Not everyone is going to like it (or you)

I read a great article once (that I wish I could remember who wrote) about how a harried mom at the mall was trying to get her kids to calm down and eat at the food court. As she sat down with her kids, she noticed another mom (who happened to be put together) at a nearby table feeding her (immaculately dressed) child an avocado she had brought with her.

The harried mom felt angry, because she felt like the other mom was doing those things “at her.” She felt like the other mom was judging her for not having it all together.

Of course, she wasn’t. She was simply living the way she felt inclined to. Her priorities were different than the scattered mom, and there was nothing wrong with that. (But I will go out on a limb here and also add that scattered mom perceived that judgment because she wasn’t living in line with her own values.)

When we see others who appear to have it together, whether or not they do or not, it’s easy to feel like they are doing those things at us.

This week, I set somebody off on Facebook. It wasn’t anything offensive I’d said or done, but clearly, this gal had felt I had been doing things at her for a long time.

Let’s get something straight. My life is not perfect. Not even close. My book got a bad review on Amazon because someone is jealous of my best friend’s success. (If you’d like to leave a review to help balance it out, you’d make my life a little better today.) Hell, my living situation fell through a few short weeks ago in a massive and disastrous way. I had to completely change course, and I had to do it fast. I have been exhausted lately.

And I’m figuring it out. I’m moving forward because why wouldn’t you? I found a new place (with a yard and garage even), business has never been better (looking at my first six-figure year), and I’m in a great relationship (with an incredible man willing and able to get us out of the woods alive). I have a lot to be very grateful for.

And I am. I am constantly talking about the things I’m grateful for. Stamp me with #blessed because holy cow, I have been this year. For me, social media is where I engage with people about the good and the bad, and while I do my best to focus on the positive, I try not to ignore the sadness and struggle either. I try to share the imperfect.

But to someone insecure and unhappy with where they are at, seeing something like that leaves a bad taste in their mouth. That person is left with the anger the scattered mom from earlier felt, a frustration that shouts things like:

Don’t you know people are struggling? Don’t you know not everyone has it so good?

And we can’t forget that most dangerous of phrases we like to hurl at people who are changing and leaving the tidy little boxes we’ve made for them:

Who do you think you are?

It’s easy to pass blame like that. Because if you feel like you’re stagnating while others seem to be moving forward, of course it feels like they are doing it at you. It feels madly unfair. But that’s not something they did to you, and that requires you take responsibility for your own shit.

So yes. Yes, I understand people are struggling.

I also know It’s easy to forget we are where we are because of what we have decide to make a priority.

Now, there are circumstances that are out of our control. Things happen to us that we can’t expect. We end up situations we’d never tolerate outright but have grown accustomed to because it happened so slowly. Trust me. I get it.

I understand how hard it is to take action in that space. I honestly believe the only way out of it is slowly, taking tiny steps towards what we want. The past year, so much of my time has been devoted to learning how to do that and figuring out what I’m capable of when I’m not under huge amounts of stress and pressure to be something I’m not.

I feel sorry for the girl who left the unkind message on my wall, because I understand what it is like to struggle.

And I will not pretend my life isn’t wonderful. Especially not to make someone else feel more comfortable with a life they are unhappy with.

I can’t count the number of times I have been left in awe this year over just how good things have gotten. And the reason it has gotten this good? Because I’ve chosen that. I have consistently chosen to take action that has gotten me closer to the type of person I want to be, and by pursuing that, I have slowly started to become that person.

And I like her.

Not everyone else will, and that’s okay. Haters gonna hate.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here all like…

How to build resilience (or fearlessness is overrated)

You had everything planned. It was perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

The unexpected happens. The one variable you couldn’t have possibly accounted for manages to knock everything offtrack.

Everything comes crashing down. You break down. You sob until you think you can’t cry anymore and then you sob some more.

Why do we ever plan anything anyway? The best laid plans and all that. You think you’d learn. After all, it’s not like this is the first time this has happened before. Your plans have fallen apart before.

And yet, it’s still such a surprise when things happen this way.

In one week, I’ve gone from thinking I was going to live up on a mountain in a bus – to falling in love with the locals, meeting a wonderful older woman who was going to introduce me to everyone and getting the damn bus all the way up the damn mountain only to be stopped once we got up there by unfortunate and unforeseeable events – to leasing a two bedroom house in NE Portland. I’ve went from feeling so certain to once again feeling sure of very little.

Now, I’m trying to regain my footing (again) after having the rug pulled out from under me (again).

Copy of Office Warming Party

Recently, I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and as I sipped on my coffee and indulged in my sunrise reading before my son woke up, I read something that hit me right in the gut. My dear friend, Liz – in my head, we are in fact dear friends and I call her Liz – suggested that creativity cannot exist without fear.

Creativity cannot exist without fear. 

Hmm. Well, that explains a lot. I’m always afraid.

Something I get a told a lot is that I seem to be fearless. My reaction to this tends to be an involuntary HAH that escapes before I can accept it for what it was meant to be, a compliment.

