handle at any given age, always be truthful and share your thoughts on why certain things happen. Children’s minds are more intelligent than we realize, so speak honestly and build a relationship with truthful conversations.

In closing, I want to remind all mothers that your time, love, energy, care, and teaching is not going to waste. While we can’t control the turmoil in the world or always change circumstances in our lives, we can continue to show up for our children and remember there is no perfect formula. You will make mistakes. You will have days that feel seventy-two hours long. You will have questions and situations that are complicated to explain. But, you have it in you to be strong, survive, and share your knowledge with your child. Don’t forget to make time for self-care, things that make you feel happy, taking care of your body and mind, and remember that to-do list will always be full, but our children won’t always be around. Take care of yourselves and each other. You’re doing great and so is your child. Day at a time mama, you got this.

#HighlySensitivePerson

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.” ~ Warren Buffett

With the extra time I’ve had at home, I finally got to catch up on my book list, as I’m sure many of you have as well. I never used to be much of reader, maybe it goes back to the fact that I used to hate how long it took me to finish a book, but I fell in love with reading a few years back when I realized when I’m reading about topics that improve my life it’s very enjoyable. Years ago, a book was recommended by my therapist called “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. Let me just say for me this book was a life-changer! It inspired deep research into this concept that has helped me greatly. Whether you have this trait, love someone who does or even work with someone, this concept not only helps us all understand each other better, but for me helped me realize how common it is, with up to twenty percent of the population dealing with it.

Psychologists, doctors, and educators are starting to understand more and more about this trait, and even more importantly how to manage it successfully. It’s not a disorder or condition, but rather a personality trait. We all need to have self-knowledge, be open to re-framing, accept we can heal and come to terms with what can be changed with our thinking. Extensive scientific research has proven that there are gene variations in highly sensitive people that affect serotonin and dopamine in the brain and are deeply rooted in the nervous system. Having this trait causes the brain to inhibit action, so there’s a struggle with transitions and making decisions. It has no gender or age restrictions. There is no easy fix or cure, but rather is a complicated trait that needs to be understood and managed.

This overall concept of a highly sensitive person has to do with how our brains process information, emotionally react, and handle life in a different way than the average person. They are deeply affected by subtleties in their daily environment. The positive aspects of this condition include creativity, being loyal, thoughtful, emphatic, perceptive, conscientious, imaginative, having good relationships, and high emotional intelligence. But, along with this comes challenges of dealing with an easily over-aroused nervous system that can make daily life challenging. Examples of things that overwhelm a highly sensitive person include strong smells, busy work environments, bright lights, other’s moods, intense entertainment, changes in circumstances and even over-scheduling can be very hard to handle. Highly sensitive people have a hard time with boundaries by extending themselves too much, becoming intimate too fast, and taking on other people’s problems. Being sensitive to the disapproval of others makes them quick to follow rules, be as perfect as possible, and are afraid to make mistakes. Living this way can cause you to ignore your feelings and needs, which causes both long and short term damage. In the workplace, they experience feeling unfulfilled, burned out and this can thus trigger multiple career changes. All of this exhaustion not only causes mental fatigue and anxiety but emotional exhaustion and can be physically draining as well.

Knowledge is key and it’s good to educate yourself. The takeaways of how a highly sensitive person can manage include small daily practices and adjustments. Don’t allow your childhood to keep you stuck, take control of your mental and physical health. Surround yourself with positive influences and environments. Have open discussions in the family, workplace, and friends when your feeling overwhelmed. Use mindfulness and breathing to calm the body when you can’t remove yourself from a stressful situation. Be aware of tension in the body including clinching, bad posture, breath-holding that affects the mind as well. Listen to your feelings, it’s alright to need time alone to process your thoughts. Find relationships that listen and value your needs, not making you defend them. Practice movement that helps you manage stress. Create time daily for quiet and calm. Engage with friends, a therapist, and journal to help manage emotions. Remember you are not alone and that with awareness and time you can succeed.

#Strong

“I hope you are blessed with the heart of a wildflower. Strong enough to rise again after being trampled upon, tough enough to weather the worst of summer storms, and able to grow and flourish even in the most broken places.”~Nikita Gill.

The above quote is to this day still one of my favorites, as it not only speaks to me as a survivor, but also the beauty I see around me every day in the Rocky Mountains. This subject is not an easy one for me to express, as I’ve been a victim of verbal and emotional abuse, domestic violence, assault, and battery in more than one relationship in my life. What I’ve been seeing these last few months is numerous reports of abuse, especially with stay at home orders in place and it breaks me heart. Many women are trapped in their homes with abusers, isolated from people and resources that could help. They can’t go to work, rely on friends, are scared for their health, and worried about their finances. Brad Garrett, former FBI agent recently stated to ABC News, “The shelter in place forces couples to remain home and the victim is scared to leave for fear of catching the virus. With typically ten million domestic violence reports a year, the longevity of the virus will certainly drive up domestic violence.” Those are just the ones reported. “It’s a crisis within a crisis, truly disturbing, if we don’t do anything about it, talk about it, ring the alarm, there will be millions of more cases globally,” says UNFPA deputy director Ramiz Alakbarov to CBS. NBC News also noted, “there has been a twenty percent increase in domestic violence calls since the pandemic started.” If sharing my knowledge can help just one woman get out of an abusive situation, then I’m willing to go to this dark place and share my experience. For professional sake, I won’t go into details, but I do want every single woman to know that it can happen to ANYONE. Never in a million years did I think it would happen to me. There is no race, age, country, financial status, education level, background or demographic that is not impacted. It is not alright and it is not your fault.

While my daughter and I were driving home from the store last week, an amber alert came on the radio. It described a woman who had “stolen” her husband’s truck and “abducted” her children. Instantly I was in tears, mostly thinking of possibly what environment that woman and her children were in to have to flee like that. While I don’t know the details and am in no way saying that it’s always the man’s fault, what I do know is that when a woman reaches her breaking point, her mother bear instincts will kick in and she will do anything to keep her children safe. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do to leave, but you can survive it and find peace.

