Just got home from a long and very invigorating walk with our friends.
As we passed this tree in the forest my girlfriend stopped to point out to me the words which had been spray painted on the tree that read “keep going”. She was certain it was there as a reminder from God telling me that I must “keep going”!
Upon our arrival home from our walk there was a beautifully wrapped gift of self-care on my front porch which was left for me by another incredible girlfriend of mine.
I am overwhelmed and beyond grateful for my amazing tribe. I am truly blessed by all the love and support and kindness I have in my life.
It’s okay to not be okay.
“There is no exercise better for your heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
I started following a group on Facebook called “Ontario Hiking” soon after its conception last spring that has really helped me to find many new and exciting places to explore on our #summerofrich adventures.
It is run by Lauren Yakiwchuk who spends so much of her free time exploring our great Province and blogging about her personal experiences along her trails.
This group offers many fun and interactive experiences, great tips, lots of beautiful photos and so many helpful and honest reviews of places all over Ontario, some of which are very close to home for me and many more that are hundreds of kilometers away.
Throughout the last 4 years since the #summerofrich first launched (can you believe its been four years) I continue to add many new and adventurous places to my already very lengthy wishlist that I would love to explore one day.
It has become quite a long list and it just keeps on growing.
Each week I now refer to this wonderful and very informative group of close to 80,000 like-minded members who share my passion for nature, hiking and mental wellness in order to plan our day trips. **I was really hoping that this summer we could take a 5 day hiking trip to the most northern tip of our beautiful Province for my birthday but unfortunately there have been too many obstacles standing in our way this year.
One of the group’s most fun and interactive experiences I’ve enjoyed following most since the group launched last spring has been reading posts from other members who have participated in the quarterly hiking challenges.
These challenges occur every January, April, July and October. Participants are asked to complete 5 hikes (or walks) during that month. Once you have completed your hikes you can email the 5 locations you hiked during that month to a specific app in order to receive a “digital badge” for “bragging rights” and a chance to win prizes.
I decided near the end of June that instead of just following other members participating in the upcoming July challenge that I would join in on the #julyhikingchallenge for myself.
It’s not like we don’t hike several times a month anyways, especially during the summer and I knew that if I participated in the challenge for myself that it would push me (and Rich) on those days when one of us is just not up for it.
We both have such a feeling of accomplishment after our hikes and not only did we challenge each other in July to push through the 5 hikes, we surpassed the initial targeted goal and completed 7 of them instead. That for sure earned us both many bragging rights.
I just received my “digital badge” this morning via email for accomplishing the #julyhikingchallenge and although I may not have won any of the prizes this time around I feel like a baby bird today when they are first born and have no idea the power that their wings have or how determined they will become in order to learn to fly; and one day maybe even learn to soar.
I recently watched a movie called “WILD”, starring Reese Witherspoon (2014).
It is based on a true story and the autobiography of Cheryl Strayed called “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”.
The movie takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail which spans 2,600 miles (that’s a shitload of kilometers!) in length and runs from the the Mexican/U.S border to the U.S/Canada border. To hike this grueling trail in its entirely would take someone between 5 to 6 months to complete.
In June of 1995 this remarkable young woman (age 26) decides on a whim to take a much needed time out from her life and ascends on a journey toward self-discovery and healing by hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail over a three month period.
At the start of her expedition, Cheryl had just recently divorced her husband and tragically lost her mother (she was only 45 years old when she died) but throughout the movie we also learn so much more about her traumatic childhood and reckless and destructive youth.
There were so many reasons why I wanted to watch this movie (which Rich discovered one night while channel surfing) and so many more reasons why while watching it I felt an instant connection to Cheryl even though our journeys are so vastly different.
Of course the movie centered around hiking which was a very big draw for me but what led her on that path (trail) in the first place is what connected me so deeply.
When I think of self-care it often includes alone time. Yes, being surrounded by other people is critical for our well-being but sometimes it can also create stress in your life as well (something I think many of us can relate to more than ever over the past year).
Taking time to be with yourself is both vital and beneficial in order to tap into our own thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Along Cheryl’s journey she met many interesting (and sometimes scary) people and was asked by one of them if she ever got lonely out there all alone but it was because of her time alone (and journaling) that she found the freedom to forge ahead and truly explore her own personal growth and development.
