My Self-Care Journey

My Self-Care Journey

I’ve been asked more and more about my recent weight loss. How did I do it? How long did it take me? I awkwardly answer as quickly as possible and try to end the conversation. For a long time, I didn’t feel proud of my weight loss at all, in fact, I was embarrassed by it.

See, the truth is that I didn’t try to lose weight. No intentional diet, no gym pass, no pills or gimmicks. What happened was that I got sick. I’ve battled depression, anxiety, and PTSD since I was Noah’s age but right after the picture on the left was taken, a devastating series of events occurred that spiraled me deeper into the familiar darkness of depression. My panic attacks began to increase in both frequency and force. The low that sticks out in my mind is the time that my dad had to call 911 from the side of the 5 freeway, as my husband knelt next to me in the gravel where I was face down, violently gasping for my next breath.

I felt completely out of control of my life and by extension, the lives of my children and family. I was drowning in our circumstances that just seemed to get worse by the day. I didn’t sleep well or often. Most nights I would stay up, sitting in bed long after Tim had fallen asleep, holding my chest and praying that my racing heart wouldn’t give out. I had no appetite and would often go days without putting anything aside from coffee in my body. I started to feel less like a human and more like 3 mental illnesses stacked on top of each other wearing a trench coat.

I ended up losing just over 70 pounds in the span of eight months. And that’s when the compliments began.

“Oh my god! How much weight have you lost? You look great!”

“Wow! You’re so disciplined!”

I would thank them and move on with my day as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t shake the pain I felt knowing that someone was close enough to look at me, really look at the circles under my eyes and the way my shoulders sagged and be stoked that I was losing weight. Like that was the end all be all, like that’s what was holding me back.  I felt scared and alone and every well-intentioned compliment drew me further into myself.

At the urging of my husband and parents, I finally pushed past the fear and shame and sought medical help. I always thought that I should be able to just suck it up and be positive and that things would be better. I held myself to such an impossibly high standard and then gave myself zero grace when I failed at “being happy”. It took me years to treat myself with the love and respect that I dole out onto others, but it’s made all of the difference in making some lifestyle changes:

1. Food: I went from going days without food to eating small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. It has been surprisingly difficult for me to do this and I actively struggle with making the choice to eat. One aspect of my treatment is that I now take Prozac and a side effect is loss of appetite. It’s scary how easy it is for me to unintentionally go days without eating. I allow myself to get lost in the hustle of life and put my well-being on the back burner. So I have started making myself a lunch to take to work every day. I try to get creative and stick with things that will pack a protein and nutrient punch without being too heavy. I eat small snacks throughout the day. I order green juices. 99% of the time I definitely don’t feel like eating anything, but I make myself do it anyway because I know that my body needs fuel to do the things I need it to do. It’s an active choice to suck it up and fuel the engine.

2. Caffeine: After years of living in a gross cycle of chugging espresso and taking Excedrin migraine to keep the perpetual headaches at bay, I finally realized that I was making everything worse for myself. The constant flow of caffeine made sleep impossible, which made me tired and nauseous constantly, which made me a miserable jerk. I still drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day, but the espresso had to be weaned out of my caffeine dependent body. And at my doctor’s request, I’ve dropped the Excedrin in favor of peppermint essential oil and good old fashioned Tylenol. To be very honest, the caffeine withdrawals were rough and I wanted to cave and grab my triple espresso to make everything better

3. Sleep: I started taking melatonin to help me fall asleep at night and get my body back into a normal sleeping pattern. I’m still working on making good choices when it comes to choosing sleep and rest, but I’ve come a long way from my old 2-3 hour per night sleep schedule.

4. Exercise: I make sure that I get outside and walk daily. I even enlisted my kids into keeping me accountable by making sure that we take the dogs out on our walk every night. I honestly started this not for the purpose or benefit of exercise, but to force myself into doing something with my kids when all I wanted to do was shut out the world. It quickly went from one more obligation to the sunshine in my day. The effects were immediate and the kids started to get their mom back. The one who is silly and fun, who is always down to read one (or two) more stories at night. The one who takes them on exciting adventures and leads by example. Once again, it started as a choice to suck it up and show up for my kids. But before I knew it, it has become a necessary part of my routine and I even sneak in solo walks first thing in the morning before my kids are awake to make fun of my hand weights.

