Summer Time Joys

In my last blog post, I shared how I had some mixed feelings about summer. It’s still a bit early to tell, but I am noticing how aware I am of the intentions I set out for myself and my family. This is helping me stay on task. Let me explain.

We start each summer break off with time away at a family cottage. I know that my privilege allows me access to this. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get out of the city, my work life, and keep things simple. It really can help me find the balance I need to get back on track. That doesn’t mean my kids are perfect, and there are no dishes to do – it’s got its own share of work and the kids still fight no matter the scene. The biggest argument my kids had with each other was who got the ‘better’ swing. Of course, both swings are the same but it’s like they have to fight for something. For the most part though, they played together, were in tune, and we all were attuned to each other.

We played board games, ate ice cream, swam in the freezing cold lake, read books, and slept well. Even our meals were simpler and we saw no one else for a few days at a time. At the end of the week, we were ready to come back to our real world so we shared our intentions for the summer.

This is something we do each year, but I changed it a bit this year as my children are getting older and have more agency in their goals. We added 3 areas to work on over the summer – something they want to do for fun, something they want to work on as a summer project, and a way to be a better citizen. While my kids’ answers weren’t exactly as I would have chosen, it is truly them to the core. For instance, my daughter decided to work on not picking nature and bringing it home (i.e. bugs, pulling flowers, rocks and more rocks) and my son wants to work on not swearing. I would have loved for them to work on eating better meals and not picking on each other. Good thing i made them my goals. Wink.

It also reminded me of my Word of the Year. I have one each year, and it’s moments like this that helps me steer back on track. I also appreciate the intention around breaking the year up into seasons, and having more short-term or specific goals with that. For instance, as my word of the year this year is Balance, i can think of ways to dig deeper during Spring (refreshing ways to give me balance with work and down time), Summer (moments of joy), Fall (things I can do to nurture myself that gives me nourishing balance) and Winter (ways i can be restful and cozy) so that I can ultimately get that balance i was working on all year.

As it’s summer, I can look at my goals to find JOY and bring in more pleasure to balance the fact that there is still a lot of work to do – both with my role as a therapist, as a mom, as a homeowner, as a gardener, and more. We set the intentions on the July New Moon, and put together our list of 20 things to do as a family this summer that bring us joy. This year that includes things like:

– Family bike ride to the lake
– Make and eat ice cream
– Sleepovers
– Camping
– Go-karting
– Climb trees
– Make movie with cousins
– Eat fresh fruit and veggies from our garden and local farmer’s markets
– Reading in backyard
– Regular visits to public pools
– Getting ready to being home alone (for my 10 yr old)
– S’mores and backyard fires
– Evening drinks in the backyard
– Playdates with friends
– Star gazing
– Paddle boarding alone
– Watch Lord of the Rings 2
– Cherry pit or watermelon seed spitting contest
– Create a summer song playlist
– Sell our homemade comic books

While we haven’t figured out how to stop the cat and dog fight, nor my own fight response to their conflict, i know that we can work on it as we are also having a joy-filled summer. And we created it ourselves. Call it an artisanal bespoke summer if you will.

My Own Cat and Dog Fight

It’s end of the school year, and while my logical brain is organized with the summer plans, another part of me is a bit more hesitant to start summer break. I’m talking about my somatic side, the ever-knowing inner body language that holds a more quiet space for me. I’m a bit worried for summer this year.

I love summer – the farmer’s markets, the sun, the outdoor swimming, the warm evenings, the freezies. Summer dresses and sandals are my perfect outfit of choice, and i love summer evening bike rides with my love.

Now, as a mom to two school-age children, summer also includes regular sibling arguments, sand in their shoes and on my floor, popsicle stains on their faces and t-shirts, epic meltdowns after a day at outdoor camp, and time mostly with just the 4 of us. Day in and day out.

I’m a bit worried about how much the sibling conflicts will get in the way of summer fun. Even as I coach my children to see that the ‘worst day ever’ was just one part bad + other parts okay, we hold the anger and resentment in our bodies for a bit too long. My daughter bounces back much more quickly, and she is ready to move on, though not with an apology at her end. My son needs more time alone to get back to his window of tolerance, and then he sees where he made mistakes so apologies.