The scariest part of this whole situation is that, is no woman ever goes into a relationship seeing someone she loves as a possible abuser. What I’ve sadly learned the hard way is that so many men who are narcissist’s, sociopaths, manipulators, and liars know how to hide it so well that the nightmare that unfolds almost doesn’t seem real. You feel stupid and humiliated that you didn’t see it coming. Many men start relationships with over-the-top generosity, flattery, and seem almost too good to be true. It all starts with what is called the Wheel of Power and Control. I’d never heard of this until I was shown it by a victim’s advocate. I’ve included it in this blog, because if you see these patterns in a relationship, you need to get out. It might start with small things like criticizing you, disrespect you needing alone time, not encourage your goals, trying to control who your friends are, pulling you away from family, bring up your past mistakes, make you explain everything and so forth, but it will escalate and will almost always lead to emotional and eventually physical abuse. Another term that I was educated on was gaslighting. When your partner refuses to admit any wrongdoing and tries to convince the other person they are paranoid, too sensitive or imaging things. Domestic violence is rooted in power and control. Without a partner acknowledging there’s a problem, and getting professional help, things will never improve. Partners with personality disorders have mastered the art of using their words as weapons. If you keep hoping for change, don’t feel understood, drained, hide your partner’s issues and conflict is constant, it’s time to move on.

Walking away from someone you love is never easy. There is pain, frustration, guilt, hopes of what you thought it was, sadness, but living with someone who doesn’t respect you is no way to live. The best thing you can do is cut off all contact, let go of the fantasy of change, make peace with your past, and learn you deserve better. It might be lonely some days, but it’s better to be safe than feel lonely in a bad relationship. You might not ever get the closure you need, but dig deep for the strength in knowing you are enough. There is so much help available and you are not alone. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Call a helpline. See a therapist for help navigating emotions. Even when there are children involved, staying is not always the best decision. Children learn dysfunction by what they experience, so you have to break the cycle and teach them abuse in any form is not acceptable. No amount of money, lifestyle, judgment from others, or fear should keep you in an abusive relationship. So many who care about you would be happy to help, but you must take the first step of being honest with yourself and admitting you need out. The World Health Organization states that one out of three women in the world experience abuse in their lifetime. While this fact is so intense, its a reminder that no woman is immune. If you see a friend struggling, be there to help and support them. It does take time and scars will always be there, but you are can recover and rebuild your life. You have a voice and you are strong.

#Perspective

“Love and compassion are not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” ~ Dalai Lama

While I sit here proud of myself for just giving my poor feet an imitation pedicure that I hadn’t done in decades, I’m reminded what’s truly important. As I’m sure many of you, we are surrounded by a culture of luxuries that give us temporary satisfaction and while they give us momentary enjoyment, are not the meaningful things that provide true contentment. Especially as women small things like getting your nails and hair done, wearing makeup, shopping or going to a spa, all the sudden are not an option. Personally, over these last few weeks, in a lot of ways, I think it’s been a great reality check. Right now our society doesn’t really care what you look like, what matters right now are those who are showing compassion and love. The health care, city, state, government and so many other community members don’t have the option of working from home. A few months ago who would’ve thought as a girl you wouldn’t care what you look like leaving the house, wearing a mask, because now it’s not for something social, it’s being focused on staying safe to just get necessitates. Now I don’t care so much about buying organic, I’m just glad if there are any vegetables at all. Talk about a wake-up call. Our personal conveniences are being put second place to saving lives. Never in any of our lifetimes would any of us thought our world would be here. But, let’s focus on the perspective it’s building in each of us.

I’d like to quote one of the best posts I’ve seen since this whole nightmare started from Rachel Hollis that could not be more true, “Your quarantine is a PRIVILEGE. There are millions of people who aren’t able to quarantine or socially distance because of socioeconomic reasons. There are parent’s right now caring for critically ill children, essential workers exhausted beyond belief, its inconvenient, difficult, but don’t forget your blessings.” What a great reminder. Thousands of people around the globe don’t have the luxury of stocking the fridge with food, filing for unemployment, the option of schooling their kids from home, money to buy items like masks to protect themselves, technology to stay up on what’s happening, a safe hospital to go to if they get sick, the list goes on and on. So, while some days seem long and hard to get through, it’s all about putting things into perspective of what we can be grateful for. The bottom line is this horrific event, is being grateful for your life.

What has been surprising and inspiring to me is seeing the good that is being done in my community. Restaurants that have closed giving away food to families in need. Neighbors sharing toilet paper and asking if we need anything at the grocery store. A co-worker making homemade cloth masks for us all to wear. Local non-profits offering free creative and fitness classes online to help children keep busy. Teachers somehow rearranging their whole lives to provide education for our children. Community members paying for other drive-thru orders. Friends and local businesses reaching out offering financial assistance. Even seeing on social media, sometimes self-focused celebrities now donating thousands to help others in need. The list goes on and on. The point of it being, when times are hard and fearful it can be easy to worry about our problems. But, what fills us up is helping others and thinking about their struggles. This crisis is teaching each of us what is important, without our health and lives nothing else matters.

