Let the waters recede, the gratitude grow, and the worthwhile rule


Fifth post of 10 Stress Knock-Outs

For this final post in the series, I arranged to discuss perspective, and how growing more gratitude and having less guilt in your life can help to greatly reduce stress.

I grew up living on a lagoon near the San Francisco Bay that would flood easily in years when El Nino really gave a fantastic show, or the pump attached to the bay went out. Instead of letting the tears flow, I’d watch as my mom would study the muddy colored waters and say, “It’s time.” Time to roll up carpets, evacuate furniture to higher ground, and to call the piano player, if he was in town. You see, she’d call neighbors to help and in their kindness, they’d show up with food and drinks, and sometimes a relative with great skill on the piano. Only she could turn a terrifying jaunt with 100 mile per hour winds and rising waters licking the edge of the deck into a party!

It’s funny how when you write about something, it often is the thing you need the most or cherish the most in that specific time. This week, I’ve sat with a new friend who’s just lost everything physical in a fire. In reaching out to help her, I find myself greeted with smiles and wisdom anew. Unexpected grace. In the press of multiple commitments for the kids, it reminds me too of how to breathe and take a walk and taste beauty to be sustained.

Landing somewhere between these moments, I’ve got two nuggets with tangible results in the stress-reduction department to share with you.

The wall of gratitude – or some other tribute

Whether it’s a series of frames around photos of key moments, or a wall full of notes with specific instances in mind, having a tribute to the biggiest things in life is a great legacy to leave your children, and doesn’t hurt to remind us about our own thoughts to ensure we’re on track.

I’ve posted many great ideas on my Pintrest HERE, from tree branches with notes pinned to them, to whole walls painted in blackboard paint so you and the littles in your life can write up daily praises. It’s a visual bookmark in the fabric of life that gives more stretch and texture to the most challenging moments, too. And last summer, we made a gratitude website so our kids would know of kindness to us during our rebuilding after the fires, called MAKEUSSMILE.COM.

Guilt-free passes

Become more attune to your physical and other limits, and allow yourself permission to pass on things that don’t bring great value to your life right now. Maybe your kids need a break, too, and could use some grace bombs, as we call them HERE. I find we have seasons of intense involvement, and these need to be followed by a pattern of less, like the space between squares on an intricate quilt.

That room to breathe. To regroup. To forgive. To relive. To revive. To let the sauce thicken so the dishes we cook are celebratory rather than merely scarfed down.

While we’re not quite there yet, it helps to identify these goals and discuss them together. Somehow, my kids are always ready to play or celebrate the moment, much like their Grandmother. No floods are rising here, but whether dusting off ashes or reaching for new milestones, the legacy from those waters receding is real.

More great reading about making room for gratitude in your life:

Camp Gratitude

And a wonderful post by Jeanne Takenaka about building grace into the fabric of your family in everyday habits Gratitude.

Please share your ideas here! I hope these 10 strategies have made a difference for you and your families!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Turning Up The Fun Meter In Your Life


Part three of the Stress Knock-Out Series

You’re still juggling a lot and need another route to de-stress rather than watching the television or eating something you shouldn’t. To find that smile again, try turning up the fun-meter in your life.

Sometimes it’s okay to completely alter your personality for a day and push pause on the responsibilities, even if only for a short while. You can totally reset the gauges that measure stress and healthfulness in your life with setting out a path to have more fun.

Kids don’t mind asking for it, so why, when we grow up, do we suddenly forget to include fun in our daily agenda?