After a recent argument about which bike route to take, and my kids using their bikes as weapons to hurt each other, I reflected on how it all came to a head so quickly. And then I saw it: My son’s conflict instinct is to Fight /island /attack and my daughter’s is to Fawn/wave/pursue. In therapist language, my children have outright presented me with their conflict cycles and attachment style. As a therapist, I know how to support couples with this, so when i saw this dynamic in front of my own eyes, it was a light bulb moment.

My son’s sense of justice is so strong that he has a hard time seeing how his reaction can exacerbate conflict. It’s a beautiful thing to witness him wanting to hold the line around rules, order, and safety. And yet, that can mean other people have a hard time being heard by him. My daughter’s constant chatter and social butterfly-ism means she does not allow space for others to be heard. They are my own life size perpetual cat and dog fight.

So, this summer’s plan is still filled with pool trips, strawberry picking, camping, and reading. It will also contain some work on coaching my kids to help them with their relationship. For better or worse.

Wish me luck!

My Body My Choice

I’m not exactly sure when i became an activist for gender rights, but it was definitely in high school, if not earlier. I got my period earlier than the vast majority of girls in my class. I was 9 (nine!) – take that in. I was the same age as my eldest child is now. There is nothing like being in grade 5 and other girls wondering what the strange noise was coming from a bathroom stall. In fact, it was me tearing off the sticky part of my maxi pad. Talk about stigma and being embarrassed for something so normal. I also got breasts pretty early too, and of course that brought on attention from much older boys and men even. I noticed that for sure, and yet didn’t have the skills to put them in their place (the boys i mean), or more importantly, the support and guidance from others to help me with this.

So i started dating younger than i might have otherwise, and my body has been a sexual object for a long time. I remember being in middle school and walking on the beach in Florida, while on vacation. A boy i did not know came up to me and asked me point blank if i “put out.” I didn’t even know what the term meant. Luckily, it didn’t go farther than that, but the memory still stays with me.

When i was in high school, a pro-choice rally was held and i recall my mom urging me not to go. She was afraid of me being an activist in a rally and getting hurt or in trouble. While i obeyed her request (rule), i did learn more about what abortions are and what being pro-choice is for me. A friend of mine had to get one when we were in high school. I remember helping her get the phone number for a clinic in Toronto and being part of a team of teenage friends helping her navigate the system to get it done. I grew up in a smaller city 1 ½ hours from the big city and it was my job to hold on to the card with the clinic’s phone number. I still remember where i hid it.

About ten years ago, i worked at a reproductive health clinic where medical terminations of pregnancies happened. My role as a counsellor was to be a guide to people during the procedure. I literally would hold their hand and help them with breathe work, distraction tools and self-compassion. I loved this work and it brought me closer to the work i do now, so i am so grateful for what i learned there.

One thing i learned is that many of us that choose to get an abortion do it for a number of reasons. As we are our own experts, it is up to no one else to govern or decide what’s best for our bodies. And yet, we are hearing otherwise again in the news as some states are changing a sacred and human rights law that passed many moons ago.

I can only assume that people who have had to make a difficult choice are feeling triggered all over again. Some of the people i support come to help heal from the shame, remorse, and grief from making this decision. They don’t need lawmakers and politicians (mostly old white men) to make them feel worse for their decision. It was a hard decision to make, and it was their’s to do so and the right decision at the time.

Abortion is not just for rape, and yet it’s ironic that this backlash to our rights over our bodies is happening during May which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I can’t help to think of this as another form of systemic sexual abuse. While it’s not a sexual assault persay, it is a violation and abuse of someone over someone else’s body, in a sexual manner. The removal of abortion access is not about the unborn babies and fetuses – it’s about power. Just like rape is not about pleasure via sex: it is also about power.

I am now teaching both my children that they are the boss of their body. My daughter still asks who saw me naked when i delivered her earthside. Even last night, i overheard her asking my partner who saw my vagina when she was coming out, if i was naked with my consent, and if being naked was necessary. We talk about body autonomy a lot, and i still ask them if I can kiss and hug them good night.

In response to the latest backlash to women and reproductive choice, someone in my neighbourhood filled blocks and blocks of sidewalks with chalk-written slogans that remind us that we are the boss of our bodies. When walking over this simple and powerful display, i had an interesting chat with my children on what abortion is – i had to balance what it means to be pro-choice and that abortion is an absolutely acceptable and valid choice, with how to explain the process in an age-appropriate way.

