Counterintuitive Cures

How confronting winter elements head-on helped quell my Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms

When deciding to attempt the #1000hoursoutside challenge, I knew winter would be my Everest. How could I possibly spend time outside during the months that made me want to curl up and hibernate until May? The mere minutes I was spending between getting out of my SUV and into my work building were barely tolerable. I even hated ‘winter’ when living in California (which yes, seems ridiculous now, but it’s a thing!). This was an especially risky move after the darkness of last year.

I experienced a deep seated period of resentment about living in the Midwest last spring. It had been a frigid winter and even though the calendar was saying positive messages like ‘April’ or even ‘May,’ it just seemed to remain an eternally dreary and damp season. I begged my husband to move us back to California more than a few times, if only to feel the heat of the sun on my skin again.

Truthfully, I was worried for winter to arrive this year. I was bracing myself for another episode of sadness and hopelessness.

To say the outdoor challenge came at the right time is an understatement I contemplate often. Here I was, preparing to deal with the after-holiday lull of gray January, and I had decided to venture outside. Silly! What was I thinking? But confronting the elements was exactly the perspective I needed to not only appreciate, but enjoy the beauty of an Iowa winter. For suddenly I was spotting bald eagles and startling a herd of deer and discovering the cutest little fungi clinging to the trees. My eyes were twinkling at the multi-faceted splendor of ice encasing a magnificently alive forest. It’s been the best medicine (here is my disclaimer that I’m not suggesting nature is a cure-all for depression. I am not a doctor, obviously).

So as March rolls in and spring eventually makes its debut, I’m ready to welcome it with open arms like a friend I haven’t seen since, well, last year. I’ll stomp in puddles and delight in freshly sprouted buds. I’ll probably complain about the bugs and fickle nature of the rain.

But for the first time, I’ll also be a little bit sad to see winter leave.

2023 hours so far: 70.5

Micro Habits

We’re now 28 days into our 1,000 hours outside challenge. And while we’re far from quitting or giving up on this lofty goal, we also have to make peace with a slower start than one might expect. An equal distribution of 1,000 hours over twelve months would be about 83 hours per month. We’re clocking in at more like 25ish. That’s…not great.

But it’s also completely okay. Because in all honesty, 25ish hours outside during a Midwest winter is probably about 23 hours more than I’d usually be putting in.

These extra hours outside have brought a wealth of benefits. We’ve gone sledding, walked several trails, explored nature, and just had a lot of fun. More importantly- slowly, but surely, we’ve picked up some small positive habits along the way.

It’s been weird noticing this, but I’ve caught myself wishing I could get outside while at my day job. There’s even been a few occasions during my prep period that I’ve bundled up and walked the perimeter of the school before going back in to do my actual prepping. On one of these walks, I came up with a new story idea! Now whether or not I have time to work on yet another WIP is a whole other thing…

I’ll admit, I’m someone who grabs a new interest and squeezes all the life out of it until it’s no longer new and shiny to me. That’s, of course, a possible outcome for this outdoor challenge. But I’m confident that the micro habits I’ve been establishing the past four weeks will stick. Like when it’s almost dusk and dinner is prepped and the boys are playing with the neighbors, you might find me reading a book on the back deck. Or, if we’re planning to get together as friends, don’t be surprised if I suggest a hike instead of a coffee shop (though I do love me a coffee date…maybe we can combine the two!).

My point is, not all resolutions or grand plans need to be all-in all the time. Maybe the point is to build a sturdy foundation that enriches our lives and brings us closer who we want to become. The key to building that foundation? One small step in the right direction.


It’s been skinned knees while climbing up trees,

rollerblades dragged by a puppy on a leash.

Mom hates hers, Grandma does too-

should I hate this body? Haven’t got a clue.

Given a candle for purity. But why’s the burden always on me? 

Told not to make the boys stumble, but what if 

I make a mistake? What if I fumble? 

These urges, they come naturally.

It’s been goals and steals, laps

and counterattacks.

The stop clock runs out on the play

this body is on fire, get out the way.

What is this body? What do you want it to be? 

It’s been objectified and enjoyed-

it’s been grabbed and pinched by the boys.

It’s been controlled and then blamed,

violated and shamed.

