Jackpot

Ten years ago today I was heading home from an appointment which happened to be right across the street from a casino. 

A little voice inside of me convinced me to make a quick detour inside. 

I didn’t frequent casinos, I’d never even been to Vegas (but I have since though). 

I went inside and looked around. I found a two cent slot machine that looked enticing. 

I sat down and placed a twenty dollar bill in the machine.

Moments later the unthinkable happened and suddenly people were gathered around me, cheering and shouting in excitement. I was in shock. 

I’d just hit the $10,000 jackpot.

There had been no strategy or skill involved whatsoever. It was just pure luck. 

Over the last many years I’ve felt a darkness looming over me. I tell myself that it must be true; bad things happen to good people. 

Life throws us curve balls sometimes; it’s our difficulties that help us learn and grow and build resiliency but right now it’s so hard for me to see that.

Instead my brain tells me that I don’t deserve good things, that my life has no meaning or purpose. 

Even though my heart tries to remind me daily that I hit the jackpot long before I walked into that casino ten years ago today. 

#jackpot #badluck #Goodluck #mentalhealth #casinos #youareenough #vegas #familymatters

Washing Away

Immersing myself in nature today.

I take in all of the beauty that surrounds me.

I close my eyes,

take a deep breath,

yearning to find the strength to make it up the hill.

Everything feels too much.

I hear the calm of the waterfall singing and I pray it will wash away my pain.

#summerofrich #waterfalls #hiking #brucetrail #hoggsfalls #nature #beauty #breathe #selfcare #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #silentkiller #youareenough

Embracing the Brace

We took a rest today from any strenuous hiking after our grueling 3 hour hike yesterday where Rich injured his knee, most likely when he went tumbling down the side of a cliff.

His injury from the fall further intensified any pain and tenderness he’s endured in his one knee for like forever; I’m talking long before the #summerofrich ever began.

For years now he’s complained to me about muscle strain in his knee but no matter how much I’ve tried, has refused to speak with his doctor about it or at the very least try wearing a knee brace while hiking or doing any other strenuous activity.

But today he finally relented and took his knee brace for a test drive and a leisurely stroll with Maggie as well.

I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever told you this before, but Rich is the most stubborn person I know!! However, being stubborn isn’t always such a bad thing because stubborn people are often known to embody “strongly-felt” emotions and care more deeply for others; characteristics of Rich’s I wouldn’t change for the world.

Do you love a stubborn person???

#kneebrace #musclestrain #freefalling #stubbornness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #Maggie #adogspurpose #exercise #physicalendurance #caresdeeply #selfcare

“Kids don’t need a perfect Mom. They need a real one.”

I may not be a perfect Mom but I’m totally real.

Besides which, perfection is overrated.

Yet I still struggle with this alot. 

Burdened by the guilt that I’ve let them down.

Taken away a piece of their childhood. 

A part of their innocence. 

They see me at my worst. 

Vulnerable. Defeated. Broken.

My kids don’t have a perfect Mom, no matter how hard I try.

And I do try.

They just have me.

Their loudest cheerleader.

Their strongest advocate.

Their biggest ally.

Kids don’t need a perfect Mom though.

They just need a real one.

Yet knowing this, I’m still left burdened by the guilt that I’ve let them down.

Taken away a piece of their childhood. 

A part of their innocence. 

But making real memories.

Lasting memories.

Celebrated memories.

It’s the real moments.

The lasting moments.

The celebrated moments.

It’s those moments, by far, that are the most perfectly imperfect Mom moments of all.

#tbt #cherishthemoments #mywhy #mythreereasonswhy #makingmemories #family #familymatters #icecream #perfectlyimperfect #nobodysperfect #beingreal #inthemoment #mentalhealth #mentalillness #yourmentalhealthmatters 

Monday Motivation: Badge of Honour

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.

#mondaymotivation #badgeofhonour #hikingchallenge #ontariohiking  #ontariohikingchallenge #hikingtrails #summertimeselfcare #spiritualhealing #ontarioisourstodiscover #nature #mentalwellness #mentalhealth #babybird #learningtofly #depression #anxiety #suicideprevention #youareenough

A Magic Carpet Hike

Rich made a promise to me 26 (plus) years ago that he would take me on a magic carpet ride as we danced to our first song as husband and wife on our wedding day.