As my daughter and I prepared for my parents’ forty-seventh anniversary tomorrow is was an interesting feeling. It’s not about a lavish party, taking them to a fancy dinner or some vacation like we’ve done in the past. It’s simply homemade decorations, simple takeout from a local joint, a bottle of wine, a few gifts we could find online and enjoying each other as a family. Every day I try to find joy in simple things and being grateful that I’m healthy, surrounded by many who care and one day coming out of this journey remembering what it’s taught me. Cherish this time with your family, take time to do things we normally don’t have time for, reach out to loved ones to let them know you care and when your lonely remember someone else could use a phone call too. Show empathy when it doubt, it’s always the best choice. Put your wants in second place to someone else. Reassure children of your love and remember if it’s scary for us, it’s way harder for them to understand. They might be disappointed they can’t go to the mall, be with friends or go to that concert they were excited about, but take the time to teach them about the bigger picture. If we all think of this challenging time as a time to show our true character we will not only survive but come out stronger knowing what deeply matters. It’s good to be educated on current situations, but pace yourself with negative news and focus on positive things that build you up. Take care of each other and yourselves. Hold onto a positive perspective in not just viewing this situation as a test, but an opportunity for growth.

#Loyal

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply becomes part of us.”~Helen Keller

Seeing the sweet pictures everyone was posting on #nationalpuppyday reminded me of how much I miss having a dog by my side, especially with the crisis going on and being home so much. Bagel the Beagle pictured above will always hold a special place in my heart, his gentleness with my baby, the silly way he howled with his head back, how he’d warm himself behind the wood stove, didn’t like peanut butter, so many precious memories. As with every dog I’ve owned throughout my life, each loyal dog will never be forgotten. This quote from Helen Keller is incredibly true that it’s better to have loved and lost than never had those dogs in my life or even people I’ve loved for that matter. Dogs are such incredible creatures in that they don’t ask for much but give us so much in return. It’s loyalty, unlike any other creature. Being loyal is a strong feeling of support and somehow dogs just do it naturally with no hesitation.

Since I’ve had some extra time on my hands, I was on YouTube recently and saw a dog I’ve followed for years through videos my daughter and I watched had passed and as I watched her owner describe her loss it brought me to tears. Strange how emotions are like that, how empathetic and emotional I can be for a dog we’d never even met. While this famous YouTuber and very successful entrepreneur seemed to have every luxury in life, that doesn’t mean she could save her dog. Dogs become family and when we have to say goodbye no matter what the reason it leaves a void in our hearts. Dogs provide comfort, healing, affection and a relationship that’s quite unlike anything else. It seems we never have enough time with these gentle creatures no matter how long they live.

What’s special about how we feel for others and is that we all want to have that human connection, to feel understood like we aren’t the only one going through something. When we show our vulnerability we are not only helping ourselves heal but also helping someone else not feel alone and understood. Sometimes vulnerability and loyalty can be looked on as a weakness or as being too sensitive. You can be strong and vulnerable at the same time. Boundaries need to happen with certain areas in our lives and limits set, but vulnerability and emotion can draw others to us. In this sometimes harsh world, loyalty can be taken advantage of, but it is something none of us should lose, but cultivate. Some of my deepest friendships, best business connections, and fondest memories are when I opened myself up to show not only who I was, but also my struggles in life. Perfection isn’t real and all of us want authenticity. Cherish and look for people in your life who respect you, make you feel safe and show loyalty in being there for you. It isn’t always easy to find, but it does exist and should be cherished.

During this pandemic, one thing that’s touched me and shown me how great hard times can be is seeing everyone not know exactly how things are going to unfold and having to take life one day at a time. All a sudden our schedules have time, we are being around our families like we should, are having to get creative, it’s like a small gift of looking at your day and having time for what you like to do, not just have to do. As my therapist put it today, it’s teaching us all patience and is reminding us what’s important. We are all living so over-scheduled most days that now it’s like we have all this space and time to just be. Make the most of it. Cook a meal you’ve been meaning to try. Listen to a podcast that brings positive thinking into your day. Walk outside because you don’t have to, but for peace of mind. Read a book that enriches who you want to be. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in months. Organize something to make space. Send a card to someone you care about. Offer help to someone who could use it. Do something that makes you smile and cherish this pause in our crazy world to do something positive.

We can all learn something from a dog. They are reliable, true, trustworthy and loyal. It takes work, effort, self-sacrifice, but being a loyal person always earns respect. Be loyal to those you care about. Find a company loyal to you. Stick with friends who value you. Draw close to family who supports you. Remember you don’t owe loyalty to someone who has harmed you, used you, abused you or did not live up to what they promised. Don’t always take the easiest path. Stand by those you love even when it’s not easy. Be true to your word when possible. Be loyal to yourself in trying to live in your truth, stick to your values and your passions. Not one of us can be perfectly loyal, but know with time loyalty wins and prevails. I’m grateful to have had dogs in life who helped me and stood by me in good days and bad. In this time we live in be kind and show empathy to yourself and others. Take a lesson from a dog, be present in the moment and take each day as it comes.

#Breathe

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of it’s strength.” ~ Charles Spurgeon.

Well for once as I sit here sipping my tea I’m a bit at a loss for words. But, I always find that when I write, whether for my blog, poetry or even just my journal I always feel better and putting my thoughts down seems to help make sense of it all. I’m hoping sharing my expressions might help just one person feel better and I’ve found that when people open themselves up it can give comfort to someone else who might be feeling the same way. Yes, it takes strength to share our fears, be vulnerable and admit we don’t have all the answers, but it can draw us closer together. No one can ever go wrong in speaking their truth.

As many of you are experiencing as well, most of our lives have been turned a bit upside down this past week. For me, I’m quite exhausted and drained, especially since I struggle with anxiety and feeling like today felt way too long. I’m a very organized planner and it’s a scary feeling not knowing exactly what tomorrow will hold. In the last 48 hours, bomb after bomb of information kept coming at me that felt like a lot to process. Now, in comparison, I have to say I’m thankful for my health and compared to what so many others around the world are dealing with needs to be put into perspective. From schools shutting down, to losing jobs, empty grocery store shelves, eerie vacant streets, businesses closing, events and travel canceled, financial investments, the list goes on and on, it’s like in just a short period it almost feels like we aren’t living our normal lives anymore. It’s hard to remain calm when so much is uncertain. What started as a sad news story in China a few months ago all the sudden is affecting every single person in the world today.