It’s been respected and not

told it’s ugly and hot.

Flat as a pancake, are you anorexic?

Dress how you’ve been taught.

This body- it’s more than you see.

It’s buzzing with strength and anxiety.

It’s crushing the obstacles, and

it’s carried my greatest joy, my babies.

Not without pain, it’s also betrayed me

watching that first baby drop out and bleed.

The first life it made, it couldn’t last

we conceived our rainbow, almost too fast.

Stretching, expanding, the lines of life appear.

Our first boy, bringing hope and fear.

They touch my belly, make their comments-

how can I make their words disappear? 

This body, it birthed our son

though my pelvis wanted to keep him.

The tearing, the pain, I remember so clearly-

but he was worth all it had to overcome.

What is this body? What do you want it to be? 

It once fit a certain societal mold

but now I’m a mom, what does it hold?

It’s engorged breasts, everything else is softer-

I want everything covered, this body grows cold.

Another son, this body has made,

instead of push, I was strapped down and laid.

his tiny hand, it grasped my shaking fingers-

This scar for him will never fade.

Now these hands are full, they always say-

strangers look at me and grin.

But there’s something they cannot weigh

my heart’s fuller than it’s ever been.

What is this body? What do you want it to be? 

It’s simply that. Just a body.

But I’m proud that it’s mine.

I don’t love it or hate it-

just learning to be kind.

#1000hoursoutside Challenge- 2023

Because otherwise I’d never leave the house in January

If you don’t know me very well (yet), here’s the quick rundown:

Grew up in Southern California

Maintained an active and adventurous life outdoors (hiking, surfing, swimming, etc)

Moved to Iowa in 2013

Whines when it’s less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit

Assumes full hermit status during winter months whenever possible

That’s basically the necessary schema to understand why a commitment to spend 1,000 hours outside with my family this year may leave me slightly in over my head. I mean, that’s about 83 hours a month/19 hours a week/2.7 hours a day. It’s not, nothing. In fact, we’re talking a possible double overhead situation (for all you surf enthusiasts).

But it’s also entirely accomplishable, as evidenced by someone I admire in Iowa whose family just celebrated their 2022 met milestone. Her reflections and photos throughout last year are what inspired me to adopt this challenge for my own family. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that everyone was on board. Except that also means if anyone’s going to screw this up, it’ll be me. Womp womp.

So here I am, four days into this challenge and making it even harder for myself to quietly slip away from all accountability. Maybe I’m a fool to make this public. Maybe I’ll inspire you to get outside. Maybe you’ll roll your eyes and block my account. But one thing is certain, you can expect full honesty and a complete lack of self dignity when it comes to these updates. To quote Ginny Yurich on her website, “Even if you fail, you win.”

How often can you expect updates on our progress? Ha, I have no idea. I’d love to say I’ll be super organized about this and post blogs weekly or monthly or one of the meanings of bi-weekly (is it twice a week or every two weeks?!), but instead I’ll shy from that kind of promise- let’s just see how it goes, okay?

How has it been going so far?

Okay, so it’s only January 4th, when resolutions and goals are notoriously still on track and the positive momentum is high. But even still- this challenge has drastically altered the way I ‘January.’ Typically, in Iowa, I spend as little time outside as possible. My instinct is to hibernate with a blanket, some snacks, and loads of screen time. Which isn’t healthy or fun or even how I’m used to being alive. I’m also responsible for the physical and mental health of two young children (3&5) so it was all the more important I shift my perspective.

We’ve officially tracked 3.5 hours outside so far. Realistically we’ve done more than that separately but I’m trying to log in time spent together. It doesn’t sound like much, but it includes: Wanatee Park, Pinicon Ridge, reading, walking the dog, and motorized Jeep driving. The temperature has been in the 30s and this includes going outside during icy drizzle, snow, and very sleek sidewalks. Overall, I’m proud of our small but significant start.

Winter takeaways

This might sound lame, but you guys! There are no bugs! They like, have burrowed underground or whatever and they’re not buzzing in your ears or sucking your blood or crawling up your ankles. It’s…pretty sweet. I also discovered that I really enjoy the feel of stepping on frozen grass and ice and snow mounds. It crunches and flattens and gives just a little bit of delightful sensory input. We’ve also spotted deer, hawks, cardinals, and eagles.

