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Anti-Racism Work is More Than Just a Marketing Problem

We’ve been a bit quiet over here the past few weeks; not because our passion for radical social change and justice has subsided, but because true and lasting evolution is not going to metabolize, mature, and manifest exclusively behind the keyboard. 

We can scream into the digital void: BLACK LIVES MATTER. We can write post after post about social justice. We can say their names and use the hashtags. But at the end of the day, it’s just social media, a series of one-dimensional, digital declarations on behalf of an entire, living, breathing, complex organization. 

Despite the pitfalls of the digital realm, I do want to say it loud and clear: Here at AMI we are prepared to pivot in whatever way necessary to create a holistically inclusive and equitable organization, team, community, and industry. Anti-racism is more than just a marketing problem. Every nook and cranny needs to be evaluated: our programming, community development efforts, policies and procedures, recruiting, onboarding, ALL OF IT, needs to be thoroughly and regularly examined through a lens of equity and social justice.

If we are going to interrupt white supremacy, we have to interrupt the seemingly benign habits, values, beliefs, and actions that support it. This requires us to actively, humbly, and critically participate in anti-racism work across the spectrum of our nonprofit.  And so, to move beyond declaration and into action, below are the strategies we will be implementing to dismantle white supremacy within our organization and beyond. 

[In April 2019, we signed the Outdoor CEO Pledge. We are using the actions outlined there to frame much of our ongoing commitment.]

Here at AMI, we commit to:

  1. “Hire and support a diverse workforce and executive leadership.”

We commit to providing an intensive, professional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training for our executive team and board to help ensure all decision making is first considered through the lens of equity and social justice 

We commit to sharing team openings with diverse and underrepresented populations within our industry

We commit to evaluating ALL prospective board members and volunteers based upon their outlined commitment and proposed strategies for creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community

  1. “Present representative marketing and advertising in our media.”

We commit to celebrating diversity and changing the standard outdoor narrative on our social feeds, website, blog, educational resources, marketing materials, and throughout our journalism efforts

  1. “Engage and support broadly representative ambassador and athlete teams.”

We commit to assembling ambassador and volunteer teams that represent womxn from diverse races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities, and recreational disciplines,

  1. “Finally, we will share our experiences with other leading brands.”

We commit to sharing our efforts, strategies, and experiences with other brands and organizations to ensure that we’re collectively working to build a more diverse industry and society

In addition, through the remainder of 2020, we independently commit to:

  • Assembling a permanent DEI committee that will guide our efforts and measure our success moving forward
  • Providing a professional DEI training workshop to the greater AMI community to ensure anti-racism education and resources are accessible at a grassroots level 
  • Developing a permanent anti-racism resource section on our education page and a highlight on the AMI Instagram to encourage our digital community to initiate their own anti-racism work
  • Developing meaningful, culturally-informed resources that support and empower moms of color as they navigate maternal wellness and the outdoors 

We believe that brands, organizations, and platforms, including ours, need to be held accountable. Public declarations, black squares, and hashtags need to be substantiated with strategies and action that are measured for effectiveness on an ongoing basis. In sharing this plan, we’re not aiming to evoke gratitude or applause, it’s to create accountability. 

If you have thoughts, feedback, observations, or questions, reach out to us. We will be entirely transparent as we work to create a more equitable, inclusive outdoor industry and will provide updates along the way. 

We love YOU and are committed to doing better FOR YOU.

Prepped in the Woods For Everyday Life

Within the last few weeks, I have experienced emotions related to the pandemic that have caused me to reflect deeply on the different ways I’ve coped with anxiety and fear of what’s to come. What I’ve realized is that, in my opinion, those of us who love the outdoors may feel holistically better if we find ways to return to our routines of spending time in nature. Maybe some would doubt that statement or feel it is far fetched; my intention isn’t to minimize or gaslight, but rather to remind you that you are strong, prepared, and capable. 

A crisis is best defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or fear; it seems fair to say that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are experiencing a time of crisis. When we perceive trouble or threat, as most of us currently are, our nervous system automatically steps up to protect us using something known as fight or flight. The fight or flight response may cause a racing heart, tense muscles, sweating, and many more reactions– all designed to help us fight a threat or to flee it. Children are also amazing at letting us know when they are feeling sad, afraid, or threatened. What looks like defiance, temper tantrums, or shutting down, is often their nervous system’s way of communicating their need for protection and safety. While the fight or flight response is very effective in the short term, prolonged stress, like the current global pandemic, is tough on our bodies. That’s why it’s important to identify strategies to keep us calm.

One way to deal with a crisis is by finding ways to return to your baseline functioning, in other words, getting back to what is closely considered “normal”.  For those of us in the outdoor community, that means getting back to nature. According to research, regularly getting outdoors has the ability to increase endorphins that elevate mood and feelings of joy and happiness. As a therapist who works with adolescents and adults in wilderness and nature settings, I have seen the link of mental health improvements with being out regularly in nature. Some of these improvements include a decrease in negative beliefs about self and others, increase in utilizing coping skills and greater resilience, strength, and grit to overcome problems and crisis (Bowen, Neil & Crisp, 2016).  

You see, as lovers of the outdoors, adventure mamas, community starters,  and leaders, we can easily get emotionally caught up in the fear and the anxiety of the unknown– a normal survival reaction, physiologically. Many of our lives have shifted in ways that may seem unmanageable and that alone, can make us feel like we have no sense of control. 

But I am a firm believer that our prior ability and freedom to play outside, before COVID-19, prepared us in many ways for this time. Regularly playing outdoors provides us with essential assets that we can use in the front country during a crisis. Even on my hardest days, I am reminded that I have tools and skills that allow me to respond, not react, in a time of crisis. Through this time, I have integrated these wilderness tools and skills into my day to day life as much as I can to maintain a sense of normalcy. This is my nervous system’s way of getting back to routine and putting into practice what I’ve absorbed out in nature, what nature has gifted me with all these years.

People often ask me why I love the outdoors and my question in return is always why wouldn’t I? I have seen what nature does for those who experience anxiety, depression, and fear. When we engage with our past experiences and crisis in a natural setting, it better prepares us to lean into the discomfort and unknown of our everyday world. One’s ability to get lost in nature is one’s ability to stand grounded in the chaos of everyday life. 

Our resilience and ability to heal is present and will always be present; especially when we are able to return to our roots deep in nature.


Bowen, D. J., Neill, J. T., & Crisp, S. J. R. (2016). Wilderness adventure therapy effects on the mental health of youth participants doi://doi-

The Other Victims of COVID 19: Solidarity to those in Infertility Treatments

This virus is shit. Nope… wait… it’s the shittiest of shit. Thousands are dying, hundreds of thousands are sick and hospitalized, and millions are without jobs. Parents are also learning how to homeschool their kids whom they never intended to homeschool #workingmomforlife. People who were “just getting by” now have no idea how they’re going to put food on the table. Women, men, and children in abusive households are having to hunker down with their most feared relatives. Mental health is in crisis-mode. Honestly, we won’t even know the extent of the damage from this virus until well after all is said and done. Cue anxiety attack…

The victims of COVID-19 go well beyond the ones who are sick and dying. They include doctors and nurses who will inherently get burnt out from their jobs. They include those who cannot be at a funeral of their loved ones because of social distancing measures. They include people who can’t find homes because they were in the middle of a move, mid-pandemic. The list goes on. One particular subset of victims that are close to my heart are those who are currently undergoing infertility testing and treatments. 