What is most hard for me right now, is explaining the situation to my young daughter. There aren’t easy answers for exactly what’s happening no matter what age we are. As a parent, we try to be the example of a positive attitude, be resilient, strong, balanced, but both now and in the coming days is being put to the test. In some ways, I think it’s forcing us all to stop and think about what’s important. For so many their careers, social lives and external things are what keep them going. Now, it’s like we are forced to take the time to feel, think, just be and not be so busy with so many things that in reality aren’t important. Our culture is so geared for these jam-packed schedules that if we aren’t being productive every minute of every day we aren’t driven. What a blessing it’s been to have more time with my daughter, to hear from friends its been way too long since we’ve heard from, to plan out home-cooked meals for the week, knowing I’ll have time to cook, working on projects I’ve been meaning to for months. I’m enjoying being forced to slow down and live how many of us should be living each day. Money has never really equaled true happiness and security, this crisis is proving that now.

While all these big changes can feel frustrating, I think all we can do it value what we do have, be grateful for those who love us, to be thankful to those around us who will be there for us and remember the bottom line is without our health, not much else is left, so we need to cherish it. Use this time to reconnect with each other and ourselves. Be considerate of what others are dealing with and let them know you care. Reach out to others if we need help, but be compassionate to others as well. Control your anxiety by limiting worry on what you can’t change around you. Use this extra bit of time to do something that fills you up. If we can all take a lesson from this tragic experience it’s that life is precious and things can change overnight. Be kind to yourself and others. Remember to breathe.

#Survivor

“Pay attention to your patterns. The ways you learned to survive may not be the ways you want to continue to live.” Dr. Thema

On a recent excursion with my daughter to ice fish, we passed a beautiful heard of elk that was awe-inspiring how their instincts drove them to find food in this harsh winter and how they didn’t mind sharing hay with cows because it meant survival. Even the concept of rainbow trout is incredible how they survive months of a long winter deep under the ice and still have so much fight in them. What’s even more special about humans is that we have ability to not just survive, but change patterns, habits, grow from our experiences and make choices in what we do in our lives.

The other beautiful part about surviving is that it doesn’t have to be just existing, but choosing to live each with the attitude that your outlook can make the difference. We can’t always control our finances, stress, people around us, health, family, even the future, but you do have control over your feelings and outlook in your life each day. Each person must find the strength to keep fighting and each individual is unique. What fills them back up each day. What helps them cope with what they can’t change. So many tools in this day and age are right at our fingertips, but we have to dig deep for the courage to utilize them.

My daughter’s school counselor sent out a great email recently to all the students that I thought was so insightful in an era where children are sometimes forced to grow up too fast and are handling problems that have never existed in our society. It was an image with two circles one labeled, what I can control and the other what I can’t. The smaller circle of what we CAN’T control including concepts in how others treat us, others taking care of themselves, who likes us, past mistakes and physical appearance. While a child or any of us for that matter might hope and wish these might be things we can change, more often they are out of our control. In the other large circle of what we CAN control including how we respond to challenges, being kind, accountable, our decisions, forgiving, being productive, working hard, asking for help, not giving up, the friends we choose and respecting ourselves. What powerful words and reminders we all can think about. How much better is our energy put into focusing on what we can control in our lives each day.

All of us have to survive things in our lives, some are larger than others. But, you do have a choice in how you let those heartbreaks and challenges affect you, especially long term. Don’t allow trials to make you bitter, harden your heart, make you lose faith in love, change your positive outlook and most of all cause you to give up. Even when making mistakes, it can be insightful to find the balance of looking humbly at the past but not too long that you don’t keep moving forward. Forget it enough to get over it, but remember it enough so it doesn’t happen again. While this seems like an easy concept most would agree with to do this takes self-reflection, time, asking for help, honesty, and integrity. As T.S. Elliot said, “Survival is your strength, not your shame.” We can be accountable for our actions and acknowledge mistakes, but true growth can only happen when we can forgive ourselves, acknowledge our weaknesses and then chose to be better next time. There are many paths we can find help along the way, but we have to want to do the work and break patterns that do not serve us anymore. Sometimes it’s better to end something and start another than imprison yourself in hoping for the impossible. Some battles require learning to lose to recover long term.

While life has peaks and pits it’s good to remember as Norman Vincent Peale stated you can, “change your thoughts and you change your world.” Chose to focus on making the best of things on hard days and being grateful for the small moments that make you smile. Take the time to reflect on who you want to be regularly. When falling, acknowledge the mistake and see not only what you can learn from it, but use it to grow in empathy. Remember you are in control of your life and with effort, strength, and determination, you can not only survive but thrive. Live whole-heartedly no matter what. You’re stronger than you think you are.

#Strength

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”~ Bob Marley

While I’ve never thought of myself as the strongest or most secure person, over time the above in my life has been very true. Strength is something we have to dig deep for, even when we don’t want to, when it hurts or when we have no other option. This majestic bighorn sheep was standing beside a busy five-lane interstate in the Rocky Mountains and I couldn’t help but be in awe of how calm he stayed standing right next to vehicles driving seventy-five miles per hour. It was as if he could block all the chaos out and was only focused on getting his next meal in front of him. This native to Colorado had no plan of moving and showed a calm strength that was very admirable. In our chaotic world, we as women can take this animal to heart.

Recently I’ve been inspired by many women in media who are going against the grain and showing their strength in speaking their truth. In a sometimes surface and shallow world, it’s very refreshing and needs to be commended. In a recent interview, Michelle Obama said these inspiring words, “I suffer no illusions that I’ve reached any mountaintop. Accomplishments are nice, but I try to not let those be my metrics for success. What I’m more interested in is our stories-the big choices, the turning points, that together make up a life.” What incredible and humble insight. We should not be content with ourselves or label each other by our upbringing, college degree, career, beauty, status, and accomplishments. How do we treat others, what have we overcome, who have we helped along the way and how do we value those in our lives? Isn’t that what we want to teach our children in this fame-obsessed world. How much more connected could we all be if we opened up more and shared our struggles, challenges, imperfections and battles we’ve both lost and won.