I’ll leave with this, I’ll probably always be a summer kind of girl, but I’m beginning to warm up to January like frozen fingers finding their way into the perfect pair of gloves.

The Precipice?

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m tempted, to be sure, but I’ll remain truthful. I’ll cough it up, phlegm and all.

I don’t think I’ve been using the word ‘precipice’ correctly. There. It’s out in the world.

For weeks, months, I’ve entertained a gnawing mantra that seemed to be playing on a continuous loop in my mind- I’m on the precipice. Something big is going to happen, and it’s going to happen SOON. I’m on the edge of either a monumental milestone for my writing career, or I’m going to consider shelving this manuscript for a bit. I was teetering, but hopeful.

The eagerness, the buzzing anticipation reverberating through my body savored this feeling, this moment of precipice in my life. Sure, I was weary from waiting. But what’s a little patience when you’re on the precipice?

And then I double checked the definition. Turns out, being on the precipice isn’t so much about the coming of big things-it’s literally the edge of a cliff. Like, a deadly cliff where one sneeze on the precipice and you’re plummeting to your own demise.

And if that doesn’t equally sum up querying this year, phew. A little uncanny, to be honest. I kid. But that literal translation, though accurate in morbid relation to these authentic perilous feelings, sends a much darker message than I intend.

So I’ll clarify-I am not on a precipice. I’m merely in limbo. But don’t worry, Dante has a good feeling I’ll be able to claw my way outta here.

MLMs are Killing Authentic Connection

I’m just gonna say it. And I don’t care if it makes me sound like my feelings are hurt, because, well, they are hurt. 

They’ve been hurt by false friends using connection as a dangling carrot to lure me into their MLM. 

To buy their products. Or host their parties. Or join their challenge groups. 

And I’ve caved and participated in it all. And I’ve regretted it every single time. It changed our dynamic. It changed the way I saw you. You were no longer a friend, you were more like a trafficker. And I’d been duped. 

Was losing my friendship worth it to you? Actually, don’t answer that. 

And of course this isn’t aimed at one person in particular, the disease that is direct sales has poisoned the well of so many.

The old high school acquaintance who messaged me about Beachbody shakes days after I shared my first postpartum swimsuit picture. “I thought of you because the group is mostly moms, some brand new mamas like yourself trying to lose baby weight or get back in shape after kiddos!”

The close friend who talked to me less and less about guys and home renovations and more and more about samples and testimonials for ‘her’ makeup line. “Hey Bri!!!  I know it has been way too long since we have seen each other!  I hope everything is going well.  I just wanted to send you a little message, it would be great to see you next Thursday if you can make it. I would love to share BeautyCounter’s mission and products with you, I think it is something that you would be interested in.”

The former colleague who messages me incessantly about hosting book parties, pretending to give a shit about my family before getting to her bottom line. “ Hey Bri! How are you?! How’s your summer ☀️ going?! Anything fun planned?! I wanted to reach out and let you know that UBAM just released over 100 new titles last week📚! “

Please, can 2022 just be the year we cut the bullshit? 

I just really think we need to address how manipulative and phony it manufactures the connections that you have in this life. Real connections in this lonely world are special and should not be beaten to death. It’s costing you, and maybe my friendship is worth the loss, but down the road you’re going to realize I’m not the only one whose mind has changed about you. 

And I’m sure that sounds judgmental, but it’s more than that. It’s watching you post about your miracle products and how the company changed your life and now you’re recruiting more boss babes to take control of their finances and freedom…and seeing that the only path to that freedom is to use the networking and people available at your expense. Us. And it…sucks. It sucks that pressuring me to ‘support your small business’ means I have to host yet another online party and send out customized messages to my acquaintances and further expand the cycle. 

Because the truth is, I’m now an accomplice to the manipulation and bullshit. I’m just as guilty. It’s destructive and let’s face it, you’re tapping out of your well of former friends to use at your disposal. So let’s just end it, okay? 

If you need to push products or host more parties, tell it like it is, and not what you’re veiling it to be. Don’t parade this as some kind of opportunity for us to hang out or connect. Because I’m not buying it anymore. 

I’m not buying any of it, anymore. 