5. Community: You may have noticed that I am transparent, maybe even uncomfortably so. It’s just that I spent so many years keeping quiet– disregarding my voice and my story. It wasn’t until I began to let my guard down and until I began to get to know others who had similar stories, that I realized the importance of sharing our stories. So I am an open book and I love to talk about the struggles and hurdles that I have overcome and that my family has overcome together because I truly believe that we need each other and that we need to be real. We all love a pretty Instagram filter and a good quote for a caption, but I have become obsessed with people who are brave enough to share what darknesses they have walked through so that may help shine a light for someone who is still lost in the shadow of their circumstances. There is a purpose to the pain we endure beyond our own personal growth and it is to allow real connections, real community, real support.

Nowadays when I receive a compliment, I can genuinely accept it because I know the work that I put in that no one gets to see. It’s more than weight loss. It’s finally knowing that I deserve to and need to take care of myself. It’s understanding the difference between weight-loss and wellness. It’s knowing that regardless of how I feel or what my medical chart says, I am so worth loving and my value is not and never will be tied to a number on the scale.


Our STEM Reads Experience

Our STEM Reads Experience

If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the term STEM. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM cultivation is becoming more and more important because it pervades every part of our lives.

According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy. STEM activities create critical thinkers, increase science literacy, and enable the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas. It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. Despite these compelling facts, mathematics and science scores on average among U.S. students are lagging behind other developing countries.

Facts like these can be overwhelming parents, who may not even know where to begin in seeking out STEM activities for their kids. As my kids get older and I do more research into the STEM field and it’s ever growing presence, I have been actively seeking out ways to incorporate more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into our daily lives.

Which is where companies like STEM Reads come in. STEM Reads is an awesome monthly book club for kids (ages 4-8) who are eager to explore the wonderful world of STEM. Each month, your little readers will receive a box in the mail filled with two (or more) handpicked, kid-friendly books, exclusive Author notes, engaging learning activities, and fun surprises.

We received our very first box today and could not have been happier to see that the theme for April was “Math Mania”. Included in the box is:

  • The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman
  • Annika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills
  • Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse To Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck
  • Math Dice Jr. Game
  • Puzzles and Games for Math
  • Exclusive Author Notes From Deborah Heiligman, Laura Overdeck, and Claudia Mills
  • Math Mania Achievement Badge Sticker

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I love that there is a chapter book for Noah!
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And a beautifully educational picture book for us to read as a family.
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We loved learning about “Uncle Paul”!

The kids were instantly drawn to the dice game, while I was excited to see Bedtime Math included. It’s basically a math devotional – a quick two page read per night that presents your kids with mathematically based problems to solve. What I love the most about Bedtime Math is that they have different categories of problems. Aria answers the Wee Ones question, while Noah answers the Little Kids question and challenges himself with the Big Kids one.

The kids were entertained for nearly three straight hours– no fighting and no X-Box requests! Which is a miracle in our house, especially on a Friday afternoon when the kids are in weekend mode. After I tucked them in and we did our Bedtime Math, they asked if we could play the math dice game again after breakfast.

We can’t wait for next month’s delivery and are already taking guesses on what the theme will be! If you want to join in on the fun, STEM Reads is generously offering $10 off your first order! Just be sure to use this link to redeem this special offer!

Happy reading, mathematicians!



My Best Friend’s Engagement

Last Friday I was on my way to get Tim from work when Kathrine, Bri’s sister, texted me.

“Shelley!!!!!!!!! I need your help!!! It’s super important!!!!! But you can’t tell Bri!!!!!”


“Kyle needs to know her ring size….”

I have never called someone so fast. By the time she picked up, I was already sobbing, instantly overcome with complete joy. See, Bri and I have been best friends since we were five-years-old. We grew up like sisters, finding second homes in one another’s families. We’ve been by each other’s side through every heartbreak, every triumph, every age and stage. She is the most generous and loving person who works her butt off to take care of her family. She deserves all the happiness in the world and since Kyle has been in her life, that’s exactly what I’ve seen. They complement each other so well and are so supportive and encouraging of one another. They’re also total weirdos who just get each other. 

With all of that history and knowing who Bri is as a person, I was so grateful to get to be a part of this moment in her life. 


You are going to make the most beautiful bride in the world. Kyle is the luckiest guy and you two are a match made in heaven. (Seriously, y’all are nuts, but were clearly made for each other) 

I love you so much, 


A Disclaimer of Sorts 

There are so many topics that I want to explore here. Some lighthearted and fun, and some topics that may take an extra dose of bravery to talk about. I’m still finding my blogging voice and it’s fun (and therapeutic!) to figure it all out as I go. 