Another strong woman who I’ve appreciated over the years and recently, even more, is Demi Lovato. While she’s struggled with mental health, addiction, eating disorders, family issues and the numerous pitfalls of Hollywood, she is a fighter who not only refuses to give up but hopes that sharing her journey will help others. Her beautiful honest vocals, unfiltered photo’s on social media, and willingness to get help make her real. She once said, “I think women who know who they are, are beautiful.” What a refreshing outlook on being content with yourself and just settle into who you want to be. Shouldn’t women look each day in the mirror and rather than be critical of what she wished she looked like simply accept who she is, be grateful for what her body carries her to do and say to her herself I’m good enough.

When Ashley Graham came on the modeling scene it was inspiring. What makes her so beautiful is that she makes no apologies for what size she is and her confidence shines through. From a young age, females are programmed to think your size is what defines you and will make you happy. I remember being a healthy, size eight, young girl in my 20’s who worked out five days a week and being told by agencies that if I didn’t get down to certain measurements I wouldn’t get modeling jobs. How dare someone set unrealistic standards for anyone. By all means, I strive to eat healthy, exercise, practice mindfulness, but never let any human tell you what you should look like. Ashley just posted the other day her stretch marks on social media and she honestly should be praised for the strength it takes to show that part of motherhood. Be proud of those tiger stripes, they brought a life into the world. I’m proud of the small steps the modeling industry has taken over the years in showing beauty isn’t one size fits all, but there’s such a long way to go. Winnie Harlow is another strong female that did not let her skin condition define or stop her. Selma Blair is an inspiration for openly discussing her brutal battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Lizzo slays it in speaking her truth through not only lyrics but not letting her size contain how she expresses her style. Sports Illustrated finally started featuring plus-size models in their magazine, which is a big statement. A recent study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education revealed, “The average woman is between size 16 to 18.” Isn’t it sad that so many popular retailers only carry up to size 12! This information is crucial for both the fashion industry and should help women stop comparing themselves to an unrealistic standard set by society.

What I truly am so excited about is the information, education, and honesty that is so readily available for women to learn about and grow from. It used to be you had to be published to have a voice, where now social media and blogging allows anyone to have a voice and speak their truth. Don’t let yourself be defined by only how you look. Inspire young girls and your daughters to not body shame themselves into what society tells them what they should look like. Remember to not let your or others’ accomplishments be all you see or judge success by. Take care of your body, mind, and soul. True strength is shown when you listen to that inner voice and strive to be enough for you and no one else.

#PawsOfLove

“Dogs are like that, I guess. They know how to fix you without ever saying a word.” ~ Caroline George

Living in the Rocky Mountains, sometimes winter can be quite long. The shoveling, bad roads, ice scraping, layers of clothing, as an adult, winter can lose it’s charm quite quickly. But, today a dog I was walking during my side gig for Rover helped me see the world through his eyes. As dogs do, they bring joy to our lives and remind us to live in the moment and have fun. This giant Malamute was leaping off snowbanks, diving headfirst into the snow, licking it up with his tongue and couldn’t help but force me to laugh and appreciate the joy he found on this beautiful winter day. I think that’s why we love dogs so much, they help us lighten up, smile and seem to fill voids in our hearts that no human quite can.

Recently I started volunteering at local animal shelters since I’m not in a position to have a dog right now. What’s so touching about the dogs I walk is that even at this low point in their life, where their hearts could be broken and they only have the basic necessitates they need, they don’t give up. They’re tails still wag, they want to keep exploring and most important even if someone has given up on them, they won’t give up on humans. Rescue dogs might not fully forget the abuse or difficulties they experienced, but they continue to love. It’s an honest lesson we can all learn from. We live in a world that is always promoting what we need or want when it reality what fills us up is the simple things in life. If we all could only live whole hardheartedly as dogs do. Don’t worry so much about the future, look for simple pleasures in life, be more devoted and loyal. Comfort others because its the right thing to do, even when we don’t get that back in return. Stop worrying so much what you look like and live in the moment. Dogs truly teach us so much.

Mark Twain once quoted the honest words, “The more I learn about people, the more I like dogs.” I laughed at this true statement, in that many humans in our lives choose to let us down and maybe that’s why we adore animals so much. Their love is unselfish, pure, devoted and will love you more than they love themselves. I’ve owned three dogs in my life and each of them holds a special place in my heart, leaving memories I will never forget. When my daughter was young, I discovered a reading program with therapy dogs at the library. It was incredible how comfortable she became cuddled up next to them and how much better she read with no one to correct or judge her. But, we all can learn simple values by looking at our furry companions. For example, sometimes all you need is a listening ear, not an opinion. A dog knows that somehow a walk always makes life better and leaves you with a clearer mind. Sleep is essential and sometimes the best use of time even when you have things to do. Help someone just because, not from what you might get in return. Vanity is over-rated, so be content with enjoying the moment. Most important, show unconditional kindness, tenderness, and support because its the right thing to do.

Many studies prove dogs are good for our health on so many levels physically, mentally and emotionally. Dogs motivate many to have a healthier lifestyle by increased exercise, provide companionship, more socialization, sensory stress release, structure, and routine. Medical News Today recently reported, “When we interact with dogs, our Oxycontin levels shoot up, a hormone largely responsible for social bonding, which boosts our physiological well-being.” Authors Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal Ph.D. also reported studies that prove dogs help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, reduce heart attacks and overall owners have fewer doctor visits. Playing with dogs elevates serotonin and dopamine as well, helping with anxiety and depression. No one can deny the positive impact dogs have on our lives.