Giving Myself Grace-Easier Said than Done

I’m laying on the floor of our living room. Toys are strewn all about, and this house hasn’t known silence for at least three years. I’ve convinced our toddler to play ‘baby mama’ which is basically when I pretend I’m a baby and he takes care of me. Right now it’s baby mama’s naptime. It’s so sweet, he’s set up a makeshift bed for me on the carpet complete with throw blankets and couch cushions. Our thirteen month old (no longer a baby but not quite a toddler just yet) is participating as best he can by climbing all over me and lovingly smacking my face. At this moment, they’re content and having fun. But me, I know the reality. I’m completely aware of how much I’ve been phoning it in these last several weeks. 

I used to pride myself on how energetic and engaged I was with my kids. I used to role play PJ Masks like nobody’s business. You name the hero or villain, I have their catchphrases and mannerisms on lock! I’ve been the sultan of sensory, the princess of play…the queen of creative quiet time. But now, right now? I feel a bit like the mom character on any popular 90s sitcom: tired, nagging, looking to lie down a bit. 

And look, it’s not like I’ve been a total lazy bum because of this virus and the mental toll it’s taken on me,  I just feel very much aware that I could be doing better with my kids. And the voice in my head reminds me I should be doing better with my kids. They’re absolute delights (most of the time) and they deserve more than what I’m able to give right now. They deserve the whole dang moon and stars. They deserve a mom who’s able to pull out some otherworldly strength from within and be constantly engaged with them. But I just don’t have it in me right now. 

If a friend were to confide in me this exact scenario, I know exactly what I would say to encourage her: 

“Give yourself grace, mama!”

“You’re doing great!”

“Have you been practicing self care?”

Of course there’s so much more I would want to say, but these mantras of motherhood are always locked and loaded for my friends who are feeling down. They’re the start of a conversation where the goal is to lift them up and provide comfort. So why do I struggle to say them to myself? 

Give myself grace? I can barely extend grace to my husband and kids right now, there’s none left for me.

I’m doing great? Are you kidding? My kid watched hours of TV today and the baby hasn’t worn clothes other than pajamas for days. Come to think of it, neither have I…

Self Care?! Hahahahahahhahaa….a face mask ain’t gonna cut it. 

What I really need is a night without nursing, a day without diapers, perhaps a meal without “mama!” I need a chance to read a book or work on my writing without negotiating the terms with my husband. I need time with my friends without technology. I need connection without the utter exhaustion of zoom meetings (why are zoom meetings so draining anyways?!). I need to fill this empty cup that continues to pour regardless of the contents. I guess these are all examples of self care, but sometimes it’s the shallow attempts of self care that are easiest to achieve. 

I don’t fault my family for any of this burnout. My kids are one and three, they don’t understand the weight of this virus nor should they carry that burden. My husband is just as tired as I am, he’s teaming up with me and balancing working from home. My parents are 1,800 miles away and my in-laws are high risk. We just need to soldier on, and hold onto hope. Hope that soon it’ll be safe to invite friends over, or play with the neighbors. Hope that my job as a teacher won’t be too negatively impacted by the time school starts again. Hope that I’ll be back to my fully engaged self. Soon. And hope? It’s a powerful tool. 

So no, I’m not currently able to give all of myself to my kids all of the time. And I don’t quite believe myself when I say that it’s okay. But I’ll keep saying it anyways. I’ll keep saying it until I start to see the truth behind it. My kids may not have all of me all the time, but they have a father trying just as hard. They have each other. They have a pet dog for entertainment. Heck, they have two pet tadpoles now thanks to a quarantine purchase. They’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. 

I will give myself grace.

I’m doing great. 

I’ll advocate for more self care. Real self care. 

I’ll be okay. 

Not all habits are bad

Over the years I’ve developed this habit of finding any excuse to run an errand. Oh, we’re out of stamps? I’m on it. What’s that, hunny? The water softener needs salt? Be back in twenty. 

It’s my mini escape disguised as a productive favor and I love it. I love choosing the radio station, cracking the window ever so slightly, and how magically seamless I can get in and out of my crossover without wrangling two adorable crocodiles out of their carseats. Probably the most habitual, I love calling my mom for our routine chat about nothing in particular. 