It’s what gave her the strength and determination to discover the power of healing.
Although I love to hike and I find it especially therapeutic for me and although I quite often need space away from others in order to help me heal I don’t forsee a three month hiking expedition anytime soon in my future.
For starters, I’d barely make it a mile before getting lost! Perhaps maybe a week alone at a spa would be a better place for me to start?
Where do you like to go when you need some alone time?
“The act of forgiveness takes place in your own mind. It really has nothing to do with the other person.”~ Louise Hay
Forgiveness is a gentle act and a gift of self love. I have learned over the last several years that holding on to anger I have toward someone who has hurt me only creates further pain.
Forgiveness means no longer feeling burdened by your past.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciliation, approval or making space to welcome someone back into your world, it just means choosing to rise above it by moving forward, free of bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness allows you to put the situation behind you for your own well being and integrity. It means taking back the power and control you have over yourself.
The past few years I’ve had a big shift in the area of my relationships and whether it be a friendship, a family member or even an acquaintance; it can get very complicated.
Some shifts in my relationships have brought with it a sigh of relief, a feeling of anger and plenty of sadness but through my own personal journey toward healing and with time, they have also brought forgiveness.
I’ve learned that holding on to the bitterness and resentment is only hurting me.
Forgiveness doesn’t always happen right away. For some people or in some circumstances it can take a lot longer to forgive, but it’s never too late to learn the art of forgiveness.
As I move into this next chapter of my life I am now making a conscious effort and a very selfless decision when it pertains to my own mental health and well-being that I choose who I get to invite into my life.
I’ve always let people walk into my life very easily, sometimes too easily and I’ve done so without actually stopping to ask myself first if I really have the energy or mental capacity needed in order to have a healthy relationship with this person at this moment in time.
I’m a pretty open book (that’s an obvious one) and I wear my heart on my sleeve (also pretty obvious) which, at times has left me feeling very vulnerable and indefensible in some of my relationships and sadly it’s come back to bite me in the ass many, many times.
By learning how to forgive others who have held way too much unwarranted space in my heart for far too long has really afforded me the ability to make so much more room in my life for the people who genuinely want to be there and vice versa.
It’s opened up space to have real and honest relationships with people who can truly accept my limitations and vice versa, who see me as perfectly imperfect and vice versa, who don’t question my boundaries and vice versa, who support my endeavors and vice versa, who want nothing more than for me to be happy and vice versa, who are there to listen when I just need to talk, without judgment and vice versa and most of all, who love me for being my true authentic self and vice versa.
I have so much to be grateful for when it comes to the amazing relationships I have in my life right now. And whether you are a friend, a family member or even an acquaintance of mine I hope you know that you always have an open invitation.
After spending over 8 hours in a car yesterday delivering signs, the last thing Rich really wanted to do today was drive somewhere too far away in order to go for a hike so instead we stayed close to home and took a walk through our own neighborhood.
It’s familiar. Maybe even a bit too familiar (especially after this past year) because most of the time when we go for a walk in the neighborhood we aren’t paying too close attention to the beautiful things surrounding us like we do when we are on a hike, and too be honest you really can end up missing lots.
I think we take many of those beautiful things, the ones right in our own backyard, for granted.
We both needed to refuel today.
And right away our normally very familiar walk felt very unfamiliar today because we actually took our time to notice the beautiful things surrounding us.
And we took the time to point out and share those beautiful things we noticed with each other.
The clear blue sky above us.
The pretty lilacs on the trees and grass too.
The love birds perched on a fence singing to one another.
The fearless dogs chasing a ball in a big open field.
The sound of laughter coming from the children playing in the park.
Friends enjoying a picnic lunch together, catching up with one another and smiling from ear to ear.
I didn’t capture any of these moments with my camera today but instead I just breathed them all in.
It was a beautiful #summerofrich day in the neighborhood!
Next time you go for a walk in your neighborhood try and notice at least five beautiful things surrounding you.
Famed children’s book author Eric Carle recently passed away at the age of 91.
His timeless classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (written in 1969) became a must have in my classroom library when I was teaching preschool age kids many years ago.