But the fact is, I’m terrified. Not all the time, but definitely a good chunk of it. I’m scared my writing is passé, I’m scared it’s all been done, I’m scared that I want to be too many things and no one will ever understand anyway.

But then I do the thing anyway. I write the book, I pitch the client, I raise my hand, and say, “Yes, me” because the consequences of not doing those things are much, much scarier to me.

But I am not fearless.

What I am is familiar with fear and its territory. I know how to navigate it, even through the brush and the dark. I know that even when I appear to be in a new, unknown area that fear reigns over, it is just fear shapeshifting. It’s the same old tired tropes trying to change their image just enough to parade around like they are something new worth paying attention to. But they’re not.

This is how I confront fear, and I don’t think it’s particularly special. I don’t feel like I am especially brave. But I’m also not foolish enough to discredit the intelligent people around me who care enough to tell that how I handle fear is decidedly not normal.

The next logical step is to figure out how I got this way and why I make decisions the way I do. This is a strange thing to think into for me, because it feels inherently self-centered. Isn’t it rude to think I am more resilient than other people might be? Presumptive? There’s been significant research around grit and resilience, so clearly, it matters and is something people are trying to cultivate or discover in themselves. Regardless of what it might imply about my narcissistic Millenial ways, I can’t leave this question unanswered – because I think if I can discover why I treat fear the way I do, I can finally tap into my creative process and figuring out how to map parts of that.

It’s probably fair to say I’ve dealt with my share of adversity. Some of it was self-inflicted, some of it was cast on me, and some of it was just bad luck. And my way of dealing with it has been to put my head down and work harder. Oh, that didn’t work? Let’s try something else.

What isn’t instantly visible here is the twisted relationship I have with needing to be successful. Work is my drug. It’s an addiction just like anything else is. That constant drip of minor successes fuels me, and I continue on. And that constant drip of minor failures? I use it to adjust course. I keep throwing wet spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

What’s the alternative? Well, the alternative is stopping. And if I stop, I have to think, feel. I am incredibly good at pushing down those feelings of fear just below the surface, pushing past them on to the next thing. The hustle is my haven.

And ever so slowly, I’m learning how to let it go in favor of healthier habits.

But there is significant value in the ability to move forward and problem solve versus backing away or freezing. It would be foolish not to acknowledge the inherent benefit there. Reading Brené Brown’s Rising Strong notes the most resilient people are the ones who begin with Reckoning – stopping and observing the story they are telling about a situation and how they are feeling. For me, this happens automatically. I call it intuition, but other people call it other things. If something feels off, I immediately start asking why. This filters through my values system and the different frameworks I use to analyze others to allow for snap judgments, letting me move forward quickly and efficiently.

The problem comes up when this isn’t enough for a given situation. I attempt to move forward, when in reality I’m still in the middle of the struggle. You can’t move through that shapeshifting forest if you can’t recognize that you’re dealing with fear in the first place. I am not fearless. Sometimes, I just can’t see when I’m being triggered by fear. If anything, I’m foolhardy not fearless.

Besides, fearlessness is not the goal. It’s never been the goal, and it certainly shouldn’t be yours. But as for building resilience, you can easily do that. The object of the game here is to manage fear just enough by continually challenging yourself – and the challenges can be tiny – to be just brave enough to keep collecting fuel for your creative fire.

You don’t have to seek out adversity. Fear is happy enough to come knocking right at your door the instant you take a step out of it.

So what’s next for me? Lots of time with my kids. Finishing up work for the holidays. Starting to collect things to build tiny houses. Throwing a holiday party. Revisiting a few projects and making progress on a few more. Travel. Dealing with fear through creativity.

Because, really, there is no other way forward.

An open letter to a future mother

Let me start by saying I’m very hesitant about doling out parenting advice. I received tons of unsolicited advice when I was pregnant, and by the end of it all, I was more confused and frustrated than before. Before all was said and done, I would’ve knocked out the next old lady who tried to touch my belly without asking.

But because you asked, here it is. This is my best un-cut parenting advice. I hope it helps.

1. Have a support network

When people say it takes a community, they are not joking. Not even a little. Babies are an absolute joy, and they are also completely exhausting. You need help to carry the weight. Having a baby is an exercise in learning to rely on others in a way you never have before.

If someone offers to help, take it. Let people arrange to bring you dinner for the first week or two after you have the baby. Let people hold the baby to give yourself a break.

If you want to breastfeed, join a support group, because the shit is hard and for something that is a natural process, it can be horribly difficult for some of us.

If you have ever had depression, start seeing your therapist once you’re pregnant and continue to after you’ve had the baby. If you’ve experienced depression before, you’re 50% more likely to have postpartum depression.

Find mom friends. Join support groups. Do anything you can to get yourself around people who will understand what you’re going through. There is nothing more important than having people who will surround you and your new addition with love.