Not all habits are bad. 

Perhaps our calls would be less frequent if we still lived close to one another, but I have a feeling we’d still talk on the phone regularly. She was the hardest part of leaving coastal California…and if you’ve ever experienced the sun sinking into the majestic Pacific you understand the magnitude of that statement. Moving away from her feels like betrayal and loneliness and sometimes like a ghost limb. And when I became a mother a few years ago? Forget about it, that made the relocation all the more painful for both parties. These days our 1,900 mile distance is temporarily curtailed by the quick and casual catch up. If only for a few minutes it’s like we’re together in person, chatting over our morning coffee and toast. 

What makes these phone calls even more special is the fact that she always picks up. Yes, I try to be mindful of the time difference, but she’s a busy woman so in a way it feels like she’s on call. For me. There’s no one else in the world who’s there for me like my mom, no matter how much I’ve grown. She’s continued to be my beaming lighthouse, guiding me to a safe harbor when the seas become tumultuous. Because of this security I’ve been undeservedly awarded, I know how important it is to pay this forward. I surely hope that when my boys are older they know I’ll always pick up the phone. 

It’s not lost on me that these almost daily interactions are a privilege. I have friends grieving the loss of their dear moms, and I ache for them and the bond that is now a memory. I know they dream about their mom’s voice, and replay old voicemails just to hear her one more time. 

There are women who grieve in a different sense, with mothers very much alive but maybe the relationship is strained or toxic. They’d give anything for the ten minutes of easy conversation I enjoy, and anything to have a mom like mine. 

These brief chats about how grandma is doing, or our plan for the next hair appointment, or whatever I’m currently irritated with (infinite possibilities) keep us connected with each other. The more mundane our conversation, the less it feels like I’m hundreds of miles away. I can’t help but wonder if she realizes how special these phone calls are to me, and how much I cherish these snippets of home. 

Come to think of it, perhaps my mini escapes aren’t about leaving the house at all. Maybe this isn’t about alone time (though yes, I do desperately need it). Maybe, just maybe, this habit of mine is about something much more significant. 

So no, babe, I don’t mind picking up your prescription. I don’t mind at all. 

A Mother’s Love Should be Reckless

‘Reckless Love’ by Cory Asbury is a song that seems to serendipitously surprise me at the right moment, randomly playing on the radio like an anthem I desperately need. It began about a year ago, and I immediately had this overwhelming confidence that God wanted me to pay attention to this song and its meaning. 

Like I’m sure many of you do, I struggle with the weight of God’s “overwhelming, neverending, reckless love.” I don’t doubt it, but it’s difficult for me to accept this vast kind of love that I cannot earn and definitely don’t deserve. Surely my mistakes and misgivings chip away at this supposed unconditional love, right? Despite my uncertainty there was this nudge to breathe in the song each time it played. In conversation with my husband I referred to it as ‘my song.’ But what was the purpose? 

The purpose wasn’t clear to me until last week. It was a Thursday morning, a tough Thursday morning. We hadn’t left the house in two days, and I was beginning to feel like a failure. The house was a mess, we had been staying in our pajamas, and I was feeling run down from a week of accruing sleep debt.

I was desperate to get the kids and myself out of the house, but inclement winter weather and a semi-rigid baby nap schedule made our opportunities slim to seize. I began to brainstorm. What was something quick and easy we could manage this manic morning, bonus points if we could all stay in our pajamas? The Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru! The possibility of an extra dose of caffeine was just icing on the sprinkle donut. My two year old would be ecstatic, we rarely ever indulge in such a treat. 

He refused. What?! Like who refuses a donut? He insisted he wanted to stay home, again. While I was flattered we’ve managed to make our home such a sanctuary to him, it was starting to feel to me more like house arrest. But I wasn’t about to fight him on behalf of a guilty pleasure, so we stayed home and did art instead. 

Later, during that impossibly tight window between lunch and nap I tried my hand at fate once more. I felt like Anna trying to persuade Elsa, “Do you wanna get a donuttttttt?” “Um, sure. Let’s do it,” he replied nonchalantly. Great. Let’s get the baby in his carseat and bust outta here. 

My toddler began whining for a snack before we left the garage. 

“Buddy, it’s a two minute drive to Dunkin’ Donuts.”