Once I had children of my own I began reading it to them as well from a very young age and it quickly became a favourite in our home.
When my kids got a bit older and I was no longer teaching preschool anymore there were a handful of children’s books which I had collected over the years that I knew I wanted to hold onto in hopes of one day passing them down to my grandchildren.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of those books.
It is a whimsical and playful book.
It’s illustrations are fun and bright and captivating.
But it also has many meaningful and teachable moments between each page.
It shows us the importance of transformation and growth.
It shows us the importance of finding our true self.
It gives us hope.
It shows us that in time and with patience we will all find our way in the world.
It shows us that we are all unique and beautiful in our own special way.
And it shows us that we all have the capability to emerge from our cocoon, spread our wings and learn how to fly.
(Oh and it also reminds us that when we eat too much candy we will probably get a stomach ache!)
Is it pretty safe to say that if you are a parent you have probably doubted your role as one at one time or another?
You are not alone.
Parenting is hard work, it’s a huge responsibility and quite possibly the most thankless job ever, yet it also comes with the greatest rewards.
As a parent we find ourselves second guessing every decision we make or questioning each and every behaviour of ours which only escalates further doubt.
We worry we will somehow screw up our kid’s lives forever.
We worry that they won’t love us or that they will actually grow to hate us.
This has been a daily battle of mine over the past seven years and I blame my illness.
It makes me believe all the doubt and lies.
Even though I have three amazing kids (more like young adults actually) who are all very busy these days discovering who they are and what they need in order to become their best self.
They are finding their place in the world.
They are chasing their dreams.
In fact I’d say they are all killing it right now despite my feeling like I have failed them in every way possible, despite my feeling like my illness has taken away a big part of their innocence, despite my feeling like I’m the worst parent ever, despite my feeling like I’m a complete burden to them, despite my feeling like I have scarred them for life and despite my feeling like they hold so much hate and resentment toward me.
It’s been a really difficult week for me. I’m beyond overwhelmed right now and in a pretty bad headspace, (see blog .https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2021/05/24/suicide-can-be-a-silent-killer/) but despite all that it’s moments like the one we had on Sunday evening that remind me that maybe I haven’t failed them after all, maybe I haven’t actually screwed them up completely and maybe, just maybe I’ve even played a role in them becoming those amazing, generous, loving, kind young adults.
Maybe I need to be more aggressive when I try telling my depressed mind to fuck off.
I’ve needed a few days to process the emotions that overcame me on Sunday evening when my kids excitedly presented me with an early birthday present (they wanted to give me enough time to prepare for it).
They handed me an envelope and before I opened it they told me that they wanted to get me something they knew I’d cherish forever and something that I crave more than anything else in the world.
As I anxiously opened the envelope I could not imagine what it could be. I unwrapped the piece of paper inside and saw a picture of a cabin on a lake.
Their gift to me was exactly what they said it was as they handed me the envelope to open. They had wanted to get me something they knew I would cherish forever and something that I crave more than anything else in the world so as they so eloquently put it, they gave me the gift of time; quality family time that is.
They have rented a cottage for all of us for the weekend of Father’s day, just days before Hannah “hopefully” heads off to camp for the summer and just days before my 50th birthday.
There will be canoeing, campfires, roasted marshmallows, self-care, sunbathing on the dock, laughter and a special #summerofrich “Father’s Day” adventure included in our weekend away but most of all there will be picture perfect memories made that we can all cherish forever.
I love you to the moon and back, forever and a day.
It was 30 years ago today that Rich and I went out on our first “official” date.
We had already been working together (he was my boss) for the better part of a year but our timing and circumstances just hadn’t quite aligned before then.
But maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, maybe it was how it was meant to be and maybe it’s how it should be because during the time leading up to our first “official” date we were building a genuine friendship.
We were getting to know each other, trusting and confiding in one another and learning things about each other that we may not have otherwise been given the opportunity to do.
By developing a true friendship and bond first before jumping right into a relationship took away all of our exceptions.
I can barely recall most days anymore what I did 5 minutes ago yet I can still remember every last moment of our first “official” date.
And maybe it’s because we could truly be ourselves around each other and not have to pretend to be someone we weren’t.