With all that being said, dogs are incredible and add so much value. It’s important to make an educated and responsible decision on if you can devote the time, energy and money to having a pet. Do your research on what breed and age dog is best for your family. Consider the amount of exercise they need, the time you can devote, vet and grooming costs, your living space and training needed. If you can’t commit fully to owning a dog, you can always look for ways to help animals in our communities, sign up for local therapy dog programs, play with friends or dogs in your neighborhoods. Of course always head to the shelter when ready to add a new friend to your home, buying puppies online or pet stores comes with so many negatives, so do your research. As for me, I hope to live my life more like a rescue dog, remembering there might be bad in the world that leaves us with some scars, but that doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist moving forward. Be good to those loyal, furry, blessings in your life. You can always find hope in a dog’s eyes.

#Reflect

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” ~ Brene Brown

It’s that time of year many of us reflect. All of us hoping the next year will be better than the last. How can we each personally guarantee the next year actually will be better? By following the hard-hitting advice above, being courageous and staying true to our values we set. It doesn’t have to be a giant mountain of a goal, it may be simply choosing to be kinder, more honest, authentic, giving, happier or forgiving. The main point is to work at being who you want each day and live the life you can feel positive about. I love the above photograph and its a reminder how unexpected problems can bring new perspectives. I was on my way to Europe and the interstate was shut down from an avalanche. The road was closed for hours and eventually we were diverted over a desolate pass I’d never driven on. As I reached the summit I glanced out at this view and was taken back by this beauty. I had to document this moment in time for the fact that if things had not unfolded the way they did that day, I would have never seen this gorgeous scenery. Lesson learned that we can find a positive in any day.

Brene Brown has truly become one of my favorite authors and speakers in that she’s all about accountability and making positive changes to better anyone. In her book “Rising Strong”, which I highly recommend, there is an amazing chapter on being brave while brokenhearted. Sadly, as a sensitive and giving person, this has happened way too many times in my life. Her research and reasoning have inspired my next goal; why I must forgive. Forgiveness is a very hard thing to do when we are deeply hurt. But, Brene states perfect truth, “forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live.” Wow. This process takes work and is by no means easy, but in doing so, it can bring us self-love, wisdom, and clarity.

An interesting concept I never really pondered on before is that forgiveness requires grieving. When thinking of the word grief it’s usually associated with death, but the truth is that to forgive our family, friends, co-workers or anyone in our lives, something about our expectations or feelings has to die. If you make the choice to forgive, you have to face the pain and be hurt. You have to work through feelings, sadness, bitterness, and pain, but if you put in the work, in the end, you will be freer. It might even involve an idealized version of ourselves or who you thought someone close to you was. What’s most complicated and hard about this concept is that it means by forgiving someone, you are responsible for your growth from this point on. They have no control over your life and can’t take up valuable space in your brain. It allows us to make space for better relationships, connections, a place for authentic individuals who too are doing their best to live true to themselves. We must teach ourselves that connections worth our time require emotional safety and vulnerability and openness must be earned.

As a parent, within our families or any relationship, we all constantly try to put on a smile and work at trying to shield those we care about from pain. But, as Brene points out when we struggle the truth is that it affects everyone around us. We have to own up to this fact and that this is alright. We have to let go of the idea that we can’t always shield those around us from pain and that mistakes are part of life. All we can do each day is acknowledge hurt, provide a safe space to discuss it and teach our children how to fall and get back up stronger. As Brene concludes, it takes compassion, empathy and sympathy to be a decent human being and when we show understanding to ourselves and others its a true blessing. One of the ways to work at not being resentful is to make sure we have boundaries. It’s easy to blame others when things aren’t going well in our lives, but the fact is that if we hold ourselves accountable for asking for what we need and want, in the long run, we will be happier. Work at taking responsibility for our happiness. Yes, life is unfair, but being angry about it will not make it any easier.

So be brave and chose to forgive others and also yourself. Life is a journey that isn’t easy, leaves us with scars and can sometimes be too complicated to put into words, but it’s ours. Daily look for small nuggets of joy, make time to laugh, be your best version of yourself each day. Follow Brene’s excellent advice, “chose curiosity and connection rather than walking away or shutting down, while painful, is choosing courage.” All research proves that writing down our own experiences of heartbreak is most helpful in helping us see clearer and get to the root of our feelings. Whether you do this on your own in a journal, with a professional, a trusted friend or chose to share it with the world, doing so can help us heal and might just help someone else in the process. Speak your truth. Dig deep. Forgive freely.

#Grow

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” ~ Terri St. Cloud

True, majestic, beauty. I took the above image by the side of the road outside Silverthorne, Colorado on the drive home that I have driven at last three hundred times in my life. I had my music playing, enjoying my road trip, windows down when I happened to glance out, slam on my brakes and capture what took my breath away. Since then I’ve remembered to always keep not just my iPhone on me, but my actual, good old fashioned, camera so that I never miss moments like this. This is still one of my favorite photo’s I’ve taken as to me it captures all that Colorado stands for and reminds me to make sure I never forget the beauty around me.

What I’ve learned over my years of many struggles, like all humans, is that beauty is in the details, but only if you take the time to look for them. We honestly live in a messy, complicated, unfair, nasty, world, but our perspective can make a difference. I make it a point to daily, every night before I put my daughter to bed, not only pray for what we are grateful for but also journal together about what we’ve learned, overcome, accomplished and take a few minutes to express our creativity. I look forward to that time of my day more than anything, even Starbucks, which says a lot. At the end of an exhausting day, it can be easy to want to drown my sorrows by ranting, drinking, eating, watching reality tv or doing some other non-constructive activity. But, I’m realizing when I journal about what I’m grateful for, breath deep and not keep my phone in my bedroom, I go to sleep much happier.