“I want a snaaaaaaaack!” 

“Um, okay, here’s some goldfish.” 

“No goldfish!”


“Yes goldfish!”

I lost my patience. Did I mention we hadn’t backed out the garage yet? “If you keep whining I’m going to buy myself a donut and you won’t get anything!” I didn’t-quite-but-basically-yelled. The SUV was quiet, but it was far from peace and quiet. I’ve never been one to use threats, and the wave of guilt knocked me down immediately. 

Wanting a musical escape, I turned on the radio for our quick commute. My song. I couldn’t believe it. I turned it up a little louder. After a morning of feeling like a total loser I needed that message with incredible urgency. More than that, my precious little boy needed the message that unconditional love “chases (him) down, fights ‘til (he’s) found, leaves the ninety-nine.” 

“Don’t deserve it,” I heard my two year old repeat. Hmmm…he doesn’t usually pay attention to song lyrics. He said something else that I couldn’t hear. 

“What was that, honey?”

“I was sad and this song made me feel better.” His voice was sweet and pensive.

“I like this song too.”

“I love it.”

There was the nudge. Have I ever talked to my son about God’s love? Did he fully know about my unconditional love for him?

“You know hun, this song is about how God loves us no matter what, even if we’re angry or sad or tired or cranky. He still loves us. And even though I might get frustrated sometimes, I love you no matter what. I’m sorry you were feeling sad. I love you so much.”

 And my beautiful boy, so wise beyond his two years, nodded his head and smiled. 

“We’re at the donut place!”

And we were. In the two minutes it took to reach our destination, I was able to disciple to my child in a meaningful way. It was one of the most precious, fulfilling, purpose-driven moments of my life. 

It turned out it wasn’t coffee and a donut we needed to turn that day around (though don’t get me wrong, they certainly helped), it was Reckless Love. 

on my mat

I consider myself a yogi. It’s a loose title, very much unlike the sleek black pants that seem to feel tighter and tighter each year. But through various waves of commitment and zeal I have practiced yoga for about 14 years. It’s been at times my exercise, therapy, church, rehabilitation…and at my worst, yoga has been my measuring. 

In my early twenties I measured how I compared to the other participants in the room. Could I hold the pose longer than her? Why was she so much better than me? Who looks better in the mirror? Why am I sweating so much more than everyone else? Who does she think she is? Lululemon leggings, what is she, rich? Must be nice. Was anyone else able to hold crow as long? Where do I rank in this room of bending and stretching competitors? 

The juxtaposition of the carefully crafted tranquil environment and my persistent inner turmoil sears memories of yoga in the early years. In the beginning, when life was without much responsibility or depth, my practice was in vain and vanity rather than the centering I so desperately needed. Yes, I was getting a good workout and stretch, but I was also constantly comparing myself to others. It was judgemental, ineffective, and the opposite of peace pursuing. I was hardest on myself, constantly critiquing every way I fell short. I think back on those hours in the studio and cringe. 

And then I became a mom. Twice. It was after both the unmedicated, natural birth and planned c-section that yoga once again entered my life. I tiptoed back into exercise with trepidation. How could I exercise looking like this? When feeling so weak? I was embarrassed to be in a studio at first, so I started at home with youtube videos. It was almost a year after my second son was born that I walked back into a public yoga class. 

The shift was immediate. I was a different person entirely from the woman who used to frequent this place. And it wasn’t just motherhood that changed me, but rather a mix of maturity and confidence and inner peace slowly becoming restored through my walk with God. I was there to treat my mind and body, no matter where I ‘ranked’ among the fellow yogis. 

The experience was ethereal. It was unreal how much more enjoyable the class was when I took my attention away from others, away from myself and just melted into the mat. Each stretch going deeper, each victory private, each stumble humorous. We were all there to better ourselves, and I was refusing to think any negative thoughts about myself or those around me. And when the instructor slowly invited us to final savasana, I let out an om that carried away years of comparing, shame, and judgement. 

Is there an area of your life that reveals a broken or hurting side of you? I encourage you to reflect your intentions, and how your life can be improved with a shift in focus. Breathe in self love, breathe out doubt. Once more, breathe in strength, breathe out fragility. Namaste.