2. Take off as much time as you can

Your body physically needs time to recover. Your mind is recuperating and readjusting, because holy cats, you’ve got a new role and identity to develop. Oh, and just so you’re aware, mommy brain is a real thing. Don’t expect to be at 100% mentally or physically after 6 weeks or even 16 weeks.

Take every second of maternity leave you can squeeze out, and then use your vacation time to give yourself more room there. Because the first time you try and tear yourself from that baby, no matter how badly you need a break, it is going to hurt down to your toes, and you’ll ache with longing to have your baby nearby again.

3. Pooping after you have a baby is the WORST

No one wants to talk about it, but honey, double up on the stool softeners and prunes as soon as your little bundle of joy has made its way into the world. Also, say no to the Vicodin (constipation) and yes to everything else. You are welcome.

4. However you want to have your baby is FINE

Seriously, drugs or no drugs, waterbath or standing or whatever the current trend is, at home or in a hospital. It’s just like with a wedding – no one cares as much as you do. Do it the way you want, and be open to other options if things go wrong. Don’t put a bunch of unnecessary pressure on yourself to do things the almighty right way. When I was at the hospital, rather than have a “Birth Plan” (in quotes because it is truly a laughable phrase) I had a list of “I really would rather’s” because *things happen.* You can’t predict some of what happens during the birthing process.

5. Feel free to tell me and anyone else giving you advice to fuck off (in the kindest way possible)

Why? Because no one is an expert, no one really knows what they are doing, and we are all just doing the best we can with what we have. For some of us, that means trying to reconcile our fucked up relationship with our mother so we don’t make the same mistakes with our kids. For others, it’s trying to live up to the unattainable standards of their mother. We all come into this arena with our own baggage. It’s up to each of to help each other carry the weight, and that means compassion, kindness, and above all, attempting to understand one another.

Belief, a bakery, and a bus.

I’ve had a twisted relationship with the word faith for a long time.

When I was kid, I started going to a Baptist church of my own volition. My friends all went there, but I truly loved it. It was a place where I found a lot of comfort at a time when life wasn’t terribly comforting.

Hired to assist with church cleaning, I’d sing in the sanctuary while I vacuumed. On particularly hard days, I’d lie on the red carpeted front steps of the stage by the podium and weep, taking solace in something that at the time felt like it might have been there, a feeling like I was being truly held for a moment letting myself be fully present to experience the full weight of my feelings.

I grew older and began to think for myself. I left the church after a Methodist pastor preached fire and brimstone on the gays the morning after my best friend had come out to me on a long walk home after we’d had to kiss onstage for a theatre rehearsal. My belief was shaken after that. If this thing that was supposed to be some great source  of goodness had faltered, had failed me, what could possibly be true?

But despite the mixed bag that was my experience with the church, I think it did teach me how to tap into something important – a fundamental belief in myself. Regardless of whatever else I may have imagined myself connecting with, I certainly connected deeply to my ability to get through things that were challenging. It was a discovery zone for resilience.

I lost some of that when I left the church. I faltered, unsure of my next steps. Who was I outside of this collective identity? This belief? And how I could I believe in myself if I didn’t even know what I believed? Christian logical fallacies littered the way as I attempted to find a path forward.

These days, I feel like I’ve found a path. And the next chapter of this path involves living in my best friend’s bus.

I know for the average person nothing in that last statement makes sense. Brief context: my best friend, Nina, converted a bus into a beautiful home a few years ago. Her family is in the market for a home right now (just made an offer!), and I’ve been trying to figure out where I’m going to land next.

And for the moment, I have no home of my own.

How did I end up in this strange state of transition on a path where I allegedly have an idea of where I’m heading?

It wasn’t part of the plan, but hey, what else is new? The end of my lease on the delightful apartment I’ve been living in was coming up, and Portland’s rental rates jumped 15%. The amount I’d be paying for a one bedroom would just be too much for me to justify – it’s less the cost than it is the resentment I’d feel paying for what I was getting – especially considering where my mind has been lately.

I’ve been dreaming of planting gardens and building tiny houses. Of building community. Of getting onstage more. Of writing books. Of continuing to a create a life I adore, filled with daily romance.

Don’t get me wrong. I have loved living here in Portland. It’s been a ridiculously romcom way to enter another phase of life. You know, girl leaves awful relationship, girl moves to the city, girl thinks she’s going to screw around, and then girl falls madly in love with boy who rocks her world and treats her like a princess.

Now girl wants to go live in the country, enjoy her awesome kids, an incredibly fulfilling relationship, and her writing.

Getting to experience life in a city I love in an area I loved in the exact building I’d always wanted to live in and never thought I could has been a dream come true in so many more ways than I could have imagined. I think for where I was six months ago, this place was perfect. It was the exact right jumping point for me. And now I’m ready for what is coming next.

Over the past month, I’ve wondered about where I would end up. I’d looked at a few places, but nothing felt right. There were some great places with yards and enough space for the right price. I just couldn’t get myself to commit to anything. It’s like there was this block that kept coming up. So I let it be, expecting something would happen at the right time.

