Creating Space #1: Your Hierarchy of Needs

The past year I’ve been working at cutting out unnecessariness from my life. You know, those things that say they should be in your life, so you work to fit them in, but you really don’t enjoy them or find they to add anything to your life. Yeah, *those* things. I didn’t dive head-long into my life-purge and cut my days down to nothing, like some sort of fad diet. Instead, I’ve been mindful, contemplative, and intentional with figuring out what goes and what stays. There were times that I was a bit unfeeling in the culling of American mom-life busy work, but generally this has been a very thoughtful process.

I’ve mentioned before that 6 years ago I was in a class that helped me define my life’s values—those abstract ideas that pull my soul into light and move me into life. Adventure landed in my #1 spot, but I’ve taken years to let it live there, seeing light, growing with me and leading me onto a path that I found was single-file width. The path toward honoring our values is narrow for a reason. You can’t fit everyone else’s values next to you on the path. You have to set down the arms full of everyone else’s stuff that you have collected over the years. It was all part of that thoughtful purge to free myself to be myself.

Is any of this resonating with you? Do you feel weighed down by what you think or what you are told you should do? Do you feel sick of it yet? Want to try to let some of that stuff go? Let’s do it. Let’s take a look and see what small steps you can take to free up your life to live your own values.

The term “creating margin” is used quite frequently in today’s blogging and self-help realms. I usually hate any pop culture terms but this one creates a picture in my mind that I love. Imagine that all the space your life can take up is an 8×11” sheet of paper. That’s all you get at any one time. We need to be ultra-picky about what we allow in there. Certainly, we can try to fit on 100 different tiny values/tasks/responsibilities/categories, but then what kind of room are we leaving for the unexpected? What kind of space are we leaving for spontaneity or creative freedom or time zone mix-ups? If we have every bit of space occupied, we aren’t ready when certain categories need more space. Then, we stress when categories overlap or when new categories pop up and need space and there IS NO SPACE. We need margins in that life-space. We need room in between the categories. The margin is where we get to just BE rather than DO.

But how do we create margin? I have some ideas…

So, let’s start with an 8×11 piece of paper. Go get that. Don’t forget a pen. I’ll wait. I use a purple pen almost exclusively. My mom does, too, so does my oldest daughter. It is kind of our thing and I find that I almost instantly trust anyone else I meet who has a purple pen in her purse. Are you back now? Great! Let’s do this!

Look at this cool graphic—Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

hierarchy of needs

This is a great tool and if you haven’t noticed yet, I love a good graphic. On the bottom, you find our essentials, the physiological needs. These are pretty standard for everyone—autonomic responses like breathing and excretion—and biological functions like food and sex and sleep and homeostasis (the ability to come back to “normal” after stress). We usually don’t make space for those things in our lives, as we consider them to be more of a given. Like, they automatically get space; however, moving forward I think that considering those needs is important.

As we move up the pyramid, we find each category builds on the other. We can’t move on to realizing our needs in each level until the needs of the previous level are at least mostly met. That top area is called “self-actualization” which means our needs are met in such a way that we can be free to live as God made us to be. God made me an adventurer, but I couldn’t start realizing that “self-actualization” need until I started to meet the rest of my needs below it.

This is where our sheet of paper comes in. Draw a Maslow’s pyramid for your own life; list HOW each one of your needs are being met in each level. Next to the pyramid list any needs that aren’t being met adequately or at all. Be curious, ask yourself questions, examine your patterns, take your time. Be brave and be HONEST about your needs. I bet if you have some gaps toward the bottom levels, you have some big blanks in the top levels. That’s okay. No one is judging you. This is a tool for you to figure out what gets more space in your 8×11 life. Denying your needs doesn’t make them disappear. So let them take up space.

I’m going to be brave and show you mine:


It isn’t fancy or pretty, but it is pretty accurate. I have a lot of my basic needs met, so I’ve been able to move up to meet other needs…but have a ton of gaps in “esteem” and “self-actualization”. I look down to my see gaps in the bottom three levels. I know I won’t get very far toward reaching my top goals if those gaps don’t get some attention.

THAT is where I start creating margin. I can see from my pyramid that I need more sleep, more water, and skills to manage my anxiety attacks better. I also need peace in my home by making the fixer-upper projects come to an end (good Lord, it has been almost 4 years straight of home repair and dust and tools and odd room configurations). I also feel like I need to make more money in my life. My husband earns more than enough and I work (very) part-time at a domestic violence shelter. I’ve never really been a money-maker as I LOVE the non-profit realm. I’m not lacking money for life, but I do see that I need more for my adventures (distance hiking isn’t cheap and traveling via plane to all the places I MUST see will cost a good chunk change). I think I might be able to make more money doing 2 things I like to think I’m skilled at—writing and speaking. Also, I don’t feel completely connected to my community. I don’t have a church that I love. We have one that we attend irregularly, but I’m just not feeling it. I miss having a church community. I miss being part of that kind of family. It is a need that isn’t being met.