Here’s some great ideas to amp up the fun in your life:

  1. Get out of your comfort zone. I mean, it’s time to dial in some ridiculous. I have writing friends that dye the end of their hair different colors to feel like their main characters. I know others that visit different doughnut shops and rate the products. Another friend hosts American Girl parties for her daughters. Press the edge a bit and find a new avenue of joy.
  2. Get ridiculous. To venture into the ridiculous, you’ll need to pull the ripcord on being completely safe. You may need to don a tiara or let your kitchen get covered in ingredients that will bring a smile to a weary neighbor or friends. In our family, we try to plan quarterly outings to museums to learn some thing new about art or culture. Whether it’s riding a roller coaster or something else that tickles your inner child, get it out and wear that crazy hat or play a childish tune on the piano.
  3. Get messy. Yep, it’s time to pull out the paints or whatever you enjoyed as a child. I’ve recently started painting again and really, whether or not anyone ever sees my work, just mixing the colors is a lot of fun for me. My kids notice the change in me, too, and want to paint together. I also recently got some bubbles on sale at the store. I’m waiting for that dull afternoon to pull them out and get everyone laughing. Whether it’s at the gardening store, or taking a class, invest in creativity to help amp up the sanity in your life.
  4. Get down low. Like the song, “Say, Geronimo!” you may need to jump into something new. If you have little ones get down on the floor and play games with them. Pull out old board games or cards and revive the fun of the past. Invite some friends over for appetizers and pull out the games. I love seeing different aspects of personalities come alive in this context. It uses a different part of the brain and helps me loosen up a bit, too.
  5. Get musical. Whether it’s putting on music in your home or ordering a soundtrack to a fun movie you’ve enjoyed, music can lift your spirits right away. Recently we took our boys to the symphony and they loved the upbeat jazz tunes too. Music is attainable for everyone and ushes in a renewed perspective with a new tune.


Hope these tips will inspire new thoughts about having more fun this week! Let me know what worked for you, too!

For more tips about reducing stress, try these posts here:

10 Stress Knock-Outs For The New Year

Magic Potions

Give, Pray, Laugh

Image courtesy of coward_lion at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Give, Pray, Laugh – Helping Others Can Reduce Stress


Part Two in the series 10 Stress Knock-Outs For The New Year

 Can helping others really lift some of the stress we feel or is it just an old wives’ tale?

I gotta tell you, it really does work wonders. If I could write it in a book title it would go something like Give-Pray-Laugh.


Letting go of clutter frees your mind to express creativity and be more whole with your inner self in daily activities. I’ve set monthly goals to wipe out a corner that’s causing me to trip because, well, it’s not just a physical distraction, is it? Each corner of clutter acts like someone throwing a weight at me when I walk by. It just pulls me down. It costs something in the economy of emotions that I’m not willing to give it any longer.

The boost: Driving over to the donation center nearby, realizing some of these things will be a huge blessing to others is a great reality-check. After the wildfires, when we had no possessions or permanent home, these places were generous to us as we grappled with getting temporary things in place. I relive that moment a bit each time we drive over, and not in a bad way. It makes my kids realize our gifts in life, too. Plus the group “ahhhh” when the garage door lifts now is audible!


Years ago I had a prayer mentor when I was at a critical juncture making decisions whether to go work full time with teens or keep working in corporate life. I was paired up with an experienced missionary and would go walking or have tea at her home each week. I have a lot to thank her for, in teaching me to bring up the small stuff in life, and how to connect people’s needs with prayer. Sometimes you feel a bit helpless wanting to offer support through a medical trial or life change. It really lifts the burden when you can give the worries of life up to the Lord and admit that although you don’t understand why bad things happen, there’s still hope in holding the hand of the One who does.

Favorite thing: Grab a friend and go walking and bring your prayers with you! Start by thanking God for the beautiful flowers or clouds or whatever you see in your path. Then mention each person by name and both of you can pray through their requests. It gives me tingles thinking of how this simple thing can bless those you care about. And this is great with kids as they battle the stresses of puberty too.


Laughter can immediately transform a glum moment to a glimmering one! Especially when children are involved. No matter your slice of life, you can connect with little ones by volunteering at your church, working with a mother’s group (try Mothers of Preschoolers – it’s great!), or hanging out with kids in youth group, take the chance. It will change your life!