My children have not yet reached puberty but they are on the near cusp of it. We have good books and chats about it a lot, and they know what it means when i have my monthly blood cycle. While i have had my period for over 30 years (*wow*), it was when i became pregnant that i really learned how my reproductive parts work, and when i can get pregnant each month. I want my children to learn how their bodies work before then. That is one way they can be truly informed when needing to give consent. Knowledge is power, right?

This upcoming Tuesday May 28 is the second annual Menstrual Hygiene Day in Toronto. I’m so excited that gender activists in the city have championed the path to lessen the stigma of menstruation and making pads and tampons accessible to all bleeders. I also love that Dr. Morgentaler, a renowned doctor who has been a forerunner in reproductive health and performing abortions for decades, received an Order of Canada for his work. Maybe we need to send invites to period party to those old white men in power to our south.

Or not, they might be party poopers.

Rainbow Jar for Feelings


Recently, my kids and I were having a tough time and i was reminded me of co-regulation tol, the rainbow jar. I made it when my son was little many moons ago . It’s the tool to help with feelings as a way to process them and hold space for them. When we opened up the jar recently we noticed we needed to update it. There’s nothing like jumping on the bed to make us feel better

My son wears his heart on his sleeve. Since his sense of justice systems, sometimes it can harbour some conflict with his peers. He holds on to this anger and it’s hard for him to come back to neutral. While i can appreciate his sense of fairness, it can get in the way of accepting the reality of a moment. He goes into fight mode pretty quick and is hard to get back into his calm window.

My daughter hates to be wrong, or in the wrong. If i am every angry at her (and of course, i am allowed to be as her mom), she holds on to this and then creates a grudge herself. She also really struggles when things are less than perfect.

Both of these examples are great ones because when we can learn emotion regulation and staying with a feeling, then we are able to also foster some self-reflection and a more healthy mindset of acceptance. In our family, we are working to allow space for all the feelings, not just the easy and positive ones. That is hard to do sometimes.

Gordon Neufeld’s latest work on resilience in children (and adults truly) focuses on the importance of Play, Rest, and Feeling. Having access to all three is an integral part to establishing resilience and bouncing back after a challenge of adversity. I love the intention of noticing a full range of feelings in this process. If you want to learn more about how to take care of your kid’s feelings, Sarah Rosensweet also has a great article on how to help children with their emotional backpacks.

With this in mind, i created this tool to help my kids notice and honour their feelings. And of course, i use it as well – both as a model and knowing i can benefit from it as well. We keep it right in the dining room where any of us can access it easily. The agreement is if one of us needs help with their feelings, and asks for company, we join them. I want my kids to know i am there for any of the feelings, so we carve out space. I help them set it up, and if i am prepping dinner or something like that, we negotiate the timing to honour everyone’s needs.

Here are some of our activities:

– Jump on the bed
– Eat some chocolate
– Read a book
– Rip up some paper
– Cuddle together and get some tears out
– Dance party!
– Listen to a favourite song
– Colour
– Play outside
– Talk to someone about it
– Find a pet rock
– Build a lego fort for my feelings
– Have a cup of tea
– Play by myself
– I spy with colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet
– 5 Senses game: 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things to touch, 2 things to smell (get out some calming essential oils, 1 thing to taste)

That pouch you see in the photo has some Worry Dolls from a trip to Guatemala from years ago. I love this sweet tool to help hold space for feelings with kids. Both my kids have one that they keep close, as a reminder. What are some fun and effective ways you help co-regulate those hard feelings?

I Was That Mom

I was that mom recently, in the grocery story. You know the one, where her kids are out of control and you don’t want to make eye contact with anyone. I should have known better; what was i thinking bringing 2 kids to the grocery store to get supplies for supper. Egads, i even bargained with them to get their own stash of candy and snacks for the week.

My kids are not toddlers anymore, so either I should lower my expectation to hope that we can we get errands done after school, or they will never be able to get their beloved snacks. Right now, I’m leaning on the no snacks for a while.

Let me back up and explain myself, as i am usually the one to tell others to not take kids grocery shopping if they can help it. It was April Fool’s Day and as a nice surprise, i thought it would be more fun to play hookie from school and go hang out with my sister and kids for the day. My son was all over that – he hates Mondays and school (what a terrible combo, I’ll give him that) but my daughter was upset to miss school, or at least the jokes she was planning to make on friends at school. After a bit of work getting her onboard, we went to visit my parents. It’s a quick road trip away, and yet it always seems to bring with it some baggage – in this case, my son has outgrown the toys that remain at my parent’s home from my own childhood. He gets bored quickly when there isn’t a book to read. His boredom quickly turns to irritability which can spiral down pretty rapidly. This leads to sibling conflict that is so triggering for me – they get mean and uncooperative, and downright aggressive, to me and each other.