I recently read a powerful article in Psychology Today that made me hopeful. The gist of the research concluded that there’s hard biological evidence that breakups present an opportunity for growth. It went on to note that rejection ricochets through a number of neural systems, that stir emotional chaos of pain, loss, and longing, but also turns on higher-order brain networks that facilitate learning. I found this encouraging because many times failed relationships can leave us feeling defeated and broken to the point where its hard to trust ourselves again. Each of us has the choice to look at struggles in life as a learning experience and most importantly an opportunity for personal growth. Some of my best friendships have stemmed from sharing painful experiences and when you feel like someone understands your pain it’s a powerful connection that cannot be ignored. While we have to choose wisely who we open ourselves up to, don’t afraid to show others your scars, that’s what we all need to develop, vulnerability draws others to us and is what all relationships evolve from. When you go through challenges, loss, mistakes, try to honestly look at what you can learn from it.

The bottom line is this; I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I’ll repeat, as I’m constantly trying to live this truth, life is ten percent circumstance and ninety percent attitude. Look for joy in the tiniest detail, be thankful you lived another day, cherish those around you, focus on that one person you made smile, a small accomplishment you had, a tiny blessing you experienced, a song that brings back a good memory, a quote that resonated truth, but most of all never forget life is a gift and only you can choose whether to be happy.

#LoveYourself

“I am still here because I refuse to let anything or anyone decide what I get to have. I am still here because I refuse to let my trauma have the last word. I am still here because I will not let a nightmare have more power than my dreams. I am still here because I didn’t allow the hard time to make me weak; I willed it to make me strong. You can survive losing a piece of your heart without losing the core of who you are. More than merely surviving the loss, you can thrive.” ~ Rachel Hollis

While Paris is known for being the city of romance, one of my best friends and I found love in a different sense when we visited. For both of us, it was proving to ourselves that love didn’t define us. Proving to ourselves we had the strength to survive abusive relationships from men who wanted to break us. Proof that we could still enjoy life without having to be validated by others of where our lives were or comparing it. An accomplishment that there was a whole world out there that can be enjoyed while being single. The truth we both came to realize was that it’s better to be lonely than in a toxic relationship. I will always admire the great example my friend set for me in traveling to every place her ex and her went and replacing it with new memories. She’s an inspiration to me in that way and has helped me find my value in pushing me out of my comfort zone. Our struggles build character and not allowing another person break you takes strength.

In our romance obsessed culture, it takes strength to be alone. Being surrounded by unrealistic entertainment, love songs, the commercial world, it all paints an unrealistic picture of what love is. Yes, love exists. Yes, it requires work. Yes, it’s hard. But the bottom line is love is proven through action and it either builds the other one up, supports them, cherishes them, encourages them or it isn’t true love. While we are all shaped by how we are raised, we have a choice whether to follow bad patterns or to evolve and become more. Loneliness can be hard to handle some days. No matter what your focus is as a women when there is no man involved you have to constantly defend that. Throughout my whole life, I constantly settled in what I deserved from men thinking my life couldn’t be complete without being a relationship. Sadly over and over I was abused, hurt, lied to and crushed, all in the faith that if I give all of me I will get the same back. No more. The truth is that we all have choices in how we allow ourselves to be treated and if someone doesn’t value you, respect you and give back what you give them they aren’t worth your time.

For me, it took having a daughter to raise my standards, who is looking to me to be her protector, role model, and example. I would allow myself to be treated badly, but when it came to her, I would not allow anyone to cause her pain. She deserves better and taught me that so do I. While being a single mom is very hard most days, at least I can go to bed each night her knowing we’re safe, that we don’t need men to complete our life and specifically don’t need men who don’t know how to love wholeheartedly and care enough to give their all. Break the cycle.

Even through all the pain I’ve experienced, I still will always believe in love and see plenty of healthy relationships around me to know it exists in the world. But, the most valuable lesson all women need to remind their selves is that your first must be to love yourself and be secure enough to be content being alone. Go to dinner alone, a movie, a trip, prove to yourself that you are strong enough to enjoy life independently. Too many women stay in bad relationships out of fear, for financial reasons, caring too much what others think, for their kids and don’t realize that you are giving up a part of themselves to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Be an inspiration to others, your children, your family, your friends in knowing sometimes you have to walk away. It’s not a weakness, but rather a strength in believing in yourself that no one has the right to hurt you in any way. Change and mistakes are a great opportunity for growth that should be admired.

Be your own hero of your fairy tale. Find your value. Dig deep for the strength to not always take the easiest route. Learn to love yourself and while you will never be perfect, you can be enough. Let no one define you but yourself.

#PositiveFocus

“When you say yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” ~ Paulo Coelho

The above photograph was taken in the midst of one of the worst weeks of my life. While I won’t go into all the horrific details we will leave it as my world was imploding on every level possible, and all my worst fears were coming true so much that I was numb and couldn’t even find tears. The life I had been striving for was ending. I was out on a walk with my daughter, trying to hold myself together, next to a field and these dead flowers caught my eye. While they were past their prime, weathered and bent from wind, they were still standing and doing so ever so beautifully. That’s how life is sometimes, you can’t always control your circumstances, but in the end, it requires us trying to look for the small gifts, the creation around us and try to find even small moments of joy in the chaos of life.

I admire that in children. How resilient they can be. When they are lost in life, with almost no say in what’s going on around them, they somehow always find something to laugh or smile about. My daughter has been that reminder for me, this glimmer of light each day, no matter what relationship, job, friend, family member or destructive self-thought fails me at that time. Her belly laughter always somehow makes life alright and strives to inspire me to keep fighting for what I want in life.