And then my grandma was trying to figure out where to move next, and after some brainstorming, dreaming, and scheming, she said I could build her a tiny house. Suddenly, there was a dream ready to be realized sitting on my doorstep.

And then I had an evening more shocking realization. I could build my own tiny house, too. It’s one of those dreams that always felt so inaccessible, so far away, until there it was looking straight at me, just waiting for me to bring it down out of the clouds and turn into reality board by board, nail by nail, sweet dream by sweet dream.

What a thing to finally understand that the only thing that had been holding me back was me. But it’s true. I can have this dream and make it mine. I don’t have to ask for permission. I don’t have to wait for the perfect moment. Because the most perfect moment to try something, to achieve something you’ve always wanted, is right now.

Who can say whether or not I will be here in another year? I certainly can’t. I am sick of waiting for what’s most important. Oh, once I have this taken care of, then I’ll have more time for my kids. No. NO. Enough.

No, really. Seriously, fuck that. My kids will only be kids once, and they deserve to have me at my best now. And I think I have the opportunity to give them that in a way I’ve never been able to before.

Just this month, I’ve…

  • taken my family out to dinner to a lovely meal.
  • started attending a domestic violence support group.
  • begun to learn graphic design.
  • been offered an obscene amount of money on Craigslist to be their “princesscort.”
  • been asked to audition for a Blondie cover band after singing at karaoke one night.
  • trended on Reddit for having a ridiculous name.
  • won a ticket to a conference in San Francisco, then opted not to go in favor of a journey to somewhere new.
  • started reading Big Magic and delighting in the joys of being a creative human.
  • been learning how to navigate the clusterfuck that is the public school system.
  • celebrated my most successful month in business to date.
  • cried a lot, grieving over things that have happened that I could and couldn’t control over the years.
  • discovered I have faith in my ability to make it through.

Because even with the occasional low point, I am doing it. Even through the dry spells, the uncertainty, the unknowns, the possibility for things to change, I am doing it. I’m making progress. I’m learning how to ask for help. I’m chasing down what I want and realizing just how close I actually am to those things. If I can find the time to do that, I can find the fucking time to show up as the best parent I can.

And the thing is, I truly believe I can. I can have all that. That is what I want, and I will find a way to get it because figuring out how to make things work is what I do. I may not believe in any omnipotent source of whatever, but I do believe I am capable of accomplishing anything I dare to let myself want.

And the faith I have in things just working themselves out? Well, it came full circle today in the most marvelous way.

This morning, I went to the bakery down the street from my apartment for the last time for a while to enjoy one final raspberry rose croissant alongside my usual americano – I know, how spoiled am I? – and to journal away my monkey brain, like I do most mornings.

Finally over worrying about where I’d end up next, I simply let it go. It wasn’t like I was actually going to be homeless. I’m lucky enough to have family nearby, and I’d eventually find a spot that felt right. That’s just how these things work themselves out. When I feel anxious, I let it go on paper. So I did. I don’t share many journal entries here without some serious editing, but here is exactly what I wrote.

“Be open to Big Magic. There is a beautiful, creative solution you haven’t discovered yet.”

I walked home in light rain, and began working on the last of the packing and cleaning in my apartment. Taking a break for more coffee and to recharge a little, I checked my email.

Inside was a perfect gem of a note from someone who had the perfect spot for me to park the bus for the next few months for an incredible price in a community I’ve loved for years. Of course, it would happen this way. That’s what Big Magic is.

It’s inspired. It’s always a surprise. And most of all, it’s what you need most when you least expect it.

Here’s to the next chapter of the journey.


I wrote a new book with Nina. If you want to have people over, but it stresses you out, you’ll love it. It’s a perfect way to prep for the hoildays in a simple, ease-filled way. (Plus, more tiny challenges!)

I’m booked up through the end of the year. I’m currently putting people on the waitlist for January. 

We’re under construction over here! Don’t mind the dust. My site will be getting a whole new look to reflect where I’m at and where I’m heading. Expect more bright, bold, and badass.

7 Simple Ways to Feel Sexy

The other morning, I was in a huge rush to get my kids out the door so I could prep for meetings I had later in the day. Usually, I take a little time to get ready before I get them up, putting on a cute dress and some lipstick, but this morning, I was in a capital-H worthy Hurry. I threw on a hoodie and jeans, was pushing the kids out the door, and impatiently trying to get them to the train station.

Of course, it took the same amount of time it always does to get them to where they need to be. But glancing into a window as I passed by, I realized how shabby I looked. Instead of enjoying my morning walk with them and feeling put together, everything felt sloppy – and it started the second I decided to put a (meaningless and self-imposed) deadline before my self-care routine.

Does this sound familiar?

I get it. It’s easy to put the needs of the day and the needs of others before your own. But the thing is, you can’t show up the way you want to in your life without taking care of you first.

You deserve to feel good. Not only that, but I think you deserve to feel sexy.