The Other Victims of COVID 19: Solidarity to those in Infertility Treatments [image] Embryo as seen under a microscope

As more and more non-essential procedures are being cancelled due to COVID-19 (rightly so, don’t get me wrong), that means more and more couples are putting off their plans to start or add to their family. I struggled with fertility, myself, for four years and, honestly, still have PTSD from it. Ultimately, my husband and I welcomed a son via IVF (in-vitro fertilization) in 2017 and we have completed our family (we donated our embryos last year for research purposes). Only now, I’m realizing we are one of the lucky ones.

A friend of mine recently reached out to me with some frustrations she knew I would understand. She has struggled with infertility for quite some time and already has children via IVF as well. She has been wanting a third child and just started her last round of IVF this past February in the hopes of officially being pregnant come March.

Then COVID-19 happened and everything stalled.

The Other Victims of COVID 19: Solidarity to those in Infertility Treatments [image] Four-week ultrasound image of IVF baby

So let’s take a quick step back for those of you who might not know what it’s like to get pregnant via IVF.

Here are the basic steps (and when I say basic, I mean BASIC):

  1. Try to get pregnant for at least a year if you’re under 35 (6 months if you’re over 35)
  2. Get diagnosed with infertility
  3. Start testing for causes of infertility (think lots of blood draws, internal ultrasounds, laparoscopies, hysteroscopies, the list goes on)
  4. If you’re “lucky”, you get diagnosed with a particular type of infertility: male infertility (low sperm count, etc.), endometriosis, PCOS, or combinations of everything
  5. Treat your infertility through procedures if you can: laparoscopies to clear out endometrial tissue, get polyps removed, change your diet, etc.
  6. Try to get pregnant naturally after said treatments
  7. If you can’t treat your infertility or if you’re like me and have unexplained infertility, you go straight to ART (artificial reproductive technology) or maybe adoption. If ART, usually you start with an IUI (intrauterine insemination) and end at IVF if everything else fails
  8. Repeat until pregnant (or burnt out, tired, broke, frustrated, depressed, or until your body just can’t take it anymore)

The Other Victims of COVID 19: Solidarity to those in Infertility Treatments [image] Author waiting in hospital bed prior to her egg retrieval procedure.

Meanwhile, infertility testing and treatment aren’t always covered by insurance. So for one round of IVF, you’re looking anywhere from $20,000-$35,000 (when all was said and done, my son cost $29,000) out of pocket. And IVF doesn’t just drain your bank account, it drains your physical and mental health. 

Side Effects of Infertility Treatments

Side effects of the hormones range from bloating, to bruising, to irritability, to severe cramping. Think PMS but times a thousand. Mentally, you’re put through the ringer. Constantly waiting for results from the doctor or from that stick you just peed on. Almost all those struggling with infertility also suffer from some form of depression during the process. Therapy isn’t always covered by insurance either. So then people suffer from anxiety because they’re stressed that they won’t be able to afford enough treatments to get pregnant (many times, it takes multiple rounds of IVF to get pregnant). And then they’re told by loving but naive friends and family that “if you just relax, it’ll happen”. Ugh…  

Bruises on exposed stomach from infertility injections
PC: @klpete18, fellow adventure mama Kari Peterson

So back to my friend I told you about. She had just finished her base testing (pretty standard if it’s been awhile since you’ve been to a reproductive endocrinologist) and ordered all her fertility drugs to begin the process of her embryo transfer (she already had three embryos still frozen from her previous egg retrieval). She was on her third day of hormone injections when the stay-at-home order in her state was issued. All non-essential businesses and medical procedures were put on hold. She was utterly devastated.  

Many of the fertility drugs have a short shelf life. Once their expiration hits, that’s it, they have to be thrown out. And it’s not like she can just return them and get her money back. So that’s thousands of dollars worth of fertility drugs down the drain. So, where is she supposed to go from here? I mean, just imagine you’ve been desperately trying to get pregnant for five years. You’ve done all the tests, the injections, been through therapy, and all of that led to a canceled embryo transfer. You’ve stopped hormones because who knows when your embryo transfer will occur now. That’s $7,000 just gone. And then, what if… just WHAT IF you only had enough money for one try. Your hopes of becoming a parent have literally dried up.

A table covered in fertility drugs for the first round of IVF

Just think about that statement.

Because of one virus, many are left with no options to start or expand their family. The life they had imagined is no longer. I get it, you can’t die from infertility like you can from COVID-19, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t grief over a loss, over a human you almost had.

I’m lucky enough to not know anybody dying from this virus, but I do many who will no longer be parents – something they had so desperately yearned for, for years. And there’s huge mourning in that. So, to all of you struggling with this, I get it. I understand the yearning and the heartache and the heartbreak.

There’s one thing I know for sure, you’ll get through this. The women I’ve known who have struggled with infertility are the strongest fucking women I have ever encountered. So you’ll get through this, I swear. And I’ll be here through it all so reach out if you need anything.

Unfiltered Reflections: Volume II

Welcome to the second week of our Unfiltered Reflections series. If it would be nourishing or cathartic for you to share your thoughts, we warmly invite you to journal alongside us, here. We’ll continue to update this blog post with more unfiltered responses. Take a look at last week’s journal prompt here.

What does building community look and feel like for you during these uncertain times? Share your thoughts with us here. 

April 2, 2020 at 1:12 p.m.

What a thought provoking question!

Honestly my life hasnt changed so much since my daughter was born 21 months ago (I mean it changed since she was born but not since from when she was born to Covid), although I was JUST starting to get out more, starting to see more friends without kids more. I just struggled with getting out with these friends as much since my baby was born as most of my friends are people I mountain bike with and most of my rides now are stuck in random times and mostly alone. So I had made a few great mom friends and unfortunately neglected my non-mom friends. Right before Covid hit I was making more of an effort at these friendships and it felt so great. Obviously that has taken a back burner once again. My three good new mom friends are also all moving in the next 3-6 months as well so……here I am ha!

I laugh because I know life is constantly changing and I have leaned now to roll with it. When I was younger I moved to three different cities completely alone and then moved to be with my now husband so I know how to build a community for myself. It’s HARD and takes lots of time but it is always worth it.

During Covid, Honestly not that much has changed for me except for not seeing my mom friends and getting that respite from playing with a toddler for 12 hours straight. I am an introvert and even I will say it’s getting challenging.

My husband and I are taking social distancing seriously especially now that he has to start going into work. It was SOOO nice having him home for two weeks.

We zoom more and text, call people more, other than that I really have no ideas and just keep telling myself this IS temporary and it WILL get better.

I have noticed though that even though when we’re out walking and biking that even though we have to stay far from people, that at least now we all hand something to connect with, people say hi, I crack a joke and we smile. Before I feel like people just go their way and don’t acknowledge others.

I can’t wait to hear your ideas though, I may have to try some!!


April 2, 2020 at 1:12 p.m.