Since I find myself sharing about motherhood more and more, I want to make something super clear:

I will admit that I know nothing. But even within that statement I am confident in my abilities to find what will work for my children. I know nothing, but I trust the hell out of my own intuition. 

I’ve learned the right amount of shushes and the perfect kind of rock to get my babies to sleep and the perfect ratio of salad to mac n cheese to ensure their plates are clean. I’m a master in the art of Noah and Aria (but them alone).

I just want to make a commitment here to you all, on this little blog of mine that I will always share ideas and things that have been helpful or beneficial in the process of raising up these babies with the caveat that I know nothing (nothing at all) about how any of this might work, or be totally off basis when it comes to your family. It sounds like a disclaimer, but it’s the cold hard truth.

Most importantly, I respect and recognize and marvel at you, my fellow mamas who are experts in your own right about your own sweet babes and what makes their worlds go round. There isn’t another woman on this earth that knows what works for them better than you. And isn’t that something worthy of great pride? 

Because this whole experience of parenting… it’s about making mistakes and holding our ground and learning our way. I’ll keep sharing my story and I hope you’ll all be here to help me keep it real.

On Powering Through

On Powering Through

I dropped the ball last night. I challenged myself to write a blog post, once a day for 100 days. Yesterday would have been Day 7- one straight week of blogging and a small milestone I was stoked to reach. But then yesterday happened.

I resigned from my job at 12:20 pm in the afternoon. I felt relieved for the better part of an hour and then reality (aka my manager) set in.  Long story short, on April 24th I will be starting my new position at St. Joseph’s hospital foundation. I can’t wait for this new role and a fresh start.

In the meantime, however, I’m left in a dreary, borderline-toxic situation. But it’s not hopeless because I have a choice. I can either take personal offense to everything said and done against me for 2 more weeks and let the negativity of others infect me. I can get angry and become bitter. I can vent to my friends, husband, and colleagues around the clock about the injustice of it all. Basically, I have the option of letting my feelings run the show and being a self-righteous, miserable brat.

OR I can choose the hard way, the way that, at the end of the day,  I always end up wishing I chose. I can stay and I can power through with grace and dignity. I can keep my head up and a smile on my face. I can vent through prayer and remind myself who is ultimately in control. When others dump on me, I don’t have to take it personally, because 9 times out of 10, it has nothing to do with me. I can choose to keep my head bowed down and keep my focus on doing good work.

So that, my friends is my choice in this situation. I choose to recognize that it is an insanely huge blessing that:

  1. I even have a job to stress about
  2. I have another opportunity lined up and a reason to give my resignation
  3. I have a choice in the matter

Once I change my perspective, I’m able to be grateful for the entire experience, the good and the bad. I can choose to celebrate the life lessons that I learned here. Yes, they were rough– but going through it is the only way to learn it.

Most importantly, I choose to enter into this new opportunity with a renewed focus and sense of purpose knowing that my worth and my value are not, never have been, and never will be tied to a job title or a company.




Chasing The Super-Bloom

Chasing The Super-Bloom

Bri’s birthday is one week from today and we’ve already begun celebrating. On Saturday afternoon, Br’s sister, Kathrine, pulled off a surprise road trip to check out the super bloom that all of SoCal has been Instagramming.


It took 2 hours and an epic oldies playlist to get us to our first stop, which turned out to be a no-go due to an early trail closure. We weren’t too fazed and decided to travel down to Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore. We pulled into the gravel-lined parking spot right as the sunlight was beginning to slowly fade. There were groups of families and photographers roaming around throughout the canyon, everyone on the hunt for a field of flowers to frolic in, or at least pose in front of. We set off, up the steep hill, despite the fact that we both chose the wrong footwear. Arm in arm, Bri and I scaled the hillside, her in ballet flats and me rocking my wedges. I know we must have looked insane to all of the hikers walking past us in their sensible footwear. But, as it has been for the past 20-something years of our lives, we just held on tightly to each other and laughed our way through the stumbles.



We made it to the top, sweaty and completely out of breath, but we were there and the view from the top is a beautiful distraction from the struggle of the climb. We didn’t stay long. Just long enough to high-five our out-of-shape-selves for surviving and to snap some quick pictures.

After we made the journey back down the hill, we headed home for Orange County. Bri and I had dinner with Kathrine and their mom which sent me right back to our childhood. It hasn’t just been Bri that has been there for me these past two decades, it’s her family who took me in as their own, that have made the difference, too. Some of the best childhood memories that I have happened with the Llewellyn family and it was nice to reminisce and share a meal with the people who will forever feel like my second home.