It’s nothing time consuming, but these tiny, simple acts make a substantial difference in the way I feel. I stand up taller. I feel more confident. I feel like the leading lady in my own life, instead of a supporting character. And miraculously, when you dress the part, you start to believe it. Here are my top tips for how to feel sexier now.

Office Warming Party

1. Be more accepting.

When someone gives you a compliment, the right response is thank you. Not attributing it elsewhere, making excuses, or otherwise passing it off. Accept love. Accept help. Accept massages. If it’s a good thing, and you want it, say yes. Make it easy.

2. Leave a love note.

It doesn’t have to be for anyone in particular. You can leave it in a book, in a bathroom, in a hidden location just waiting for someone to discover. If it is for a lover, make it a little steamy.

3. Wear sexy underwear.

Please, go throw out your granny panties. Like right now. Or if you’re feeling especially daring, simply go without. I can’t lie – doing my headshots in lacy boy shorts? Totally brought out the right attitude for the photo. (And I mean, who does that? Turns out, I do.)

4. Buy flowers.

A better, more clear way to say that might be, “Girl, buy your own damn flowers.” Don’t wait for someone else to decide you are worthy of a daily, everyday beautiful indulgence. Find your favorites. Display. Done.

5. Write something dirty.

Fiction. Nonfiction. Anything. Write about a fantasy. Write about that time you stepped out of your comfort zone, took control of a sexy situation, and what came next. (Couldn’t resist.)

6. Get your hair done.

Women’s hair has deep culture connections, so treating yours well is really only natural. Find someone who’ll give you the head massage shampoo treatment, and ease into it. Let yourself enjoy being pampered, and walk out of there feeling like a goddess.

7. Embrace cooking and eating as a sensual practice.

Cooking should not feel like a chore. From choosing the best ingredients to inventing a dish just suited for the day, there is pleasure to be had in this most everyday of activities. Making a meal is an exercise in enjoying simple living – potentially one in ritual, in simple hospitality. Share something profound at the table. That’s what it was made for.

If you’re going to take center stage in your life, you need to feel like the kind of woman who does that. And let me tell you, that kind of woman? She stops to smell the roses and try the rosé.

You have a choice in how you present yourself to the world – and when it’s so simple to feel a little sexier, why wouldn’t you?

Dusti Arab is a writer and performer. Sign up for her upcoming free e-course Take Center Stage here and become the leading lady in your life again.

A happiness manifesto: 10 ways to escape what’s chasing you

A few months ago, I finally picked up Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

As a major fan of homework and lists (glorious lists!), I loved her suggestion of coming up with your own rules for happiness, a happiness manifesto of sorts.

Why read The Happiness Project when things seem to be going so well?

I feel like a chart my gyno made when I was pregnant with my son is a useful indicator here. She did the standard procedures: blood work, tracked my family medical history, analyzed my existing fitness and diet, and in the end, I was fit as a fucking fiddle to pop out a baby.

Except that I had a 75% chance of getting PPD (again) because I’m, ahem, uniquely suited for mental illness.


The occasional bout of lowness still comes around. I’m pretty good about catching myself when I start to spiral. Mostly.

Sometimes I feel down, and it’s hard to shake it.

It starts with a stomach drop. I try to shake it off, but it festers, rolling around in my stomach, growing with each additional drop of “What makes you think you can handle this?” I feel inadequate, not enough. It rises up, up my trachea and is like heartburn, a snake that gradually constricts every inch of my torso without me realizing it. Wrapped up in an ever-tightening embrace with something so cold, I see these feelings and know they are not true, but it won’t let me go. The angst spirals further up still and is pushed up into my eyes, and nothing but water pours out because I feel I need to do so much more, especially when it comes to being a mother. But held in the coils of this beast you cannot control, you hit a point where you feel, you know, there’s not much more you can do. These are simply the joys of single co-parenthood.

The snake lets go. I lose my temper. I get so frustrated with myself that I lock myself away until I can get myself under control. It beats on my door because it wants in. It’s easy to forget how far I’ve come over this past six months, and in my impatience, I forget this used to be my life.

In fact, my life wasn’t always so fucking pretty. I take some respite and sink into the white comforter om my bed and watch the blue sky and clouds float on and breathe in the brightness.

And then the snake takes a new form. Jealousy creeps under the door, and up over my shoulder because I am afraid that I will turn out in the end not to be enough. That I won’t be able to handle it. To handle myself. That I’ll sabotage these things I care so, so much about. It curls around my neck and I can’t speak. I know my insecurity serves no purpose. It gives me nothing, owes me nothing. I refuse to choke on my words any longer, and I finally pull it off. It slithers away. For now.

It’s so easy to forget I’m only a few months into freedom and learning what it means to value myself, to be treated incredibly well, to come to expect to be treated that way even. To love and be loved.

Sometimes, you get triggered. You take a step backwards. It’s part of moving forward.

But moving forward is really more like a dance than it is sustained forward momentum. You spiral around and around the truth, take turns leading and following, and hopefully, somewhere in the midst of all of it, you find moments of presence, effortlessness.