It can be hard to shift after big conflicts, and yet i knew i had to find a solution (aka distraction) quickly. When i suggested to play hide-and-seek, they had no idea of what amazing options were at their disposal. Living in a 100-year old house in Toronto means no closets, so our hiding spaces are limited. Not so in a newer house.

Luckily, we found a way to enjoy the rest of the day. That is, until we drove home and got stuck in traffic on the highway, and it slowed our commute down considerably. My kids were fine. I had some foresight, so I pre-planned and brought their tablets to play with while i drove. Since i don’t drive often on the highway, i feel a bit anxious, so i knew that i needed any help i could get.

It was during this drive that i was able to reflect on what i needed to regroup. I had thought that i could just drive while listening to my favourite playlist, and i would be back to the city. I was still irritable from the kids’ conflict at my parents, slightly stressed to drive on the highway, and i was so thirsty. It’s one thing to do a checklist and see how i’m feeling, but a whole other activity to take care of that need when stuck in a car with your kids, and you are the one that’s driving.

Once we got to the city, i knew i had to get groceries or we wouldn’t have food for dinner or lunches. My kids shared that they were onboard with going, and we made a deal to get things quickly. But once inside, it’s like my son realized that he could have more fun by being silly. Sure, that can help boring things go by more quickly, but at what expense? He put all sorts of things in the grocery cart (dog food, but we don’t have a dog, meat but we’re vegetarian, you get the idea). By the end of our 20 minute excursion, i was so done. I contemplated just ditching our groceries and going home empty-handed, but i knew that would mean more work for me ultimately.

I’ve been noticing that my anger (hyperaroused state in the great Window of Tolerance tool) has been escalating quickly lately, and the logical side of my brain knows the tools to do to help calm down. I am trying to catch it a bit sooner. I knew that the anger (dare i say rage even) was brewing inside when while i was bagging the goods at the cashier. I felt eyes and judgement on me but i kept breathing and reminding myself that I would be home in minutes. I just had to get home.

Our family practices non-violent communication instead of discipline. Sure, that means we are a talking-it-out family, and yet i know that taking their candy (that i did buy) wouldn’t tell them how they acted was inappropriate – it would just tell them that i took something away that they wanted and i had promised them. Of course, they didn’t EAT any of this said candy when we got home, but we sure did talk about expectations, being a better team, and how to honour the agreements we made.

As a therapist, i know what i should be doing to regulate my emotions. As an attachment-based parent, I know that my kids’ behaviour was telling me something, and as a feminist i know that i have a right to be angry when there is more work on my plate just by going to the store with my kids. It’s a lot to balance.

So, i choose self-compassion – while i couldn’t make eye contact with the other customers at the store (a few with kids in tow themselves), i still knew that i was not the only mom in the world who was having a hard time taking her kids to the grocery store. That common humanity helped me. So did the time i took to myself when we did get home.

And so did the candy that we bought, that i snuck in for myself before making dinner that evening.

Tips to Help Keep Your Relationship Resilient


Whether you are in a new stage of life with a newborn, or you’ve been with your partner for 10 years and you’re feeling a lull, or your family has experienced another major transition in your life, it can be hard to stay attuned with your partner. All relationships take work and a commitment to that work. Sometimes crisis or change in our lives can steer us in a different direction and it can be overwhelming to try and figure out how to come back. When you know the love is still there, and you want this relationship to continue working for you, it might be helpful to learn some new tools.

As a therapist who works with couples to notice their emotions and their partner’s, I see firsthand what tools and practices can be effective with staying on track in the relationship you want. As someone who’s been with my partner for just shy of 20 years myself, I can also speak from personal experience. With this in mind, I’ve put together some tips and ideas that can be helpful for you.

1) Attachment Styles for Adults: I may have a bias as i am trained in attachment based developmental psychology and i incorporate it into my own life as a parent. Did you know that our attachment to our parents shapes how we attach to others once we are adults ourselves? We learn a lot from our parents, some of those things are not necessarily intentional. Children need to attach to their adult caregivers in order to feel safe. When that’s not always the case, it can impact how we build relationships as an adult. TIP: Check out this book: Stan Tatkin shares more about these styles in his book Wired for Love: He shares 3 main styles – Anchor (feel secure in relationship), Island (avoidant), or Wave (anxious/ambivalent). There is also a 4th style (disorganized) that is based on a history of trauma – like a Hurricane. Knowing what our attachment style is helps as it can give so much perspective and insight to our reactions when our partner does something that confronts our confidence in the relationship.