I read a great passage the other day from “Girl, Wash Your Face”, that was so powerful, yet simple in its strength. The author talks about how when a baby takes their very first steps, how thrilled, supportive and ecstatic the parent is, filled with pride and joy. Never in a million years would they say to them, “I think those could’ve been straighter, faster, less wobbly or you didn’t take enough.” Of course not, that would be unthinkable right? Yet, that’s what women do, so many times, daily. We have this inner voice that is so critical, nags at us when we fail in any way, makes us feel not good enough, makes us question our choices and sometimes makes us feel like why do I even try to so hard. I don’t know about you, but once again, I need to take a lesson from that innocent little life whose excited, proud and joyful at just taking a few steps forward. It might be slow, not perfect or not like anyone else, but all you can do is learn and move forward.

Yes, it’s commendable and appropriate to care about what others in this life think of us, especially those we love and respect. But, also remember only you need to answer to you and most opinions need to be blocked out. Set your own standard of what’s enough. Live each day of your life not as perfect as possible, but just a bit better than you did yesterday. Progress is progress even in baby steps. Be proud of all accomplishments in your life because as long as you keep fighting and want to be a better person that’s all that matters. Take a walk outside and admire how nature isn’t perfect, it’s messy, broken, sometimes destroyed, yet it survives. So can you.

#LookToTheLight

One day you will look back and see; that all along you were blooming.” ~ Morgan Harper Nichols

Lately, I’ve been touched by a lot of women who by sharing their truth not only encourages me to share mine but also is a great reminder that when we show our vulnerability, scars, and truth it draws others to us. We all struggle most days to stay positive, push through our fears and insecurities. What connects us is the fact we’re human and just want to feel love and understanding.

What’s been amazing to me is that you can find love from even the smallest things. A song that touches your heart, a caring thought expressed by a friend, a passage in a book that you swear was written for you. You have to have an open heart and be willing to look for those inspirations. Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we don’t have that we take for granted the blessings and need to practice more gratitude.

I just finished Rachel Hollis’s “Girl, Stop Apologizing”, and what I truly enjoyed most was this successful women’s honesty in sharing her weaknesses and struggles in her journey. So many of us only see the end product of success and don’t see all the failures, mistakes and struggles it took to get there. As a perfectionist myself, I’ve always been afraid of failure and will sometimes procrastinate because I want the end product to be my very best. What I’ve realized over the years is that if you give your best that’s enough. It might not be enough for someone else, and yes it might involve a few mistakes, but it needs to be enough for you. End each day knowing no matter what you did it was your best and feel proud of that.

My best friend sent me a song the other day that has become my anthem I sing over and over again as a reminder we all have a choice to become stronger and better, little by little each day. In “Castles”, miss Freya Ridings states the powerful message, “I’m gonna build castles from the rubble of your love, I’m gonna be more than you ever thought I was“. No other person should have the power to control your happiness. While we all have circumstances in our lives, we might wish were better, we do have a choice each day to make the best of our situation and look for the light and lessons. Through my years with therapists and self-help books the main underlying truth is that we cannot control how others act, but we can choose to control how we respond and if we give them power or not. Selena Gomez just put out a super powerful song called “Lose you to love me”, which has a lot of truth in the fact that sometimes we have to walk away from those who don’t love us how we deserve. Yes, love takes hard work, patience, endurance, time, but it’s also given, it shouldn’t hurt us, so if someone isn’t treating you with the respect you deserve its better to walk away. Whether romantic relationships, friendships, jobs, even family, if they aren’t filling you up and helping you be a better person, it’s alright to chose to not give them your precious time. In this rough world we live in sometimes we experience things we don’t’ deserve, but if we never share our truth and voice our lessons we can’t heal or possibly help someone else in their hard road.

As a mother, that’s one of my biggest goals is to teach my daughter to listen to her inner voice, remember you deserve to be honored and don’t always take the easier route. Yes, it’s scary to be vulnerable, to love wholeheartedly, take risks, but in the end, don’t live a life filled with regrets with what might have been. Believe in who you are, know your enough and every day show up and work hard for who you want to be. Take a lesson from the sunflower, chose to look up to the light and focus on the positive, it’s the best way to live.

#Truth

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” ~ Mandy Hale

As a child, I always enjoyed writing in a journal, and as I grew older it was always such a perfect outlet for honesty, reflection, truth and a safe place for me to express myself. My love for art also started young, winning my first art show at age seven. Then my love for photography began blossoming when I took an old school photography class, back in the day where they taught you how to develop photo’s and it took raw talent. I miss those innocent days where artists needed real skill, but I’ve grown to love filters, digital cameras, software, apps and technology in this new frontier. Just thinking about what it used to take to be called an artist or writer, the progress and accessibility is such a blessing for so many including myself. I realized my true niche after I attended art school for graphic design when it came to marketing for small businesses with my writing, photography and social media. I decided I’m done with using time and energy on other websites and platforms where I don’t get credit for work, but with this website and blog I can finally make sure Erica Adams has her work seen by the world.

The other reason for starting this blog was that I also wanted to share my story and journey, what I’ve learned, grown from, experienced and how it’s all shaped who I’ve become today. Truth and honesty are what most of us yearn for in life and you never know by sharing your joys, failures, growth, mistakes, and trials can help someone else, not only helping them feel less alone, but also being a perfectionist, that despite what we see in the surface world of social media, we are all finding our way. My love for travel has and always will be what most inspires me and I will always be beyond grateful to my parents who showed me how big our world is and how thankful I should be for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with. Capturing moments and seeing the world through other cultures has helped shaped who I am today, which reminds me how small we all are.

I truly thank you for taking the time to read this and hope my journey in some way helps you in yours. Feel free to reach out and connect with me. While I deep inside I hope I can one day be appreciated for my passions in journalism, photography, marketing, and creative services, what’s most important is filling myself with my favorite things that fill my creative soul and let my voice be heard. I hope I can inspire, uplift, encourage and help someone by encouraging them to be who they truly want to be. Welcome to Mountain Girl Creative!