And so we move on. We breathe. We learn to let go. We learn to lean on each other, to apologize, to forgive. And if we are lucky, we wake up and get to do it again.

Right now, my life is my happiness project. And the idea of a happiness manifesto to keep it in check when I fall into that familiar pit where that insidious snake resides? It’s a way of throwing glitter in the air and watching it cover everything, make everything a little bit more bright, magical.

Eventually, I break free, but I need help. I need to be able to see a way that I can move forward again.

So I phrased my manifesto to reflect that by starting it with, “When in doubt…”

So when in doubt…

1. Embrace ease.

Just over a year ago, I was in perpetual hustle mode. And worst of all, I was proud of it. If you’re always hustling, that’s means you’re probably not stopping to savor the moments along the way that are supposed to be the reason you’re always pushing so damn hard anyway.

Stop pushing. Do less. Embrace ease.

2. Delight others.

This is probably the most important one on this list. It’s not about impressing anyone. It’s about bringing them joy. If I’m having an off day, there is no better way to get out of that funk that doing something with no other intention that making someone really, really happy.

Bring someone flowers. Send a singing telegram. Make something and give it away. The snake doesn’t understand joy.

3. Show gratitude

Regardless of your circumstances, you can find something to be grateful for. Always.

Write a thank you note. Tell someone you care.

4. Surround yourself with co-conspirators

I’m an extrovert (ENFP, if Myers-Briggs is your jam), and somehow, I’ve also ended up a writer, which means I spend a lot of time by myself. It’s really easy to get into this mindset of needing to get things done, which leads to me holing up in my apartment for way too long without human interaction. Bad move.

Like a Sim with a low social bar, I need people to refill my well. Being around others is how I recharge my writerly batteries, and being around the kind of people who I can dream up new things with? Well, that’s pretty much heaven for me.

Co-work with a friend. Start a group around a topic of your choice. The snake is afraid of companionship.

5. Learn something

If you’re not learning, you might as well be dead. We are naturally curious beings. Why stop when we finish school?

Sign-up for class. Take small steps towards that audacious goal you’ve been storing away.

6. Choose movement

Next time you get stuck, get up and go for a walk. Kick up your endorphins. Find a forest and lose yourself. The snake can’t find you there.

7. Reach out

Call someone. Be direct. Ask for what you need. Don’t let the snake win.

8. Make something

Create a vision board. Paint something. Write a story. Sew curtains.

9. Be generous

Do more than you need to. Share your bounty.

10. Plant something

We were never meant to sit at desks all day. Get outside under the trees. Buy a plant. Plant some seeds.

More than anything this year, I’ve learned that tiny steps are the key to being able to take that big one you desperately want to. If you need some help making progress there, my friend Nina and I made this. But having a list of things to revert to when things get hard has been a helpful fail-safe for me when it comes to managing depression. Find what keeps you moving. (And if you need help, ask for it. Remember, the snake can’t survive amongst companionship.)

18 Tiny Steps To Living More Sustainably

Simple living can feel remarkably overwhelming when you’re getting started. Many of the conveniences of modern life are bad business for the planet, and taking charge at home is one easy way you can help make the world just a little bit better place for everyone.

The only problem is… Where do you start?

I get it. When I started studying environmental science, I was completely overwhelmed by how many different options I had when it came to living lightly. But really, tt doesn’t take much to downsize a little and make a big impact. There are tons of simple and practical ways you can live with less that will actually improve you quality of life.

Sustainable for the planet and sustainable for simple lifestyle? Yes, it is possible. Here are 18 tiny steps to living more sustainably.

1. Glass reusable containers.

Pyrex has some nice reusable glass containers available, but my favorite way to store food is in mason jars. They are inexpensive, you can reuse them forever, and they are beautiful – especially in comparison with the ugly, cheap plastic containers you find everywhere. Also, the lids always match and are easy to replace. Why choose anything else?

2. Recycle.

Your local garbage and recycling company has a list of what you can and cannot recycle. Print it out and put it above your mini waste management center to make recycling faster and

3. Compost.

Composting can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a basic composting guide to get you started.

4. Buy in bulk.

Cut out packaging, and your garbage stream gets reduced fast. Most grocery stores will let you bring in your own containers to fill with bulk goods as long as you bring an extra one so they can zero their scale. If you’re not sure, you can call and ask what their policy is. (Ask them in a way that makes them sound progressive, and you’re gold.)

5. Host a clothing swap.

Lose weight recently? Kids outgrowing all their clothes? Send out a dozen messages and host a clothing swap. Offer to take everything left at the end to a local thrift store (or maybe a consignment shop to earn some extra cash!)

6. Eat a vegetarian diet.

It takes over 5000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Even more shocking than that, 33% of of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by the U.S. are devoted to producing livestock.

7. Go car-free.

Ride a bike instead. Or bus. Or Zipcar. Or share with your neighbor! The options are endless. The point is that you don’t actually need your own car all the time (and if you are spending that much time in your vehicle, consider for a moment how that makes you feel).