We collectively all need to be APART of society by distancing.

We’ve been following the rules in Puerto Rico except for the my occasional solo sneak in the sand at the beach, but I’ve even stopped doing that.  I realize I’m in a rural beach town where I know I will never see a soul but when I’m trying to make a positive impact on my community virus or not, me not taking every single guideline of the quarantine seriously is a disrespect to everyone in my town.

Allowing this to flow into the journal prompt of community I feel more connected to all of my communities/people oddly more than ever.

There are so many emotions we all go through on any given day and sometimes those emotions make us feel alone.  But there’s not many times you can be so connected to everyone all over the world by sharing the same fear and experiencing the same crisis.

We’ve never been more together as a collective even though we’re all social distancing.  I love what AMI is doing and taking advantage of letting people speak freely and connect during this challenging time- it’s beautiful.  My favorite yoga teacher is even offering online classes via zoom which is a great reminder if we focus more on what we can offer from the comfort of our homes to better the world, it makes this experience more positive.  Even if bettering the world means while we’re all stuck at home, taking the opportunity to educate our children more about different countries and cultures, which then can connect us even more globally.

I’ve still been enjoying lots of FaceTime, gardening and making massive messes with my children 🙂 Our next door neighbor continues to come over to help with my kids as my husband is gratefully working.  Even with all of my other neighbors, I feel more connected through our distance.  We’re all in this together.

My attitude is still more or less “it is what it is” and I’m just taking moment my moment and embracing the slow down.  I’ve even challenged myself to walk slower, cook slower and virtually all of my movement has slowed down.  Even my yoga has been slow lately.  There’s no need to be in a hurry, just enjoy life and every moment, even the shitty ones.

Sending love to you all, keep doing your best,


April 2, 2020 at 8:40 a.m.

Community building looks like Zoom calls and Marco Polo messages. In many ways, I am in GREATER contact with friends and family than I have been in YEARS because the busyness of Mom Life and Work Life and School LIfe and Sporting LIfe (and Travel/Adventure Life!) has been stripped away from us all. I had a 2+ HOURS long FaceTime call with my older brother over the weekend, and it was fucking awesome! I haven’t gotten more than a short text or two here or there from him in MONTHS. I got to see my niece and nephew and sister-in-law and it felt like a visit. It was great.

As a natural introvert that finds much satisfaction in a quiet home life, this experience has not altered my life a crazy amount other than making everything feel the same, but different. There is a heaviness infused into the day because of the news, the effects on our communities and loved ones, and the feeling of captivity veiling our days. Many people are distancing themselves from social media because of the anxiety it produces; however, that too is pushing us to connect directly with the people that give us the most joy, understanding, and hope for our days.

I think the biggest challenge for me is maintaining or growing relationships that aren’t thriving or being picked up via virtual means. For example, I have a couple of local mom friends that I have not known for a long time (less than 2 years), and developing those relationships via texts or other virtual means is slow, much like what Heidi described in her experience. It’s like the reset button was hit for some of these relationships and there will be some work to do to recover once we are all released into the wild again. 😀

I know this, though, we are all doing our best with what we have during a very wonky and strange time for which none of us are prepared (well, maybe some of us have more toilet paper than others). I hope you all are giving yourselves plenty of grace as we figure out a new normal during this season.

This is temporary.
We can do hard things.
You all are doing a good job.

Peace, love, and consensual ass grabs,


March 31, 2020 at 9:46 a.m.

Building community has, for a long time, been virtual for me anyway so these “stay-at-home” orders haven’t changed that too much. I wouldn’t know all of you, my AMI family, if it wasn’t for social media and Zoom conference calls ?. Especially since moving away from Colorado just a few short weeks ago (a week and a half to be exact), I’ve been texting and FaceTiming so many friends from there, which would be the same even if it wasn’t for this virus. But part of the benefits of moving closer to where I grew up, I was looking forward to rekindling friendships with a community I had LONG before kids or husbands or degrees or careers and all that has gone up in smoke for the forseeable future. And that has really saddened me. FaceTime and Skype and Zoom just isn’t quite the same as big bear hugs from a friend you’ve known for 30 years but haven’t seen in over a year.

I read a great article about how what I’m feeling right now is grief (you can see the article here) and I couldn’t agree more with it. I’m grieving for a community that looks different/has changed drastically than the one I had envisioned (and being a Type A personality, this has been a huge hit to my mental health!). But community for me, also looks like something I haven’t really seen yet. People who are able to sacrifice just a little bit of their own happiness to create a space that is as safe and healthy as possible for those who are most at risk for this virus. People who are willing to stay home (meaning, stay within walking distance of their home) and not interact with anyone outside of who they are living with. The 6′ “rule” that so many people are abiding by is just physical distancing (and when you’re in the grocery store or pharmacy, you should abide by this). But I see so many people using this as justification that they can still get together with their bestie that lives across town or their aunt that they haven’t seen in a few weeks because “don’t worry, we’re staying 6′ apart”. This 6′ rule isn’t social distancing. Social distancing means limiting your interactions to only essential interactions (like going to the grocery store or pharmacy and being around the clerks, etc.) and not meeting up with friends for a beer in your respective car trunks and staying 6′ apart.

I am someone who most definitely needs human interaction and the outdoors – I’d say it’s “essential” to my way of life. I’d give anything to be able to go for a hike with a friend of mine (but also stay 6′ apart) right now, but I’m also trying to think of my elderly parents and my friends with respiratory issues by not seeing anybody outside of who I’m currently living with. It infuriates me that people aren’t doing the same because they don’t understand the definition of social distancing. I’m putting everything on hold – outdoor adventures, house hunting, dates with my husband for our 11th wedding anniversary, job interviews and yet I STILL see so many people meeting up but staying 6′ apart.

So community, to me, feels broken. I know I’m supposed to say that community has helped me see the positivity in all of this and they’re the ones getting me through the days, but it’s not true. I’m frustrated with community. I’m frustrated seeing so many people blatantly putting my dad at risk who is elderly (although he’d say he has the heart of a toddler) and has underlying conditions – this virus would be a death sentence for him. So I’m not sure where to go from here and how the community will change. Will it take one of them getting sick? Will it take one of their loved ones dying from the virus? Will it take seeing the exponentially growing numbers of cases in the US for them to realize the best thing we can do is stay home and not interact with anyone we don’t absolutely HAVE to? I dunno… so I’m struggling to find community right now. I’m angry. I’m incredibly disheartened and disappointed. I guess that only puts me at the second stage of grief, right? I’m hoping I (and my family and friends) will get through this somewhat unscathed, but it’ll only happen if community comes together and does what’s right for everyone. Until then… I’ll keep hoping.


March 31, 2020, 8:46 a.m.

This ones a hard one for me. I feel this illness has caused me to start over in building my community in a way. It’s like when you’re at the beginning of a relationship and you’re wondering if the other person likes you.

– went for a 6 ft Mama walk with my neighbors. It was an intense power walk and I was without the kids for a bit.
– weekly Skype calls with my sisters who are across the country.
– playing games with the  hubs and two other couples via Zoom/Skype/Messenger
– kids made cute signs to hang in the window
– we’ve been saying hi and chatting to a lot of people walking in the neighborhood.