Or maybe it’s that friendship we developed first, the one with no strings attached that has helped us to grow together as a couple and has also enabled us to support one another through the most difficult and challenging times that were still yet to come.
I’d love to hear some stories from your best and worst first dates.
It’s one of those weeks where I find myself tumbling further and further down a very darkened rabbit hole and can’t seem to find my way out.
I’ve spent the last few days questioning whether I should even bother, asking myself if life is worth it, wondering why I should even try, telling myself I can’t do this anymore and convincing myself that I should just give up.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness. So I know I am not alone.
It’s all around us and it’s more than likely that you know someone who may be struggling with one or more mental health challenges at this very moment.
And it’s also sadly and quite plausible that many more are doing so in silence.
But we can’t ignore our mental health and we sure as hell can’t ignore mental illness either because no matter how hard you may try and hide from it, it will find you. It will catch up with you and at times it will make you question your self-worth, it will make you doubt yourself, it will tell you to stop trying and it could convince you to give up.
As a society that is right smack in the midst of the worst mental health crisis ever we need to understand what suicide prevention really looks like and most importantly that it is everybody’s responsibility to play a role in it.
As a society we need to understand that we all have a responsibility to take better care of each other because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to talk openly and honestly about mental health disorders and suicidality because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need more public awareness and education in order to destigmatize mental illness and suicidal behaviours so that those who may be most at risk can feel less alone, less fearful or less ashamed because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to accept each other’s differences because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to be able to openly and honestly express our feelings because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to help someone who may be in crisis and then follow up with additional support because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to make sure that we all live in an environment that is nurturing and safe because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to have proper funding in place to allow for everyone to access mental health supports and services because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to be there for a loved one, a friend, a neighbor or a coworker who may be experiencing the loss of their job, the loss of a relationship or loved one or some other major, life altering change in their lives because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
Suicide prevention means knowing that it’s okay to not be okay.
Knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.
And together as a society we need to make it OK.
What does suicide prevention look like to you?
***If you or someone you know is in crisis please call Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 or go to your nearest hospital.
I feel so grateful by the overwhelming response I’ve received in the past few days since launching my Class of 2021 grad sign campaign. Wow! The heartfelt messages of support and sincere words of appreciation for taking on this project again this year to honour our most deserving graduates yet is just beyond words.
One of the organizations I wish to support in this year’s campaign through the generosity of your donations is “Phillips House”; home to North York General Hospital’s child and adolescent outpatient programs.
The redeveloped (and first of its kind in Canada) 15,000 sq. ft. Georgian-style mansion, located near the hospital has been transformed into a serene, healing space that promotes health and wellbeing. Their outpatient services and day programs focus on the treatments of mood disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.
I first learned of Philips House by a mom I was introduced to online several years earlier who has since become one of it’s main contributors through her group called “The Maddie Project”.
“The Maddie Project” is a volunteer based organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the mental health needs of children. They focus on ending the stigma surrounding adolescent depression and help to make mental health services more accessible and affordable to adolescents in need.
“The Maddie Project” is named in loving memory of Maddie German Coulter, the daughter of the mom I spoke of above who lost her battle with depression in 2015 at the age of 14. Through the amazing commitment and support of the community they have raised over 3 million dollars to date which helped build “Maddie’s Healing Garden”, a 1.2 acre green space that now surrounds “Phillips House” and provides patients with a calming, natural setting for therapy, meditation and physical activity.
Maddie’s story really touched my heart deeply. At the time of her death my 3 kids were all very close in age to her and it really hit home. I could feel the pain and sadness of her family, of her friends and of her community at large but as someone who struggles every day with chronic depression and understands just how unforgiving it can be, I felt her pain most. She was a young, beautiful, energetic, bright shining light with so much life ahead of her but I am grateful to “The Maddie Project” for continuing to shine her bright light on our community through healing, education, advocacy and giving hope to all the other “Maddies” out there.
I will be placing my order in a few short days so if you would still like to purchase a graduation lawn sign or make a donation to help make a difference in the life of a child or adolescent who may be feeling vulnerable and alone right now or in need of some extra support during these most difficult days still ahead please contact me today at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you again for all your kind words, continued support and encouragement throughout my campaign and throughout my journey itself.