What’s best? Decide what you need the most and go for it. Want laughter without strings? Little ones are the best. They always seem to have limitless hugs to give, too. Need more of a challenge? Take on the high-energy elementary grades and mentor a child struggling to read and find success. They appreciate each gesture, and always find ways to surprise you. Then there’s the preteen, or tween, group. One minute you’re laughing at a science experiment and the next discussing big issues in life. There’s a tangible moment of “wow” when you help open their eyes to the universe in a new way. Don’t be afraid to connect with teens, either. I love working with both groups and hearing from them that it makes a difference.

When you connect with giving, praying, and laughing, it makes you a better person. Time slows. Smiles grow. Stress fades to gray. And, yes, joy bubbles from within. Find and connect with your outlet soon.


Contest update:

Thanks to all those who entered or offered opinions! It really helped! (Drumroll) Here are the final contenders for the blog name on my new website:

  • Hidden Treasures
  • The Magical Inlet
  • The Thorn and The Vine

++One problem: I came up with all of these, so I’m giving a popsicle party for the fifth-grade classroom that’s volunteered for helping with final selection. I’d still love your vote so please chime in on the comments below!

+++We’ll be having lots of giveaways on the new blog so I’ll save the gifts for the next one, no worries there!


Image: Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Magic Stress-Reduction Potion For Your Lifestyle


Part One of the New Year Stress Knock-Out Series

 You know those annoying commercials for an instant solution – they keep you company on TV late at night when sleep has whisked away and you’re trying to settle. I was thinking, what if there was a $39.99 solution to personal stress? Wouldn’t you send in two easy payments and get the widget for sale? I would! Here are three strategies to make yourself stronger and really work like a magic potion to soothe your stresses. Each comes with a risk and reward. Don’t neglect them without counting the cost.

 Find a corner of light

In this special place, you come first. It could be a coffee shop or spa setting, or a favorite outlook on a walking path. But the most important thing when you’re trying to refocus is to just stop. In this place, the voices of self-criticism and to-do lists get set aside. Just for a while. Quiet creeps in and is not rejected, but welcomed. Light dapples. Leaves gently rustle. A rabbit skips across the way. A glass of something delightful is sipped. And, ah. Now there’s room to remember yourself. To dance with the dreams that need to come to life. To listen to the pain that needs attention as well as the things that need to change.

Risk: If you neglect this small thing, a hard shell will form that’s difficult to drop with your family and loved ones because you’re just getting by. You’re heading for a path where the central values you hold dear may get lost or trampled down.

Reward: Listen to the quiet and let in encouraging moments and the amount of patience for daily trials expands four times. You’re the best “you” and your family will notice. That smile will leap on your face more often. Laughter will punctuate your life and joy won’t be so elusive.

Tackle the lurking monsters

Be done with putting off your most annoying or scary projects. You know that challenge that you’ve brushed aside for a long time. The one that bugs you the most? Devise an attack pattern and advance. Take out your virtual sword, get ready, and just do it. Pick the single biggest stressor and take it down. It could be mounting laundry needing a better pattern, piles of mail needing focused attention, or kitchen cabinets where more tumbles out than necessary every time you open it. Or perhaps the piles of boots by the door in snowy weather or a family situation needing lots of research.

Risk: Ignore it further, and it will impact you financially, drain your emotional bank every time you think of it, and become more powerful, lurking like a monster in the dark. When you don’t face a fear, it grows.

Reward: Relief floods once the item is doing better. Note: it doesn’t have to be perfect to be better. It’s such a boost to not have it on the list. Yes, there’s still more needing attention, but if you can handle this one, huge, ugly troll and slay it, then aren’t you strong enough to handle the rest in time?

Reconnect with health goals

You know what you need to do. Yet life keeps tripping you up. Start in these three ways and you’ll soon be making progress.