This is the time of year we usually start BBQing with our neighbors for family dinners and I’m really missing that. I need to find a way to get some of that feeling back.

I also have a goal to do a 6ft hike with some of my friends from in the city. Maybe hit up one of those urban trails. We’ve been discovering a lot of urban wild these past weeks

Hope you are all well. Peace!


Unfiltered Reflections: Volume 1

These are the real, unfiltered, unedited thoughts of women around the country as they navigate the heartache, stress, uncertainty, and change associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

If it would be nourishing or cathartic for you to share your thoughts, we warmly invite you to journal alongside us, here. We’ll continue to update this blog post with more unfiltered responses. Our next journal prompt will be coming soon!

March 16, 2020, 8:27 p.m.

Hey Gals,
First off: how is everyone doing…how are your hearts? As COVID-19 establishes itself more firmly and actively into reality, it’s difficult not to become consumed with preparation… and worry.  I think we can all agree that a degree of stress and adrenaline is natural– it kicks us into gear and helps us prepare as best as possible.  But, idling in a vortex of anxiety isn’t productive… or good for our immune systems, which is really the important factor at this point. Right, I know, easier said than done. But, I think it would be good to hold each other accountable to taking care of ourselves, holistically, during this time. I’d love to hear one strategy that you’re currently employing to keep stress at a productive level.

For me personally, the news/media itself doesn’t trigger too much anxiety, but seeing OTHER PEOPLE’S responses to the news/media sometimes does, so I’m seriously limiting my social media time and choosing to mute accounts that aren’t productive, thoughtfully informative, or bringing my vibes up. (To clarify, that’s not to say stress or venting isn’t a totally reasonable, justified action! I just don’t have the extra emotional bandwidth to absorb any one else’s stress, so I’m bypassing it.) I’m also using this opportunity cooped up at home to minimize my pant wearing and hair washing as I smoosh small, sticky humans; and that brings me quite a bit of joy as well. So there you have it, that’s TWO from me. <carefully places TWO gold stars side by side on her chest>.

Your turn…

Now let’s hunker down and kick this virus in the metaphorical ass.

Sending out highly sanitized fist bumps!
Justine N

March 16, 2020, 8:49 p.m.

Hi all!

We are pretty stressed about the whole not sure if we will have income, but pretty sure we will still have a mortgage and health insurance to pay.

The boys and I have had a very untimely severe colds the past 2.5 weeks, with similar symptoms of covid, so that has been nerve wracking to say the least (we’ve been to urgent care 3 times and no one has wanted to test us, so I guess we are ok?!)

Bah I’m rambling! (Did I mention I fractured a bone in my foot?!?!? Ahhhh)

Strategy – weighted blanket. I can’t sleep without it now.

Virtual hugs to everyone!

Stressed and lonely in KC,
Sarah B

March 16, 10:30 p.m.

Well on a logistical level we are fine. Husband works from home most days anyway and we already homeschool so life on the checklist seems Usual. Headspace: my agoraphobia came back swinging and to be honest having an anxiety attack to check my mail makes me feel like it’s 1000x steps back from where this journey after PPD started. I agree with you Justine it’s not the news, it’s people’s reactions that are getting the best do me. It hurts my soul to see some of these reactions.
Ways I’m coping? Communication. Sharing these fears out loud, having a strong group of friends I can truly talk to here. Moving my body, alternating nostril breathing and finding a little joy in the mundane things of life like catching my three year old telling himself he loves himself on video or in the mirror.

Sarah- I am so sorry to hear you and your boys are sick. Please let us know if there is anyway we can help even if it’s from across state lines. I can order a mean take out or grocery order ?.

Anyway I appreciate you  taking the time to check in on us as well.

Leslie K

March 16, 11:08 p.m.

We’re doing ok here in Utah. We were on vacation for four days. We came home yesterday and I went to the store for the first time in a week today and shelves were empty. Cue all the anxiety. Not to mention I’ll probably be laid off indefinitely. But we’ll be ok. Husband has a flexible job that will accommodate him working from home. I’ve got schedules laid out for the kiddos homeschooling these next few weeks and we have toilet paper. Grateful for all the things. This is affecting everyone, in very different ways. Overall I feel a sadness right now. For all of earth.

Two things to cope:

1. I was literally just now deleting the Facebook app off my phone. I don’t have the mind space for it right now.

2. I meditate daily. Sometimes twice a day. I need that time to re- center and frankly just calm the fuck down. It’s my secret weapon and keeps me sane.

Sarah, sending you love and all the healing vibes so you guys can feel better.

Love you all.

Kristi F

March 16, 11:37

I’m doing fine personally, just doing a lot of catch up at home that I haven’t gotten the chance to. I still get to drive out to the Wildy for my clients, but parent visits have been at a stop which is difficult for parents who have kids in treatment. So doing a lot of calls with parents that are super anxious during this time. Our clients are probably the safest since they are out in the wilderness lol. I do the rest of my work at home anyways so isn’t bad being home.

My self care is def limiting social media but also I’m trying to get my practice fully up and running so I can offer teletherapy to some families or individuals that need it right now. Doing some meditation and reading. I’m also watching me some Hulu and amazon prime! That’s been Glorious:)
Sarah, I hope you guys get and feel better soon! Sorry to hear that!


March 17, 6:26 a.m.

Hi Ladies!

We’re ok. Elliot can work from home -though with the rambunctious level these past days I’m not sure how much he’s able to get done.

We were half homeschooling already. So that transition has been OK. But I do wish I’d gotten to go to parent teacher conferences yesterday so that I could attack that from a more comfortable level.

I’m finding lack of space in my home to be a challenge. And honestly I really miss my alone time. Like unless I plan to get up at 4 am that sh*t won’t happen for a month. I also seriously underestimated how much chocolate ? and desserts ? I need for a month.

-I’ve been making progress on illustrations for a child’s book about the smells of nature
-the kids homeschool schedule looks a lot like “hike, hike and hike”
-I’m using the dedicated time at home to teach things I can’t when the kids are in school (laundry, starting fires, whittling, scrambling eggs)
-banned myself from FB and insta
-started journaling more
-whenever I feel the urge to look at Facebook I’ve been practicing Double Trouble from HP on the piano. After 30 days I’m going to be fucking awesome.
-I’m going to teach myself how to cook vegetarian main dishes- cheap and I think dried beans store forever right?

I’m happy to help blog if we need that. I’ll even take photos this time ha! Now if my kids would wait until after 7 am to ask when I’m starting school that would be fantastic. This girl needs coffee first.

Peace and Chicken Grease
-Heidi S

Also eat lots of chicken broth. That’s some grade A immunity booster right there!
Also- I’m obviously low on socializing because thats a lot of e-mail.

March 17, 2020, 7:04 a.m.

Hey mamas,

Can I just say how inspirational reading all of these emails was?! Like you mamas gave me some amazing ideas on self care and all that Jazz.

We’re okay over here- scared? Yeah. Anxious? Yeah. But also using this time to kind of just be? Also yeah.
We made a homeschool schedule- but I’m hella type b and we already aren’t sticking to it? bit we are happy and still learning (in theory) haha.