2) Love Languages: When i first started dating my partner it was a long-distance relationship for the first year or so. I needed validation and gestures of affection in order to help me feel secure in this new relationship, especially as it was long-distance. This was before the days of Instagram and social media, where i used dial-up free internet access to send emails, and long distance calls were expensive. It was when i learned about the 5 Love Languages did i realize that i was not needy or insecure, but in fact had a different language that told my partner i was into him. There are 5 languages – acts of service (think mowing your lawn), words of affirmation (you look great tonight!), gifts of affection (flowers), loving touch (holding hands), quality time (booking a table at a new restaurant). So, when i learned that I’m a Gifts of Affection gal and my partner is an Act of Service dude, i realized that we needed to interpret our various languages and they could indeed compatible. TIP: Take the Love Languages quiz!

“Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way.” – James Baldwin

3) Plan Monthly Dates: This doesn’t have to be a big night out, let alone a weekend get-away, but having planned and defined time as a couple can really help build confidence in the relationship. TIP: plan an date each month – it can be a movie you picked out for Saturday Night at the Movies on the Couch. Make a special drink and stock up on adults-only snacks. This reminds us why we love our partner in the first place. It also helps us stay attuned to our desire for our partner, a key component to a lasting relationship.

Did you know that we have have individualized pleasure, arousal, and desire blueprints? To take it further, we also have different types of sexual satisfaction styles. Knowing what yours is can help understand how your sexual needs are not met as often as they were, or that you are feeling like you are in a sexual rut. TIP: Take this quiz to see which type of Erotic Blueprint speaks to you! Similar to Love Languages and Attachment styles, when we know what our sexual desires are, and that of our partners, it can help break down the walls in the bedroom and help to more sustainable and thriving sex lives.

4) Plan Time Apart: You are not just a partner or parent, but also an adult in your own right. Being able to have other interests creates a balance in your life. It may seem counter-intuitive but it’s really another key ingredient in building resiliency in relationships. When you want to be seen by your partner, you need to see yourself and become more visible. TIP: Share your pride in your work, acknowledge something you did that was a new challenge, add more of your in your home – the special feminine touches that linger. Think of your favouite flowers in the bedroom AND dining room, photos of you and your lover by the bed, have a book you are reading by the couch. Don’t hide those pieces of you away. When we are practicing a wholehearted approach to life, our interests in life shine through and our partners want to be with us.

5) Conflict Cycle: This comes straight out of Emotionally-focused Therapy but YOU don’t have to be trained as a couple counsellor to know how to work on conflict in a effective way. Did you know that each relationship dyad falls into a conflict cycle or pattern? It might help to see what yours is so that you can work past them. TIP: Check out Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight. It is a wonderful resource that shares more real-life stories of couples who have learned to recognize their conflict cycle.

I love Esther Perel’s work with couples, and one of her most poignant quotes is “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” We have to truly understand that we can’t control or change anyone else, so when we want to change someone, we have to change ourselves. One part that is key is learning how to take care of your own emotion first, so that it doesn’t impact the repair work. We need to learn how to repair, and that comes with learning helpful self-soothing anger management tools. Learning healthy ways to communicate these needs is especially necessary.

6) Aligned Values and Priorities: It’s interesting how we can feel so comfortable at home that we get into a habit of putting on our comfy clothes when we get home from work, and present our best self for work but not at home with our loved ones. Yes they love us, for better or worse, and yet why is it we present our messiest side for the people we love the most? I saw an episode of The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel once and she had a habit of taking off all her make-up and putting on the face cream only after her husband fell asleep. I think a happy medium on these 2 extremes is much more healthy and sustainable.

As we are constantly evolving and learning, our relationships need to follow the same course. While we don’t necessarily want carbon copies of ourselves, having key values that are shared by both partners can lessen any longstanding tension or conflict. TIP Have weekly meetings with your partner to discuss goals for the week, highlights, plan some time together and hear from them their plans. When we intentionally sit down together and ask each other these questions, we are not surprised when it comes up. Put it in a Google Calendar (i love this program, it really is a relationship tool!). This may help you carve out space not just for a date, but a chance to take a class together, or read a book together. Moments like this serve us as they help us get back to centre.