8. Stop buying stuff.

When you think you must buy, borrow first. Then buy reused. Then buy local.

9. Move into a smaller house.

My friend Nina lives in a bus. I live in a 520 sq. ft apartment with my two kids. And you know what? It is the perfect size for us. I do miss having a yard to send the kids into, but we’re lucky enough to be within walking distance of the nation’s largest city park, the aptly-named Forest Park.

10. Bring your own bags.

This is one of the easiest things you can do to help end the trash stream! Eliminate plastic bags from your home for good.

11. Go paperless.

Sign up here to stop receiving junk mail.

12. Make your own cleaning products.

My friend Nina has all the recipes you’ll need over at Shalom Mama.

13. Grow a garden.

Even without much space, you can still garden. Container gardening is a great option for apartment dwellers. You can also rent a plot at your local community garden.

14. Conserve energy.

Turning off the lights when you leave a room, shutting off an unused power strip, can make a big difference on your electric bill, and save a lot of energy. Weatherizing windows and doors, insulating pipes, and lowering the thermostat, can cut down on heating costs too. When replacing appliances, buy new appliances with the Energy Star label, that way you can be assured of their efficiency. To save water, try low-flow showerheads and toilets, collect rainwater and use native plants and drip irrigation in your yard. Reducing your shower time by even a minute can save water and the electricity needed to heat the water too!)))

15. Cloth napkins.

This one is so easy. I’ve never understood how people can be so okay with throwing money away on paper products that just get… thrown away. Save money and use cloth instead.

16. Use a clothes line.

Granted, this isn’t practical everywhere or at all times of year, but you can save a bunch on utility bills and make your clothes last longer simply by hanging them. Bonus: it’ll make your arms look great.

17. Stop using disposable coffee cups.

Living sustainably may just turn you into a mason jar aficionado. Buy a Cuppow instead!

18. Make your morning coffee at home.

I‘m fortunate enough to have ten years of coffee experience behind me, but really, it doesn’t take more than watching a few good Youtube videos, fresh beans, and filtered water to make incredible coffee.

These tiny steps hopefully make something crystal clear – simple is sustainable.

Working towards sustainability doesn’t have to completely change how you live. You’re probably already doing some of the things listed above.

Sustainability is simply another reflection of your environment, the tell-all of what’s going on under the surface for you. Clutter everywhere? A garage packed to the brim with stuff that goes unused and has mostly been forgotten? It speaks volumes about what it is you value.

Take one tiny step today. Then take another tomorrow. You can create a better, lighter life – and it can be this simple.

P.S. If you like the idea of taking tiny steps to improve your life, you might enjoy #tinychallenges, a free 30-day series of self-care-centric prompts to help you get those tiny wins that edge you towards the life you want.

What a strong woman really wants

Let me level with you from the start. I am not a relationship expert. In fact, I have previously been an expert in exactly what not to do in a relationship.

I’ve accepted being treated poorly, like I wasn’t valuable or worthy of consideration. I’ve spent too much time trying to make thing works at any personal cost, trying to patch up things that were beyond repair, and trying to figure what was wrong with me.

If you’ve been reading my work recently, you know that isn’t the case anymore. My entire life has changed – and nothing more so than my love life. Recently, a friend’s partner reached out to me for advice because his lady is unhappy, and for many of the same reasons I was. So I’m going to put this out there for men who have found themselves with a strong woman, so you at least have an inkling of what it is she wants.

I’m pretty fresh out of a relationship that crashed and burned for a lot of reasons. But the main reason I ended it?

I didn’t get the kind of support I needed. And not only that, but I didn’t think I would ever get that kind of support that I so. desperately. wanted.

Surprised? Well, I can’t say I’m shocked.

This isn’t the 1950’s, right? I don’t need a man for financial support. I am capable. I am strong.

From your perspective, it probably looks like I’ve got everything handled over here, and well, that’s because I do. I’m a single mother of two with a successful business, living in a beautiful place in the city. Cue up the Beyonce, because this independent woman has it together on her own terms.

And I love it. I love knowing my life is this way because I made it that way. From the apartment to new friends to how my business works, these choices are entirely mine, and that makes me feel powerful.

Along with this new found empowerment, another choice I’ve made is to embrace transparency. I’m not talking about “blunt honesty” which is just an excuse for airing opinions without kindness. I have chosen transparency because I want all of the parts of my life to fit together without me having to make excuses or allowances for them. I want my life to be a clear representation of what it is I say I stand for.

With no room for excuses and nowhere to hide from the consequences of my actions, I’m continually putting myself in a position that forces me to stay honest. There’s no barrier, no walls left there to protect me. And that leaves me very vulnerable.

And guess what? That’s what I want from you. I want you to be just as vulnerable as I am.

Vulnerability isn’t always pretty. Staying open means you’re just as likely to feel pain as you are love. And that is terrifying, especially as you try to maintain it over a progressively longer period of time. You get deeper into a relationship, you feel things more deeply. That’s just the territory you end up in, and the only way out of it is by backing off or moving through it.