Today, on International Self-Care Day we hiked a section of the Oakridges Moraine called Jefferson Climb: Magic Carpet Ride, Upper Ridge Trail.

As we were hiking the trail I began to quietly sing the lyrics to our wedding song “A Whole New World” in my head (I wouldn’t dare sing out loud as we may have become prey to some dangerous wildlife species 🐻). 

As soon as we got back to our car (without getting lost this time) I played the song for Rich on my phone (there may have been some tears in the mix). 

This song had a great deal of meaning to the both of us when it came time for choosing our wedding song. After all, we started dating while working together in a video store, we both loved Disney movies and Aladdin had quickly become among one of our favourites that we’d watched many times together during our courtship (and we were also first in line to see the live action version when it was released to theaters a couple of years ago; hmmm when I think about it now that may have actually been the last movie we saw in a theater!). 

The song has become our anthem and as we hiked the “Magic Carpet Ride” trail today and as I quietly chanted the lyrics to myself and then replayed it for Rich on our car ride home I heard a whole new and even more meaningful version of the song this time. 

It may be a bit off key now but it will always be our song.

What was your wedding song?

What did you do to celebrate International Self-Care Day today?

A Whole New World:

#internationalselfcareday #magiccarpetride #awholenewworld #aladdin #disney #oursong #summerofrich #selfcare #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #hiking #nature #beinginthemoment #beauty #spiritualhealing #summerofrichadventures #lostinthemoment #youareenough

Alone In The Wild

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?

#wild #hiking #selfcare #selfdiscovery #therapeutic #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #pacificcresttrail #milesfromhome #writer #blogger #author #journey #beinthemoment #journaling #courage #healing #mindfulness #aloneinthewild @cherylstrayed @reesewitherspoon

A Thirst For The #summerofrich

I had planned to give this as a gift to Rich for Father’s Day but (spoiler alert) I guess I just couldn’t wait that long, LOL!

I made it for him and in honour of him. 

So from now on whatever trails our #summerofrich adventures lead us to Rich will always be well hydrated with his new, “one of a kind”, personalized and insulated water bottle that will keep his drinks really cold and refreshing no matter how lost we may get or how hot it is outside.  

Every summer since its conception about five years ago now I like to give a brief synopsis of what #summerofrich is for any newcomers to my page who may be wondering what the heck it is exactly. 

It began with a simple exclamation one (very) early Friday morning at the end of June as we stood waving goodbye to our three kids as they drove away on the bus to camp for the next seven and a half glorious weeks (I actually think 2 of them were staff at the time and may have already left for camp, but not important!).

They were barely out of the parking lot yet when Rich turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and shouted “It’s the Summer of Rich”!, and wasted no time at all getting started. Our first activity on the #summerofrich agenda that year (and every year after that until last summer) was already scheduled for later that morning. We were off to the spa for pedicures.

The #summerofrich meant that he now had a seven plus week break; a well deserved, much needed and VERY much earned break from the burdensome (I use that term, not him) role he plays as both mom and dad, chef, psychologist, schlepper, grocery bagger and much, much more for the other forty something weeks of the year; a role which he has so selflessly taken on for the better part of seven years now.

Last summer when the devastating (yes it was devastating to many) announcement came that overnight camps would not be running due to Covid-19 I thought for a brief moment that we should cancel the #summerofrich all together seeing as Rich would not be getting his well deserved, much needed and VERY much earned break. Then I realized that we don’t have to cancel it at all, we just needed to pivot somewhat, after all we no longer had all three kids away for the summer anymore anyways.

And tada, the #summerofrich 2.0 was born. This past year we pivoted a lot due to Covid restrictions. And although our summers may not be as carefree as they once we’re, the #summerofrich has become an incredible outlet for the both of us. If you were to tell me 5 years ago that I’d be enjoying the great outdoors, hiking trails all over our beautiful Province of Ontario and exploring the beauty of nature I’d have said you were crazy.

It’s now become the perfect way to take care of our mental health, have fun and discover places we never imagined before. 