We had a great day chasing the super-bloom and definitely want to go back. If you’ve visited any SoCal spots that are prime super-bloom viewing spots, please share in the comments below! I’d love any tips you may have that will help us plan the next trip we take!


Letters to Noah & Aria: 10 Hopes for the Future 

1. I hope that as parents, your father and I instill in both of you a love of education and books and seeking knowledge. Read everything you can. Don’t limit yourselves to one genre or voice, seek out books written by people from near and far. Fill your head with philosophies and history and science. Question things as much as you need to, but always do the work to get your answers. Education is one of the few things in life that can never be taken away from you.

1. I hope that as parents, your father and I instill in both of you a love of education and books and a thirst for knowledge. Read everything you can. Don’t limit yourselves to one genre or voice, seek out books written by people from near and far. Fill your head with philosophies and history and science. Question things as much as you need to, but always do the work to get your answers. Education is one of the few things in life that can never be taken away from you.

2. I hope that you travel the world. I pray for the opportunities to start your wanderlust at an early age, but if we don’t get the chance to travel as a family, I hope that you use that you to light a fire under your wandering feet. I want you to experience as many different countries and cultures as possible. Take every opportunity to go and do and see!

3. I hope that you seek out your passions. Grow them through constant practice and persevere, especially when it’s hard. Be they music, art, dance, sports… whatever, explore and find out what sets your heart on fire and then chase that. God created you both with innate gifts and talents and you are capable of reaching whatever goal you can dream up. Invest in yourselves and your talents.

4. I hope that you practice bravery daily and always remember, we can do hard things. Never be afraid to speak up when you feel something is unfair, unjust or harmful. We are all deserving of kindness. There is no cause or difference worthy of belittling or bullying others. Doing the right thing is not always the popular thing, but it will always be worth it.

5. I hope that one day you know what it feels like to love another person with all of your heart. Take your time (lots and lots of time!). Don’t rush into matters of the heart. Enjoy your youth and be carefree but when you’re ready, loving someone else faithfully and completely will be one of the greatest gifts of your life.

6. Along those same lines, I hope that you know what it feels like to be loved and cherished by another with all of their heart. When you do fall in love, make sure that person is willing to give the same to you. You are worth the effort. True love is an equal partnership.

7. I pray that your heartbreaks in life be minimal. They will happen, and as much as they can feel so consuming and paralyzing, know that they are part of your story. The hurt will shape you and it will make you a wiser, better person. Sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is allow yourself to be vulnerable and walk through your circumstances with your head held high.

8. I hope that you have a community of friends who will be loyal and encouraging and who will lift you up. Over the course of your life you will hold so many different friendships – some of them good and some of them detrimental. Don’t waste time on anyone who is not good to you. Let the lessons from all of these relationships allow you to build a circle of friends who will always be there to stand with you in the highest and lowest moments of your life.

9.  I hope that no matter what happens to you, no matter the choices you make, or the circumstances you find yourselves in– remember that your father and I are here to care for you and guide you and support you. Even if we disagree with you, don’t ever be afraid to come to us for help. We may not always have the answer or the means, but we’ll be in it together. We are and forever will be a team that no one can tear apart. Our love for you is without limits or conditions and it will always be that way.

10. And lastly, here is the most important hope and prayer of my mama’s heart,  that you never forget that faith in and love for Jesus Christ is all you need. Above the love of a partner, the friendship of your peers, even your family. Let Him be the north star that guides your life. I spent so many years walking through unnecessary darkness and pain because I walked away from my faith. One of my biggest regrets is that you both bore witness to the lows in my walk with Christ. But God, in all of His goodness and wisdom, allowed me to struggle in front of you so that you could have front row seating as He picked me back up and put the pieces of my shattered faith and broken heart back together again. I’ve gotten to share the journey with you both and I pray that it cements Truth and light into your hearts, so that when you stumble in your own walks with the Lord, you can look back and remember all the good work he did and continues to do in your mother.

When I think of your future, my heart can barely contain the hope it holds for you. You may still be small now, but the days are moving fast and I am taking every opportunity to be purposeful and open about my dreams for you both. But these words are just that … my dreams… merely a launching pad for the possibilities of your life. Who will you become? What will you achieve? Only time will reveal those things. I am certain that the very best thing I will ever do in my life has already begun. In whatever you accomplish, you will be my greatest legacy.