What are some ways you have noticed you get back on track with your love partner? If you are struggling with this, contact me and i’d love to help you do this!

Perfectly Imperfect in Every Way


This week, my son went skiing for the first time. He went twice this week alone. The first time was cross-country skiing with our family, and the second was downhill with a school trip. I went with him both times, upon his request (and secretly i would have gone anyway). Full disclosure, we are not a skiing family or even sporty. But i grew up cross-country skiing and loved it. Mainly because it was a way to embrace the outdoors during the cold, long winter months. And it is so beautifully peaceful in a forest in the wintertime.

The first ski adventure, we didn’t get lessons because we didn’t think we needed them. His first frustration was putting on the skis. His second was falling and not being able to get up. His third was the first slight hill. So within 10 minutes, he was full of frustration and internalized shame about not being able to do something his sister and cousins were doing. And more so, he was angry at his body for not holding him up. Once this side of him comes out, he can be hard to get him back on track – no pun intended.

Between my partner and i, we took turns and deep breaths to help him. By the end of the day, he was skiing better, and made the right decision to walk down the last hill. Side note: i went down that hill and had the best epic Funniest Home Videos fall. I went right over my face into the snow and came up laughing. And not hurt. Luckily, my kids saw my fall and my reaction and i think it helped them see that it’s okay to fall.

When we went with his school this week, my son embraced the challenge. Maybe it was partly due to being with his peers and the lovely support and connection his has with his classmates. Maybe it was because he’s been skiing once before and remembers what his body can do. Maybe because downhill is easier (that’s what he said). I don’t know. But he did amazing – he loved the hills and he only fell once. At the beginning, when he was going down the very first hill for the first time to learn how to do the ‘pizza’ move to slow down. After that, he was hooked and now wants to ski on the regular. I’d like to take some credit, but i know it’s about his more positive sense of self that day.

Go figure.


Let me backup and bit and give you some context: My son has had 4 broken bones and stitches twice, all from living life in distraction. Besides the healing process and permanent scars (both visible and emotional), my son has carried with him trauma from the various injuries. He goes quickly into freeze mode when he gets hurt, be it a small bump or a bigger fall. As a trauma therapist, i would hope my work and years of training would be able to help him when he is in distress or needing support to self-regulate the hard feelings.

I was pretty wrong about this.

He comes to me for cuddles and connection when he is sad, or lonely. But the anger and frustration feelings are harder for me to support and him to manage. That’s why they are called hard feelings after all. After his initial fear has subsided, and he sees that he’s okay, he goes into fight mode when he’s frustrated. That is his trigger response, whereas I’m a freezer – so an interesting combo to say the least. I also get triggered by his anger as it’s can get quite feral and aggressive. That’s from my own history trauma and fear of intense conflict with others.

My children both know the work i do, relatively speaking. They know i work with women who have been hurt by someone in their lives as well as the parents i support who have just had babies. My son has been learning more about self-regulation, mindfulness, the downstairs/upstairs brain (thanks Dan Siegal), and we both know it’s a work in progress still. So when he recently confronted my attempts to help him he blasted at me this poignant line: “Mom, what works on your clients won’t work on me, I’m your kid”

Mic drop.

So, after a bit of an initial reaction, i processed this and realized maybe a bit too late that i need to be his mom first, and therapist second. And i need to be my partner’s friend first and therapist second. And i am human first. Therapist second even for me. We are all works in progress, learning as we go after all. When i am in therapist mode, i am a bit removed and put up the necessary boundaries i need, and yet it may not be what my injured child needs at the time. I am also still learning how to manage my reactions to his injuries, my daughter’s stubbornness, and my own need for quiet. As all therapists, i’m perfectly imperfect with this work too. I know my friends look to me for advice and assume i know what i’m doing. Let me tell you now, i don’t always know. I’m just my best at the time like all of us. One thing i know is to give myself self-compassion and self-care treats on the regular. I have also learned how to sit with the pain of others because i too am a work in progress, who recognizes my own inner work: I can sit more comfortably with other’s pain as i can see the other side of pain. This is a big part of being able to be a container for others. I know healing can happen.