I’m thankful we (the hubs and I) are in a place where we both get to be home- sometimes- except when the hubs drives me nuts and I’m like- don’t you have somewhere to be?! Lol- I’m kidding (mostly).
We are farmers to Mike works remotely (like by himself) all the time so that’s good. Not amazing that the market is in shamlbles but hey, we will make it work.

I’ve been focusing on adaptability and being kinder to myself for perceived shortcomings (ie: it’s 9:00 am and my kids aren’t up yet because they were up hella late because we had a very intense game night last night haha).

If anyone wants to chat- I’m here.

Love ya ladies.

Alex M-H

March 17, 7:33 a.m.

It’s so wonderful hearing from all of you. Just as many of you already said, if there’s anything I can do to help anyone, please let me know how.

Because I live in a small town and I’m generally not on social media, I’m doing my best to live in a bubble the best I can and avoid as much panic as possible. Of course, I’m still googling “coronavirus” every other hour, just to see what kind of updates there are. We didn’t leave from Friday – Monday due to a 24 hour non-c-word sickness that passed throughout the entire house. Everyone is on the mend now, so hopefully it stays that way. I work remotely and my husband is a teacher, so we’re managing mostly like it’s a reallllllllllllly long spring break.

I’m trying to find the beauty in all the madness, even though it’s hard. Using this time to connect with my immediate family, keep up on emails and texts from friends, clean my house (whatttt), and just generally moving a little slower. I also want to figure out how I can support the smaller businesses, like ordering takeout from the couple of small restaurants we have in town.

Unlike all of you amazing mamas, I am not good homeschooling or long-term entertainment with my kids. After painting 2,128 pictures, making 927 play doh sculptures, and coloring 92 pages, I’m running out of ideas. It’s probably time I start researching ways to keep my small creatures happy while they’re inside. The weather is starting to warm up though, so I think we’ll be able to get more outside time. Hooray for that!

Much love to you all!! XOXO
Stephanie F

March 17, 10:31 am

This thread has been such a light in this dark time. Thank you all for your vulnerability, honesty, and optimism. I completely agree that other people’s response is what is really damaging my state of mind – specifically people who are acting as if this isn’t their problem and they can continue living their lives normally. This is a time for us to come together and take action for our neighbors and communities.

Never in my life has my privilege felt more apparent. My husband has a stable job and is working from home and my best friend moved in to help us with childcare. I own a travel company, so that has come to a screeching halt and I’m certainly concerned about the future, but my current needs are met. As with most cities, everything in Denver is shut-down: schools, restaurants, bars, museums, libraries, etc.
One thing I have noticed is my 3yo has become more sensitive, which makes me aware that my anxiety is affecting him. I am working diligently to control my anxiety by getting off Facebook and only checking the news 2-3 times a day, meditating 2-3 times daily, exercising/moving daily, and trying to find a schedule (I showered, curled my hair and put on lipstick today, just because!). Here are a couple of my favorite resources for anyone interested in mindfulness and meditation:
1) I know there are a ton of guided meditations out there and it can be hard to choose the right one. I see a mindfulness coach weekly and find her guided meditations to be perfect for my needs:
2) At naptime, I let my son choose a meditation from the Insight Timer. Now, it’s something he looks forward to, and it allows us to connect (and me to take a midday chill pill).

As far as AMI content, I would love to see the space be reserved for positivity and a celebration of all the amazing people in the world. So many sites have taken the role as information disseminators, so I have found few places to take my mind off of the situation. I think it is possible to offer support without necessarily telling people how to handle the situation, because truth be told, none of us know what we’re doing. As good intentioned those posts about ‘how the create a schedule’ and ‘how to keep your child engaged’ may be, they often make me feel like I’m not doing enough (perhaps a personal trigger I should address vs. a general issue for the public?). I feel like a reminder that the world still exists and there is still so much good out there could be good for the soul.

Breanne K

March 17, 4:27 p.m.

Oh my heart is with all of you. These are uncertain times and the economic stress is so real. My husband will be home starting tomorrow. I am not certain if he will be paid or not — they closed the Y where he is the Wellness Director until April 6th (a soft date, it may extend). I only work part-time at a local church, which is closed for services and hosting any events, but the office is open. It’s a confusing time that is ever-changing as we all figure out how to do what’s best for our families, co-workers, and communities.

Here is a list of things that I love that I am leaning into hard as my family transitions into full-on social distancing:
— low expectations for continuity of academics. I have a 1st grader and a 4 year old, and I’m keen on letting them be free to entertain themselves and follow their own curiosity. No color-coded schedules for me — I can’t handle that kind of pressure.
— romance novels. No joke. Hot and steamy escapism. No shame in my game and I think the hubs ain’t complaining either 😀
— action adventure movies with good looking people. Frivolous, unbelievable, fun, and full of explosives.
— trashy reality TV like Love Is Blind on Netflix. I’m so busy cringing that I can’t think of the outside world. HA!
— working out. Today was my last workout at the Y, and let me tell you my anxiety has helped me fucking CRUSH some of my workouts lately. Slamming heavy things and moving my body are a balm. I know my routine is about to get fucked up a bit, but I’m going to make a point of continuing my slam sessions at home.
— video calls with friends near and far. Seeing the faces of good friends, sharing our experiences, and laughing together is LIFE
— group text threads where we share all the memes
— calling my family that doesn’t live nearby
— planning that trip for when we are released from social distancing

That’s what’s helping me. And if you really need a good laugh and some good writing, please, for the love of God, go on this journey of embarrassment in this Twitter thread:

You all are amazing and strong. These are uneasy times. Please, stay well, be brave, and be kind. We can do hard things — TOGETHER.
Sarah G.

March 17, 10:12 p.m.

I love this email chain. I am feeling the highs and lows like a roller coaster so getting helpful ideas from all of you has been so lovely.

A few things….

I’m terrified. We were set to open a new bouldering gym in Atlanta May 1st. This gym is literally all of our money (big loans) and dreams wrapped up in one space. I’m a teacher so there’s income, but the implications of what’s to come are weighing so heavy.

I’m grateful….I have actually wanted to homeschool for a while, but starting a small business meant I had to work. Now I get to spend my days teaching my own kids and not living the rat race for a bit. I made scavenger hunts, painted, and watched documentaries all in one day. It was magical.

I’m weary ….the impact this is having on people I know and love in all of the ways keeps me up at night. I don’t do well with the unknown and neither do my kids. Anxiety below the surface of even a magical day is taxing.

I think about my youngest (he’s 5) and I try to see what he sees….extra snuggles, his mom attempting to teach him how to play the piano, and basically being outside all day….it’s all fun and games right now and I hope I can keep up the joyful pieces of this.

How to do that?

Watching nonstop Schitts Creek when the kids go to bed.

Going outside, even if to just walk up and down the street, as much as possible.

The Marco Polo app and seeing my friends faces on the regular.

Technology- honestly trying to provide some adequate level of virtual learning seems like normalcy and that helps.

Coffee and yoga.

Big hugs friends.
Jana B

March 18, 3:19 a.m.

I’ve immensely enjoyed reading every single one of your stories.  Each of you put a smile on my face during a time I’m truly still trying to process.  I send an abundance of love to each of you and AMI as a whole??