What a healthy outlet we have found to do together and I’m so glad that sharing our adventures brings so much joy to others as well. Hashtag #summerofrich has created quite a following!

I’m a planner and I love spending time researching and finding new and adventurous things for us to do. I take my job very seriously (hey, you never know but maybe one day we will even complete the entire length of the Bruce Trail, all 900 KMs of it!).

But most of all when we needed to pivot last summer, the #summerofrich 2.0 took on a whole new life of its own and has made many of our adventures that much more meaningful and memorable too. Our kids have even learned to embrace our passion in small doses, call it “Pandemic boredom” but hey, I’ll take it! 

Yes, the #summerofrich may have started out as a well deserved, much needed and VERY much earned break for Rich during the seven or eight weeks that the kids were away at camp but it’s become so much bigger than that, so much so that as we pivoted this past year we also continued to discover even more adventures with every changing season.  Me and winter do NOT get along but if you add the hashtag #summerofrich next to it then count me in! (And it’s a good thing that his new water bottle can also keep his drinks nice and warm as well!!)

#twopointoh #learntopivot #insulatedwaterbottle #earlyfathersdaypresent #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #nature #hiking #getmoving #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough #family #relationshipgoals

First Shipment

The first shipment of my “Class of 2021” Graduation lawn signs have just arrived and I couldn’t wait to install the very first one on my own front lawn and show off how proud I am of my “Awesome Grad”.

And thanks to the incredible generosity and support of so many families and friends in the community (and beyond) I have sold close to 200 signs thus far and I am looking forward to delivering each and every one of them to so many other “Awesome Graduates” and proud family and friends. Just knowing that we are all working together to achieve the same goal of helping all children and adolescents in the GTHA have better access to more affordable and attainable Mental Health services and supports that they so deserve warms my heart. 

It also just so happens that today is “National Child and Youth Mental Health Day” (May 7, 2021) so what better way to celebrate today than to help brighten up our neighborhoods, start some caring, stigma-free conversations in the community and let young people everywhere feel seen, heard and supported. 

If you would like to honour a very deserving “Class of 2021” Graduate in your life or help make a difference in the lives of so many other young people who may be feeling vulnerable and alone right now please email me at: youthareenough@gmail.com. 

*Proceeds to be donated to Youth Mental Health programs*

#nationalchildandyouthmentalhealthday #childrensmentalhealthawarenessweek #mentalhealthawarenessmonth #strongertogether #payitforward #mygraduate #middlechild #proudmama #classof2021 #ouryouthmatter #endthestigmatogether  #graduationday #youareenough #staysafe #empowerment #empathy #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #suicideprevention  #suicideawareness #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones

50 days until I’m 50!  

Today marks 50 days until I’m 50!

I have a small favour to ask. 

Think of it as an early birthday gift to me.

I would love it if everyone could do one nice, thoughtful gesture for someone else every day for the next 50 days until my birthday. 

It doesn’t have to be anything too extravagant, after all isn’t it the thought that counts? The sentiment sure would mean alot to me and I bet it will mean even more to that someone else. 

Here are a few “gift” ideas for you!

Say good morning to a stranger.

Buy a cup of coffee for the driver behind you in line at the drive-thru.

Write a letter to someone using a pen and paper and then mail it to them.

Ask someone how their day is going; and then listen intently. 

Tell someone who could really use a good laugh a really bad joke.

Say “I love you” to someone you love.

Tell a child you are proud of them.

Send flowers, just because. 

Donate the clothes you don’t wear anymore. 

Drop off some dry/canned goods at a local food bank.

Say thank you to an essential worker.

Say thank you to a teacher.

Say thank you.

Say “I’m sorry” when you are wrong. 

Support a small business in your neighborhood. 

So, who’s ready for the challenge?What are some other gift ideas you have in mind?

Sometimes doing the smallest of gestures for someone else can be the most meaningful gift of all. 

I’d love to hear how it’s going and how many times over the next 50 days you make someone else smile. And feel free to share this with others because there are plenty of “gifts” to go around.

#turningfiftyinfifty #smallgestures #kindnessmatters #bekind #spreadkindness #birthdaygift #halfcentury #youareenough #youarenotalone #payitforward  #mentalhealthweek #mentalhealth #mentalwellness