Last night, my kids were excited to tell me about their day. I had a long day of listening to people’s stories and sadness all day. Like most days, i love my work, and i maybe shouldn’t have listened to a powerful podcast about stillborn loss on my walk home. I probably should have listened to my fun music therapy playlist instead. When i got home, i didn’t know i was done listening, until my son was talking AT me for 20 minutes through dinner. We had a good chat about asking first to chat, and also my need to make sure that i was present for my family when i cross the threshold of my door. Back to mom, wife, woman mode. My work day is done.

And yet it never is.

Being Kind to Myself

I spent some time updating my 28 Days of Self-Love Challenge Worksheet recently. In doing so, it gave me time to pause and reflect on what i do myself as acts of self-love or self-compassion. It’s important to practice what i preach, and also note that therapists are not exempt from flaws and needing moments of self-love too. We are all perfectly imperfect, and yet i know that i can be hard on myself because i am SUPPOSED to know better. It’s one of the occupational hazards of being a therapist after all.

With this in mind, i was thinking about how self-esteem, self-worth self-love, self-care and self-compassion all get interchanged and mistaken for each other. While they are woven into each other, it is helpful to notice that one does not feel love just because they care for themselves. Positive self-esteem and self-worth may be the overall hopes for us all, and yet it can be long and complicated journey to get there. When i also clients if they have done something kind for themselves lately, they are quick to counter that they don’t deserve or need it, and some say “I’m not worthy of that because I’m not loveable.”

This is where regular acts of kindness, love and compassion come in. Incorporating them into our daily rhythms helps us build on their importance. That bouquet of fresh flowers that you keep walking past at No Frills, that time it snowed so much and you didn’t leave your bed, that moment where you said No to an annoying co-worker – these are acts of the same compassion and love you would offer a friend.

Let’s be our own best friend.

(if you would like a PDF download of this helpful worksheet, click here: 28 Days of Self-Love (5)

The Family Road Trip Rite of Passage


I recently went on a road trip with my family. Growing up, i went on the same drive to Florida about twice a year, year in and year out. I know the I-75 highway from Michigan to Florida with the back of my hand. Well i used it: It’s been years since i drove it with my family when i was a child.

This trip served as a rite of passage of sorts. Driving 2 full days with my kids in the back seat proved that i am now the adult in the car. It was very symbolic for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about Rites of Passage, and you will see more of that in coming blog posts and work i’m putting together.

It’s easy to fall into old habits, even ones that are 25 years old and not practiced since then. As a child, i grew up being awakened by my parents at 4am so we could get in the car and start the long drive to Florida. My role as a child was quite minimal of course, and i now see how i took the work behind the scenes for granted. We had cozy pillows to help us get settled into the minivan. My mom always had the same, but ironically tasty, packed sandwiches prepared for us. I listened to a lot of music on my Walkman and read books – this is before reading in cars made me carsick. And, i could start to recognize the focal points that we were on the right path – the bridge to cross into the US, the big buildings of Cincinnati and Atlanta, the mountains of Tennessee. We stopped seldom, and slept in rest areas instead of hotels. This worked for us, or at least that’s the message i heard.

Now, in my forties, i did this trip for the first time with my own young family. We did things differently and it worked for us, but i also incorporated the learnings from my previous road trips (stay tuned for a Road Trip Tip post soon!).

It was a great trip – My family grows, connects, and feels nurtured by being in the water. We can be arguing or bickering even as we walk to the beach, and then we we get there, it’s almost like the tension dissolves into the ocean. I found out during this trip that Siesta Key sand is made out of quartz, and as a crystal worshiper this makes sense to me. No wonder i always loved this beach and this crystal.

So, i just referenced the bickering: Let me expand on that, as it helped me see that no matter where we go, my children still will be siblings that need space from each other at different times, and they are truly not the same person. Even though it was obvious before, family vacations have a way of confirming things like this. My daughter is a thrill and attention seeker through and through. She is also much more sociable than the rest of us, and made a new friend on the beach almost daily. As the rest of us are avid readers, my son would happily play in the waves, practice his Percy Jackson half-blood water skills, and then join me on the shoreline to read one of his many, many books.

I wanted to share a special place with my family, several places with them to be honest. After realizing that my memories of going to Florida were as an older child, and at a different time in life, i realized that this trip is for my family now, and not who i was a child. This light bulb epiphany was an interesting revelation for me. Do you ever go somewhere now as an adult, that you used to as a child, and notice that your body goes into autopilot? It takes you on the same exact route you used to go on. This happens with me when i go grocery shopping or to my favourite outdoor antique market. When i noticed that i just wanted to repeat the same traditions i did as a child, i had to pause and ask myself Why? And who is this for?