  • First investigate your health needs you’ve been putting off. Get one of the checkups you need the most. Perhaps there’s a small solution waiting once you have the blood work or information at hand that will instantly improve your outlook. If a vitamin can impact you for the better, why not find out? Make a calendar to do your checkups and nibble at them ‘till you’re caught up.
  • Second, ask yourself what’s your deepest need that hasn’t been addressed? Do you need to swim more so muscles aren’t sore? What one thing could you do to improve this week and stretch yourself to do it twice at least.
  • Third, think of fun. Remember when you were a kid and loved riding bikes or playing outside? Find something playful to add into your health goals. It might be baking with healthier recipes, or saying yes to a bike ride with a young one. Or hitting a little white ball which for some strange reason brings you joy when it goes straight.

Risk: I don’t have to remind you of the risks for ignoring your body’s cues and checkups. But you’re also risking losing joy over the compounding losses that result here. I’m right with you in being afraid of things sometimes, but don’t let fear keep you from action that could really improve your health.

Reward: Peace and more of the “best you” will emerge when you’re attending to health needs. And adding fun will bring laughter more often with your loved ones, too.

I’ll be posting specific ideas for each category this week on Instagram and Facebook, and would love to hear your ideas too!

Next week, part two in the series: reduce stress by focusing on others.

In the news:

For updates about my path to publication, please like my Author Facebook here:Author Facebook . I’m hoping for my middle-grade fantasy to catch a publisher’s attention in the coming year and would love your support!

My son, Jonathan Van Tassel, has a new column with updates about great activities and contests for your kids on the Geek Central Blog here: Geek Central Blog. This week, it’s about a super contest at Legoland!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


10 Stress Knock-outs For The New Year


This week, while sitting in the tire store for my car, I felt the stress mounting. Sick friends in need, many commitments to juggle, my back speaking a bad note, so many things needing attention all at once. I realized I couldn’t help anyone else until I created a game-plan to handle it better myself. There may be a few surprises here that could help you, too. We’re going to take four weeks to put them into play, but here’s the highlights, with sections for yourself, for others, for fun, and for perspective.

For you:

1.Find a corner of light – Dwell someplace where you come first. Try to visit it a couple times per month or more and listen to the little voices inside that are encouraging change or affirming you, rather than those on constant critique.

2. Tackle the lurking monsters – Well, I’m the creative type but sometimes I feel there’s a challenge that’s overwhelming and dark. I want to hide, but it’s best not to. Whether it’s cleaning out your office or looking for ways to love prickly people in your life better, facing into it is so much better than sweeping it aside.

3. Reconnect with health goals – I’m including something fun as well as more vigorous goals. Listen to the echoes of your deepest needs, and try to brush them aside less often.

For others:

4. Donate for a new beginning – Getting more organized and being vigorous in ridding yourself of clutter is good for you and could bless someone else. If it makes you sad, consider clothing and objects part of an emotional economy. You are worth more than it and so letting it go can be very freeing.

5. Start a walk-and-pray group – When you get those requests to lift others up, it’s nice to connect and feel you’re helping those in need.

6. Laugh with children – Whether it’s volunteering to be a MOPS mentor with young moms or playing board games with young kids, their outlook is infectious, in a good way.

For fun:

7. Do something ridiculously outrageous – Find something that speaks to your inner child. Smiling and laughter are such great stress-busters. Is it riding roller-coasters? Or making candy apples? Just take a step that makes you giggle a bit. We’ll come up with a good list of ideas.

8. Invest in creativity – Whether it’s joining a book club or painting or playing an instrument, touching the creative part of self releases a kind of bubbly joy like champagne bubbles. Joy sweeps out the cobwebs of disappointment and gives energy to tackle new challenges, too.

For perspective:

9. Look for picture frames – Sort through photos of the last few years. Create a storyboard of things you’re grateful for and frame those moments. Make a gratitude wall. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or blue, remember those moments.

10. Guilt-free passes – Give yourself permission to know your limits. Whether it’s an invitation or something for your children, begin to cultivate a less frenetic life-style and invest more in what’s worthwhile.

Let’s take this journey together and end with more smiles and fewer frustrations. What have you planned this month to tackle your challenges? I’d love to hear from you too.


Image courtesy of num_skyman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net