I have to admit with no TV, not going on social media often and not keeping up with the current news; on Sunday here in Puerto Rico ?? when we were told we have to stay home until the end of the month, I was totally flabbergasted.  We still have at least 20+ earthquakes daily, people are still displaced from their homes- that’s what I’ve been following daily, not a virus.

So now I’m shifting my mindset quickly.  Nothing is open here except medical, gas/groceries. People are being fined for going to the beach or being outside.  Police are legit chasing people down.  Businesses are being fined if opened. We’re on total lockdown until the 31st.

Even in our gated community the pool is closed (homeschooling mama’s sanity place).
My husband’s cannabis company can be open during the crisis, so he’s working nonstop which I’m of course grateful for but I do wish he was at home to help with our 2 & 3 year old!
And a boohoo moment (Sarah I feel you!!) I twisted my ankle being super mom 14 days ago and I downplayed it at first.  I didn’t visit a doctor due to the slow, unorganized medical care system here. It’s still very painful and swollen (RICE baby). I love yoga, surfing and running so not being able to do the activities that bring me peace and joy has been difficult.  Every time I find myself focusing on the downside of not doing my normal movement, I give gratitude to my body despite how uncomfortable it’s feeling.

Also, I need to learn to buy travel insurance (hint hint all you mamas ?). We have a trip abroad planned next month and even the hotel room is nonrefundable?? It’s for our kids’ birthdays. I try to focus on the present but it’s hard not to be curious about upcoming travels.

Oddly with all that being said I still feel calm and fine.  I’m more or less just in “whatever mode” and going with the flow.  Having zero expectations with this entire situation, myself or my kids has been a helpful mindset.

What’s keeping me in check:
Zero news/virus updates
Zero social media
***Spring cleaning EVERYTHING.*****
A sitter for my kids (she comes 3 hours at a time)
Dancing/loud music/singing
Yoga (modified ?)
Mini-walks with the kids
Painting galore
Sneaking to the beach
Homemade breads
Gardening with the family
Learning a new language
Science experiments with the kids

Netflix and homemade popcorn ?

The best thing we can all do during this time is focus on gratitude.  From spending extra time with our family to finding appreciation in the smalls things in life we took for granted prior to this virus.

It’s good time to reflect on ourselves and our families and realize life isn’t so bad in any situation we’re in- it’s all about our attitude.

The shelves were empty last week at our local grocery store. Wish me luck, I’ll be there at 6am when they open in hopes of Lysol, bleach maybe even strawberries if we’re lucky 🙂

Take care all you sweet women?

Much love,
Brooke M

March 18, 7:47 a.m.

Hello beautiful souls!
Well done making it through another day! I feel like we need to make etch marks on the wall with each passing day ?
I have a lot of feels right now… On the lighter side, I find it ironic that during our first year *not* homeschooling, my kids are sent back home ???‍♀️ So, that’s a pretty seamless rhythm for us to fall back into. The weather in MN is less than ideal in March but we are making the most of it anyways with lots of time freezing our hands off outside hiking/biking/playing basketball and reveling in the sun when it shows up. Also, my March running streak has never been so consistent. Thank you social distancing/forced closures/and family stress for pushing me out the door every day ??

What if find helpful, albeit necessary, during this time:

Making delicious meals
Reading with my kids
LOTS of cuddles
Listening to the Popcast while I run (mindless and hilarious entertainment)
Making sleep a priority
Letting myself feel all the feels
Marco Polo with friends
Limiting news/social media
More running…

Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without running.

Before the pandemic hit hard here in the Midwest, I had been swimming in personal/familial upheaval so honestly, this is a nice distraction. Shit be A LOT right now. Like, a LOT.

Keep yourselves centered mamas. Don’t let the shit storms pull you away from yourself and your needs. Yes, your family probably needs more from you right now, but so do you. So take the time you need to care for yourself, even if that means extra screen time and pbjs (again) for the kids ??

You’ve got this. WE’VE got this.

So much love to you all ?

Emily C


March 18, 2020, 9:47 a.m.

Hello from Alaska!

This thread has been a lovely way to start my morning.

Things worrying me… We were supposed to start our move to Seattle in 6 weeks for my husband’s job (he’s in the Coast Guard). That is most likely delayed but we have no idea how long. Or how long it’ll take for our stuff to show up/get delivered. We have renters moving into our house end of May so we might be without a home for a while. Fingers crossed it all works out.

Luckily, my husband’s job is secure, we have plenty of food and other supplies, the weather has been beautiful, and my kids are totally into Mommy School. And I’m very thankful we live in a place where it’s so easy to get in nature and rarely see another person.

I am a big time planner so I’m having a difficult time dealing with this uncertainty. Somethings I’m doing to help:
Take things one week at a time and try not to think about our move
Get outside as much as possible
Make a daily schedule
Chat with friends/family often
Binge watching Parks & Recs
Reading books before bed instead of my phone

Still having a hard time figuring how to squeeze in a workout.

Thank you all for sharing! ❤

Andrea H

March 20, 2020, 1:37 p.m.


I’m just now responding to this as my emotional and mental self has been running at full capacity for the last five days.
We flew home from my brother’s wedding on Sunday through DFW — which we later learned had confirmed cases of COVID-19 that had passed through that airport and had been on the airline we were flying. Cue total panic on Sunday night when we got home wondering if we’d been exposed. (It also didn’t help that we’d been at a wedding with 150+ people…)

I hit up three grocery stores on Monday (we’d been out of town for almost a week, so we were slow to the draw on stocking up). Monday night I started to relax and accept that we would be self-quarantining just in case we were carriers. I was also seriously counting my blessings that my husband still had a job and was just working from home.

On Wednesday we get hit with a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in SLC.

I am a midwestern-raised person who has never in my wildest dreams experienced something like that. I will never forget the feeling of sprinting to wake up my kid, while our entire home was shaking and things were falling off the walls, to run and hide under our table. There were 165 aftershocks throughout the day on Wednesday (we probably felt about 15 of those), and I had a pit in my stomach for two days straight. At one point I was sitting on my kitchen floor, hands in my face, trying to calm myself down from physically shaking after a pretty gnarly aftershock.

It’s now Friday and I feel like I’m finally picking up pieces of my brain and putting them back together. Or at least attempting to. A week ago feels like a month ago. Life is happening at lightning speed while simultaneously dragging by. I’ve been stretched in ways as a person and a mom and a wife that I didn’t know possible — all within 7 days.

I’m thankful for Facetime and family and the french cafe playlist on spotify that as made my home feel like I’m in a cafe in Paris sipping espresso.

Definitely making a stiff old fashioned cocktail tonight. Sending massive bear hugs to you all.