So, when we realized that my beloved secret place on the island was not easy to get to anymore, i decided to not push us to go – it was for me and not for them anyway. After agreeing it wasn’t worth going, I was able to go alone. I took time to myself and enjoyed the only truly alone time on the beach the whole week. Taking that time to reflect gave me permission to pause and take what is most important to me – making new memories with my family and honouring what it is we love – playing in the water and not walking for miles on the shoreline.

One thing that helped me gauge if it was a good trip was to not focus on the sibling bickering as it’s inevitable anywhere we are, but to focus on the good in the trip – the warm and comforting sun, the fresh fruit, the daily rituals of morning walks on the beach, and evening strolls to get ice cream. We shared laughs and cuddles, and adventures together. We collected treasures to remind us of our trip, and there is still sand in our suitcase.

I know that a part of me hoped that going to Florida would magically erase the sibling conflict, but that was an unrealistic hope. I know that now. They did share ample bonding moments and played together at times – and i can capture those memories in my heart. The sweet shared hugs, the water games in the pool, the shared adventure at Harry Potter World. It may not have been perfect, but i know that is an unattainable hope. It’s good to challenge these hopes, as if we keep striving for better and more, we keep end up being disappointed and lose sight of what is important. And that is doing things we love, and taking time to notice the beauty in a day.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit by Setting New Intentions


The holidays is an especially good time to start a mindful practice for yourself and/or your family. It can be hard to start new traditions, especially as we are adult children ourselves and our parents have gotten used to a routine for so long. Sometimes, it’s important to start carving out space and activities that are more aligned with your own values and plans, so that you can start setting this intentional precedent. It’s okay to start small and incremental as that can also ensure that this new tradition is sustainable. Whether you live alone, with roommates, have children, or have tried to have children without them being earthside, find a way to practice self-love over the holiday season. It is a good way of ensuring that you are taking time to give yourself something you love, and it also helps us get through the cold, dark months that are on the horizon.

Take for instance, my family and personal rituals. Each year, my family of 4 has our own traditions over the month of December, and we also do things with family and loved ones.. This helps us set the stage for our children – both as a way to help them make memories and meaning of our traditions, and also because it’s a way to ensure that I also am experiencing joy – not just through my children but in my own way.

Some of the things we love to do are going to a tree farm to get our annual Solstice tree, making presents for ourselves and our neighbours for Solstice, making a gingerbread house, and pulling a thing to do from our daily Advent Calendar. We also mark each week that leads up to Christmas. We do it in a more holistic way than religious and it works for us, as it connects us back to our roots and to nature more generally.

Last year, i put together a worksheet to help us take care of ourselves over the holidays. You can do it anytime in December and into January. It’s called the 12 Days of Getting Mindful for the Holidays. Check it out here if you’d like to learn more about it. It’s for each and every one of us, as a tool to help us slow down and be about more mindful of the present in the presence (pun intended), and gives us some practice of simplicity. Sometimes the everyday grind of the holidays and the stress of things that keep us busy get in the way of the more easy feelings of joy, love and excitement. This list can help you s l o w down.

As I fully believe that it takes a village to raise children and get support, i have done some research to find other people’s great suggestions. I’m all for outsourcing for help when others have done the work, why reinvent the wheel right? So compiling this list fits the outsourcing in me. Here is a great list of suggestions – both for yourself and your family. It’s’ never too late to start a new tradition.

Babyccino Kids – Advent Calendar Ideas

7 Tips to Help you Beat Holiday Stress – Sarah Rosensweet shares some great suggestions to help your goals be more realistic.

Hyggemama – This post is a very helpful Hygge Guide for the holidays

Janet Lansbury shares fantastic tips as always here

My Kindness Calendar – a way to do something kind as a whole family

And She Moves just put together a 12 day advent for simple movvement exercises you can do in the luxury of your own home. If you sign up for her (great) newsletter, you can access it for free.

What are some things that you do as a family? Is there a go-to tradition you love to look forward to each year for yourself? If you don’t already have one, think of some ways you can create new traditions and memories starting this year – it’s never too late to start and to create a new positive mindset for this time of year. It can be hard for many of us, whether it is a trauma survivors, or if we have experienced loss or are struggling with sad feelings. It make it that much harder to do, and that much more rewarding when we can take control of our holidays and how we take care of ourselves.