So, let’s start with that and explore more next week. Work on your pyramid this week. Pray, think, meditate, or do whatever you do to process things. Talk to a trusted friend or pastor or counselor or spouse or your mom about your pyramid. They might have some good insight into what they see in your life. Be brutally honest about your needs and if they are being met. I know this might feel like it could hurt someone in your life. That’s okay. Your needs are allowed to take up space. You are allowed to meet your own needs or ask for your needs to be met. Really. You are allowed to take the time and space to do this.

Next week we will have another pen and paper exercise to help us map out our needs and responsibilities AND create margin in between them all. Until then, Brave Hearts, be curious about what your heart and body and mind need. Be brave enough to be honest with yourself and someone else in your world. Be connected with yourself, your real life, your areas or lack and overflow. We can do this!

Feel free to email me at to share your pyramid. How can I support you in this journey? I’m happy to help take a look and help with the process.

Next Post in this series click here!!

Rest isn’t just a nap

My teenaged son and I had a slightly heated argument  discussion last week. You see, he has been very busy this summer–Driver’s Ed and the pressures of driving, first job, second job (he rides his bike several miles each way to this one), his first rock concert (Greta Van Fleet), mowing a neighbor’s lawn, hanging with friends, too. I can see that he is tired. Not only is his 6’3″ body reaching the limits of exhaustion, but his not-so-neurotypical brain is at max capacity. He did not like when I set boundaries requiring rest for him–no friends, no internet, no chores. He wanted to go, go, go (he is MY kid, after all) and being forced to stay home did not make him happy. It was rough.

Lucky for him, I have a fully developed prefrontal cortex (check out this awesome graphic with the super killer, real skull).prefrontal-cortex-3-728 I know limits. I know that I can handle his push back and that tomorrow he will thank me.

I knew that a simple nap wouldn’t cure his crankiness or his general discontent. He needed true rest–to do nothing and let himself be nourished in more ways that just physical.

Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith ( is a physician, mother, speaker and author. In her book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity she explores how we are often exhausted in more ways that just physical and how dangerous pushing ourselves to those limits can be.

She breaks down rest into 7 different types:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Sensory
  • Creative

We need more than just sleep. Sometimes we can get a solid 8 hours and still wake up feeling like we need 8 more. That is a prime indicator that you need rest in one of the other areas.

Consider that you may be sleeping well, and coping with your environment, but you may be lacking a creative space in your world. Perhaps you are overloaded with social activities and need some quiet. Or maybe your soul feels clouded with doubt and you could use some space to connect with God and get your soul clear. Or maybe you can’t remember the last time you laughed.

Rest begins within us, with knowing ourselves. When we know our body, our mind, our soul, our heart, our personality, etc.–everything that makes us tick–we can stay in touch with where in our lives we need to rest. We very well may need a nap…but we may just need some quiet or some art and music or a night out with a good friend or a podcast that provides spiritual direction.

I knew my son was feeling weary from working so much. He wakes early to prepare food before the deli opens and he rides his bike there, too. He naps on work days, giving up his usual music time (playing electric guitar and drums AND listening to both new and favorite bands). I knew he needed to just lay around with his Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones (purchased with funds earned from his job) listening to David Bowie, Rush, Nirvana, and Twenty-One Pilots. I knew he needed to be able to spend time playing his guitar, creating new runs and solos. His rest needs were physical, yes, but they were also creative, mental, and sensory.

I am happy to report that he was so grateful for the forced hiatus from busy, distraction and the inevitable comparison-fest that permeates teenaged hang-out time. He was so engaged after a full day of true rest. The grumpy giant was gone and my mostly pleasant giant man-child was back!

What ways do you feel weary? What areas of rest are calling to you? How do you think you can honor those needs today or this week? Dr. Dalton-Smith created a quiz to help with understanding which areas of rest might benefit you the most. 

Here are some ways that I nurture myself in each of the 7 areas Dr. Dalton-Smith teaches:

  • Physical: walking, hiking, SUP, kayak, regular sleep schedule (that is a hard one as I am a night owl), also laughing
  • Mental: I write…a lot. I also read a ton of books. I also like to attend various subject specific seminars and I’m going to try out attending a social issue focused conversation at a local art house soon!
  • Spiritual: pray, meditate, connect with other Christians, go to the woods
  • Emotional: journaling, praying, crying when I need to, mindfulness, counseling
  • Social: early morning coffee dates with girlfriends, sexting my husband, text chains with my mom and brothers, traveling to visit my family across the country
  • Sensory: going to the woods–occasionally I get overwhelmed by the noise of my large family and need to escape to the woods where silence is only interrupted by my own foot steps; ear plugs–I use them for more than sleeping; also, I LOVE going to the movies by myself. It is weird, I know, but it is so refreshing to me.
  • Creative: pottery, writing, painting–I’m currently working on a mural in my mudroom.