Michelle H


March 27, 12:40pm
Things here in WA are crazy. Basically everything but grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies are shut down. Restaurants are take-out only, and the fanciest restaurant in Seattle is serving burgers and fries through a make-shift take out window. Everyone in my home, except me works for REI so they have all been sent home for at least the next 2 weeks, maybe more. I’m thankful for a company that values their employees so much.
My biggest stress factor is that my 64 year old dad lives with us, and friends in the medical profession say I should separate him from my 4 year old, but that seems too heavy. I need to maintain some sense of normalcy in all of this. On the bright side, the weather has been pretty good and nature is never shut down, so that’s where we’ll be 80 % of the time. Lots of walks and bike rides. The other 20 % I’m just enjoying getting things done that I keep putting off, like finally getting the youngest on a schedule and getting the yard ready for a garden.
I am always thankful for this community for adding a bright spot to each day, and now more than ever. Love you all, and if any one needs any additional support please reach out. We are truly in this together?
RyAnn P.

March 27, 12:47pm
My biggest issue has been seeing a lot of the younger generation thinking this won’t affect them (which perhaps it won’t) but my frustrations have gotten the best of me many times this week and I’ve lashed out when I probably shouldn’t have. I was worried about moving before this pandemic, but my high anxiety nature has made this process a lot worse. And as you all know, I planned every last detail to our roadtrip across the country which has now all gone out the window and I’m trying to “go with the flow”…. not exactly my forte.
With that said, the biggest things that have helped through this time is binge-watching my fav tv show of all time (Parks and Recreation) because it provides the humor I need. I also have been eating CBD chocolate because, well… it works and helps tremendously with my nerves.
We start our trip across the states tomorrow and I’m, of course, thinking the worst… sleeping in cars because hotels shut down, eating PB&J sandwiches because no more takeout, etc. So I’m preparing for all of this hoping that it won’t come to it. I’ll feel much better once we make it across the country.
Love to you all!
Sarah L

Words From Our Community

March 23, 3:48 a.m.

Here in VA everyone has gone full on panic mode emptying everything off the shelves like tp, cooking oil, chicken. I’ve been trying to see the humor in all of it…just picturing people panicking like “god damn it Martha go to Giant and buy every bag of carrot you can find. Corona is coming!”

But I love carrots too, so then I get sad again when I can’t find any.

When humor doesn’t work…I try to recenter myself from the cluster fuckery all around me, by packing the kids up for day hikes but a lot of the local trails/parks are being shut down because the same carrot stealing asshats are swarming the parks and not practicing social distancing (let alone leave no trace etiquette).

Bike riding has been a blessing and fun for urban exploring. Since businesses and schools are shutting up shop there’s some cool apocalyptic looking parking lots that are empty, tranquil, and perfect for bike riding with littles. It’s not the usual but it keeps us active, socially distance, and most importantly keeps mama from raging.

Stay safe and sane!


March 23, 1:38 p.m.

We are all looking for something Greater to stand on… someplace of security… a place of safety where the fear of what could be is Sheltered. In the midst of this, I have continually reminded my heart of this truth,

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Becka Creger

March 24, 1:10 p.m.

I’ve been on a pretty good rollercoaster with all of this. I’ve been finding some happiness in getting back to family life…crafts, homemade food, and picnics (seriously, like parking somewhere and just walking into the national forest woods to avoid all the trailheads that are packed with out of towners). It feels right, and like something I was needing in my life this winter. It feels good to just be.

However, like some of you other moms mentioned as well, I’m a planner and the uncertainty of what’s happening is keeping me from finding joy in pulling out the calendar and filling it with trips. I’ve also found it hard to not have my sport, something to really get some adrenaline going and come home feeling better. I think I actually might start running again for some help with this.

Last night I pulled the plug on my social media accounts. All the information out there was seriously flaring my anxiety, and I just kept clicking on links and reading stuff I didn’t need to read. I keep thinking “oh I’ve got the rona”…I’m a little freaked out that the small ski lodge we stayed at has 4 confirmed cases now from while we were there (regretting that buffet now), but it’s also been 14 days today since we were there, so maybe I’m just suuuuper tired from trying to be supermom with activities and meals. I’m toning it down now.

Love to you all,

April 3, 2020, 12:58 a.m.

We vacillate, between fear and peace, passionate productivity and mind numbing scrolling, between laughter, giants, forts, and cloud pictures in the sky and screens, lists, homework and headphones. Connection within the disconnect. But I feel it, like a anchor, a weight on my heart, pulling me backwards. The headlines, death tolls, economic recession, unemployment, COVID-19 marching through every county, closing in, making my heart beat a little faster. An icy grip inside the cavity of my chest as I think about my mother, my newborn, my husband, my kids, laying, alone, in a hospital ward, ventilator humming beside them, dying of COVID-19. And I turn away, eyes of my heart shut. Back to the milky breath and fluttering eyelids of my six week old son. Back to the muffled giggles in the blanket fort and the pile of soggy snow clothes piled by the back door, and I thank God, for this blessing, for this time with them, this time to breath in their childhood a little longer, for the escape from society’s pressure to “do more”, “be more”. To still my heart, I run. I run past the quiet houses, the dark businesses, empty streets. Away. Past the edge of town. To the forest, the lonely winding trail, snow packed now, empty. Peaceful. My feet crunching up the mountain, the breeze lifting my hair and my worries, the sun kissing the lines of worry from my brow. When I return, so does “Mom”, the one who laughs, the patient one, the one who will wash the world away with a game of hide and seek.

Heidi Becksted

Journal With Us

Writing out our experiences, fears, and sanity-strategies was a cathartic, nourishing experience and we’d love to extend a safe space for you to do the same. We warmly invite you  to take a few quiet moments to yourself, pour a cup of tea or glass of wine, and set an intention to be present with your thoughts for a few moments as you journal with us.

We will not be editing or filtering any of your responses. The simple rawness is what makes each and every response so approachable and authentic.

Use the form below if you are okay with us publishing your words and sharing them with the AMI community. Providing your name or social media information is entirely optional so if you’d prefer to submit anonymously, simply leave those fields blank.

Self-Love in Action: Meditation and Journaling for Mental Health

I used to wake up in the mornings and find myself on the toilet scrolling through Instagram.  That’s how I would set my entire day. Sure, Instagram is a beautiful platform for connection, but it has also been detrimental to my mental health. I unintentionally allowed social media to rob me of the present moment. First thing in the morning I should be focusing on myself and what I envision for the day. Not looking at all these “epic pictures” and desiring something more than what is right in front of me. 

Not only was I desiring something that wasn’t me, I found myself obsessing over what my next post would be to ensure I continued to gain followers. At that moment I realized I had no idea who I was, which frankly was depressing. I knew for certain that I wanted to develop a relationship with myself that wasn’t influenced by any outsiders. I randomly woke up one morning and completely removed myself from social media to allow myself to freely explore the concept of self-love.

Self-Love Takes Time

It took 13 months of continuous work to find my authentic self and then fall in love with her. Now the first thing I do in the morning on the way to the toilet is look deep into my eyes in the mirror, and say “I love you” while appreciating the fact that I’m absolutely perfect the way I am.  The pure peace and love that fills my soul is contagiously joyous and I believe every single mother deserves this exact bliss.

Self-Love in Action: Meditation and Journaling for Mental Health (By Brooke for Adventure Mamas) Image: background is a mountain sunset in oranges, foreground is a woman standing sideways with her hand to hear head meditating

I feel that Adventure Mamas Initiative has such a clear focus on advocating maternal wellness though adventures OUTSIDE. But we need to talk more about the day-to-day wellness practices we can do in our homes to enhance our overall mental well-being. To accomplish this, I have dedicated 20 minutes a day to connect with myself. I also acknowledge what areas I desire improvements in my life. The more I have connected with myself, the clearer my needs have become. And the answer hasn’t always been to get outside and let it go.