But sometimes, even with the chance to step away, scream your head off in a car, and pound your fists against the dashboard, you’ll still experience an evening that leaves you raw and crumbling. No matter how irrational the fear, no matter how obvious the insecurity, there you are, cursing yourself for letting this happen and trying to figure out what’s next.

But you know what’s next. Either you put up new walls and pretend it doesn’t hurt, or you stay open, feel what you’re feeling, and figure out how to move on to at least some marginal acceptance.

The deeper I get into this relationship I now find myself in, the more I have to confront triggers, demons, and all of the baggage I’ve been carrying around for a very long time. I don’t want the frustrating, selfish feelings that come up – pangs of jealousy, fear of driving him away, the desire to possess him. I refuse to let those feelings define this relationship.

Finally, I think I understand Woody Allen’s quote, “To love is to suffer.”

It’s a strange thing to accept – at least in theory – whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Not long ago, I realized I had this deep-seated desire, this need, for a masculine counterpart. There’s a part of me missing without it. Acknowledging that need is difficult because it means there is in fact something outside of me that I can’t have without another person. It doesn’t get more vulnerable than knowing you want someone who might not end up wanting that, too.

And I feel that failing to incorporate someone like that into my life, I am missing something of incredible value.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not afraid of being alone anymore (because now I know there are much worse things). I am capable of being alone and living a good and fulfilling life that way. I enjoy my own company. I can take care of my needs.

And I know I would like to share a life with someone else. That I want to build a house and garden and build communities wherever I plant myself. That I might want more children. And more immediately, that I would only choose to be with someone I felt there was a chance I could share that with.

Given all that, I have to accept that if this ends, it will hurt worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. And yet, here I am, willing to be destroyed for a chance at the Real Thing.

Let’s be real.

I’m a big tough girl. I’ve got it covered. I have things handled.

And guess what?

I love it when I don’t have to. I love knowing that if I need to step out for a minute, you’ve got this. I appreciate when you plan things so I don’t need to. Sometimes, I can’t hold it all together, and knowing you’ve got my back? I can’t tell you what that means to me.

Yeah, it’s important to me to know I can get things done, to know I can keep the ship afloat when things get rough. Chances are I became this way for a reason. Whether it’s my rough background or fucked up childhood or a history of people telling me I’d never make it out, knowing I’m independent is a part of me I won’t let go of. (Because I can’t.)

But let me tell you a secret. Can I tell you just how wonderful it is to think there exists this kind of relationship where I feel so held, so considered in the midst of everything else you’ve got going on? How amazing it is to know I can lean into you? To be in a relationship where I can feel strong and supported?

I became strong because I had to. Knowing I don’t have to be so strong around you? That is a gift.

The fact may be that I don’t need you.

But guess what? I want you. You get to stick around because I choose you. Just like every other aspect of my life that has undergone careful consideration, I am choosing to be with you.

And really, I think I’m stronger when I’m with you.

Things that I regret

Anyone who says they have no regrets probably isn’t being honest with themselves. Even if it is just in some small way, there is a situation you’ve been in where you wish you had done something differently. I have thought a lot about this recently, and I came with short list of things I regret.

Not getting help when I needed it.

Not leaving things I’m not enjoying sooner.

Not celebrating the victories.

Not volunteering.

Not letting myself relax.

Not taking the chance.

Not asking for what I wanted.

Not raising my hand.

Not telling someone exactly how I felt.

Notice any patterns here? My regrets have much less to do with what I’ve done than what I haven’t. I’ll have a thought, play it out in my head, get a little bit thrilled at the prospect, think about what it would take to accomplish, feel nervous at the thought of what the proverbial “They” might think, get scared, and back off.

I cannot tell you how often have I become overjoyed at the thought of a creative pursuit only to back away from it in fear of… what exactly? It’s not even a real thing to be afraid of. This invisible, nameless thing is continuously attempting to strangle my voice, my longing to create beautiful work that makes someone else feel like they matter. Because really, even if I do get a negative response to my work, so what? Critical feedback won’t kill me. I’m a sensitive snowflake, but I hold up to heat pretty well.

Ever so slowly, I am becoming more brave, but it is a constant struggle – to choose what’s hard now so I’m not oppressed by what’s harder later.

So when an idea hit me this past Tuesday while I was playing on the swings (it’s like my meditation), I decided not to just let it go. Brielle and I were making plans a couple of hours later over cocktails and inspired conversation, and the next day, we went for it and made this.

So first of all, thank you so much, Brielle. You are a dear friend, and I am thrilled we got to collaborate over our hopelessly romantic outlook on life. May your life ever be as delicious as a Nicholas Sparks novel.

And happy birthday, Daniel. I hope this removes all possible doubt about the effect you’ve had on me, my work, and my life.

And because we’re still working on the resolution, here’s what the whiteboard says:

Screenshot 2015-08-25 at 10.04.22 AM