Allowing rest in your world can take a significant amount of bravery. It may mean saying no to new commitments or ending old ones. It may mean setting better boundaries with a spouse, your children, or your employer. Then, you actually have to TAKE the rest. You have to allow yourself to be still or away from the work that is wearing on you. You have be okay with some things in your life not being done.

Be gentle with yourself. Take small steps. Be brave–trying and failing is okay. What are some ways you can rest this week? What sounds the best to you? What ways are you needing rest? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Welcome, Brave Hearts!

I’m done with fear. I’m done with weary. I’m done with being disconnected from myself and my world. My soul just can’t bear it any more.

I bet you are done, too, or the idea of being done sounds pretty fantastic.

It is a great idea, being done. It is almost a fantasy of what life *could* be like. But when you make the choice and drop the weight of fear, what then? What comes after the “done”?

Here, we will work to figure that out together. We will pay attention to that which turns our head and heart, those fears that keep us from moving forward, and we will dig deep to brave interaction with all of those thing, the goals being growing, learning, and connecting with the world around us.

Let’s do it. Let’s do it all. Let’s be curious, brave, go on adventures, let go, learn, connect with ourselves, with God, with our world. We can do this.

Bravery is just a skill and a skill that we can cultivate with compassionate intentionality. 

Bravery sometimes means risk…but it also could mean freedom, peace, knowledge, and connection.

If you feel stuck….

If you are afraid…

If you feel like you need more…

If you feel like an outsider…

If you aren’t naturally social but need to break out of your regular pattern…

If you are VERY social but need to recall your energies and find some calm…

If you just need relief and someone to share your journey with you…

Then I’m glad you are here. Join the email list so that you never miss a post.

Let’s be curious, be brave, and be connected.



The Antidote to Exhaustion

“Here’s to freedom, cheers to art. Here’s to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start.” ― Jason Mraz

My life requires a great deal of organization. Helping my 6 kids navigate the ins-and-outs of regular life is activity enough, but the 6 of them are spread across 4 different schools, plus one a traditional homeschooler. 3 of them have an IEP each, 1 has a 504 Plan, and one has a mental health diagnosis that involved both a heavy mental and physical burden on the child and the family. Between the 6 kids we regularly see a neurologist, a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a dermatologist, 3 different pediatricians, and a disability case manager. I have a slew of spreadsheets, bullet journals, and digital calendars to keep me on top of everyone’s needs.
I’m not a naturally organized person. I invest a lot of energy into my systems. If left to my own devices, I am sure I’d be a happy and carefree sometimes-artist living in a van down by the river.

I work hard to know myself and to create patterns that benefit me and my kids rather than stunt me and damage them. However, delineating my days and weeks by appointments and the needs of others can make me feel like an empty robot. Not a cool robot who feels feelings against all odds or a R2D2 who dances with Ewoks, but a cold, input-output, happiness-does-not-compute robot.

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Feeling like a robot exhausts me, fries my circuit boards, if you will. Not the type of exhaustion you feel after a half-marathon but the type of exhaustion you feel from getting up too early for too many days in a row while managing grief, trauma and a full household. A deep, to-the-bone weariness that isn’t fixed by a nap.

 Have you felt this level of weariness? Do you know the deep ache for rest that can’t be quelled with an afternoon nap or a surprise pedicure? The kind that causes your belly to sour when you hear the too early pound of kid feet in the morning. The kind that makes your head swim when just one more typical kid fight comes on the night you are solo parenting. The kind that keeps you staring in the refrigerator at all those ingredients with zero energy for creatively assembling them into a meal. This level of exhaustion was my constant companion for well over 10 years.
The past few years I have slowly woken to myself. I have realized that weariness, like fear, is no longer welcome in my life. I’ve worked to create boundaries with that weariness, to make myself as important as my children, to recognize the value of who I am in the world apart from what I do. Who I am is great. I want to honor my greatness.
So, after considerable trial and error, I’ve found the cure for my robot funk. Returning to my lovely, fun, connected human form is found through adventure. Now, I realize that this may seem counterintuitive. Why would I go on an adventure when you barely have energy to shower all the way? I certainly couldn’t be asking you to DO more, could I?

No, I’m not. I would never seek to add to your load. In fact, all I will ever ask you to do is LESS. You need nourishment at the soul-deep level. This can only be achieved by doing less and experiencing more.
Adventure is not a task to be added to a to-do list, a means of stressing your already taxed adrenal system, or about adding expensive gear to keep safe and manage on top of all your other household stuffs. Adventure is about resuscitating then rejuvenating your truest self, nourishing your soul and connecting with your body. Adventure is about feeling a youthful glee with God while we embrace the freedom we innately posses.
If your soul longs for the freedom of adventure, for the joy and lightness that comes with discovery, the purpose and fulfilment that results from meaningful connections then this is the place for you. Here we will seek out ways to add adventure to our lives, on our own and with our family. We will figure out what we can say NO to in order to say YES to adventure. We will learn to open our eyes to the adventure in our every day lives but also adjusting our focus out into our community and into the whole world.