I want to inspire women to take a stand for their maternal wellness from the luxury of their homes. My transformation has been so pivotal that friends and family have wanted to know my process, so I have begun sharing my mindfulness journey with them. As mothers, so often we focus our positive energy on the ones we love. I want to challenge you to put that same loving energy into yourself. I began meditating and journaling out of a desire of wanting something more out of my life and what I found was the key to my soul. 

Self-Love in Action: Meditation and Journaling for Mental Health (image is a dad and three kids holding hands and meditating on a living room floor)

Meditation doesn’t have to be a rigid practice; the stillness alone is priceless.

As I focus on my breath or a mantra, I allow whatever thoughts to arise and let them pass as they want, just as freely as the ocean tide. I check the clock a million times if I so please, and if I feel like laying down and meditating, I’m going to do it. Sometimes I find myself sitting up in my bedroom, relaxing against the headrest, and meditating before I get up for the day or before bed. Find what works best for you. That even could be in your car on lunch break with meditation music, it will just require a little experimenting. 

Journaling has provided me a safe space to freely write, to help me identify and work through negative behaviors, and it has encouraged me to explore positive self-talk while enhancing my overall mindfulness. I’ve also coped with personal fears, anxiety, and depression via journaling. The only consistency with my journaling practice is that it’s always handwritten. Typing my words doesn’t provide the same healing modality for me. Some days I write purely on gratitude, others on daydreaming, and some days I’m working through difficult situations. The power of connection with yourself through journaling is undeniably magical and there should never be any shame for anyone to openly have a private journal.      

Self-Love in Action: Meditation and Journaling for Mental Health (Image is a woman sitting on a yoga mat in her living room with a candle, journal and dog- meditating)

When trying anything new in life, always give yourself grace. Praise yourself for trying something new and give yourself gratitude for having an open mind. Be OK with allowing the natural ebb and flow of life. At times I find myself going in waves, practicing more and then not as much at other times. I shift my practices to accommodate my continuously evolving life. If I miss a day or even an entire week I will never criticize myself for lack of effort. Instead I try and figure out why I’m straying away from these mindfulness practices. And then get myself back on track. 

Investing time in yourself has great rewards

Reflecting on my past, I realize how devastating my mornings were by choosing to connect with a virtual world instead of myself. On no occasion will that ever be my reality again. I took that 20 minutes of scrolling Instagram in the morning and invested that time into myself. I no longer feel the pressure to try and impress anyone. Now I’m simply showing up for myself and giving gratitude to me. I will never allow a social media platform to become a self-sabotaging tool again. Nor will I let  it define who I am. I can confidently say that knowing I found self-love.

I wholeheartedly believe journaling and meditation can improve the quality of life for all. If I could convince you to consider setting one new intention for yourself, it would be to carve out 20 minutes a day for yourself that’s quiet, uninterrupted, and all about you. Living in such a fast-paced world with our beautiful children continuously running around us, we all deserve some additional peace in our lives from the comfort of our homes. 

The Power of Being Present

The one final practice we need more of in this world is appreciating the mere power of being present. Focusing on presence daily can shift your life immensely and makes gratitude become second-nature. Opportunities exist all around us daily to unconsciously get lost in the present moment. Nature is a perfect place to start. We are fortunate to have nature at our disposal to bring us right back to this exact moment we are gifted. I willingly admit as a mother, my favorite way to bring myself back to the present moment is to simply watch my children. What more could we ask for than a virtually continuous reminder how effortless it can be to be present, something we are all capable of at any age.  

Self-Love in Action: Meditation and Journaling for Mental Health (image is a woman sitting in the surf in a pretzel position with one hand on her heart and the other above her head.)

Don’t forget that the more we all self-love, the more we’re capable of providing pure love to all of those around. This raises the global frequency and makes Planet Earth a happier place for everyone. It all starts with you, which is extraordinarily powerful. 

Healing Outside: Examining Nature’s Therapeutic Benefits for Trauma-Affected Families

When I first became a licensed foster parent, I assumed I would take care of a kid or two, return them to their family, then accept a couple more. I figured this cycle would continue indefinitely, or until my life circumstances changed. Maybe I would move to a different state or my license would expire or my job would require too much overtime or I simply wouldn’t want to do it any longer. However it happened, I saw an end in sight, after I had done what I could to help some local families through a hard time. I did not anticipate my first “placement” (what they call a kid or group of kids when they move into a foster home) becoming permanent. I did not expect to instantly become a mom of three. 

When my life changed quickly, I immediately searched for an outlet. I needed something I could do with my kids that was cheap, accessible, and would allow us to release our confusing emotions. Hiking met each of these requirements, plus it was right on the other side of our door. We started small: paved paths in our local parks, long bridges, strolls around the neighborhood, walks through the zoo. I either wore my youngest and pushed my middle in a stroller while my oldest complained about walking, or I brought our double stroller. Slowly, our mileage increased and we sought more difficult trails, more interesting trails, longer trails, trails which were further away, and trails we heard other people talking about. Hiking became a way to challenge ourselves, to build confidence, to connect with each other, and to have fun. 

We are now a hiking-obsessed family, and the kids have experienced hundreds of miles and lots and lots of shoes. They have climbed beautiful mountains. They have backpacked for weeks at a time. They have encouraged adult hikers who seemed too tired to continue. They have set up camp when I was too exhausted to help. Do I think my kids are naturally great hikers? No! I believe they have put in hard work and are reaping the benefits. I also believe hiking – and time spent outdoors in general – has benefitted them in a special way because of their past experiences, both before they joined my family and ever since. The changes I have noticed in my kids’ behaviors and attitudes motivated me to examine the effect outdoor-time can have on kids from hard places1.

In order to get a sense of how outside time affects kids from these backgrounds, I wanted to get firsthand information from the people “in the trenches” with these kids, specifically therapists and foster/adoptive parents. These are the people who experience the highs and lows alongside trauma-affected kids, so I figured I should start by talking to them. While many of them preferred not to contribute quotes or reveal their identities, I’m grateful to everyone who spent time sharing their thoughts with me. This stuff is hard to talk about and nobody wants to feel like they’re being interrogated. 

After conducting my interviews, I read up on the science behind spending time in nature. I was surprised by the amount of research I found on the subject. Most of the information reinforced my assumptions: outdoor experiences are deeply healing and can make kids happier, more grounded, and more resilient. Some of the resources I found helpful are linked in the footnotes or at the end of this article if you’re interested in further reading. My final step was actually spending time with kids from hard places (and some of their families) outside. We took day hikes in our local forest, visited parks, played in streams, searched for salamanders, built mud castles, swam in a lake, ate s’mores, and found glow worms. I camped overnight with a few different kids and their families, and the experiences we had were unforgettable, but the growth and change I got to witness in the kids was the best part. Here’s how it all went down. 

Dr. Karyn Purvis, one of the authors of The Connected Child (2007), refers to kids with traumatic pasts as “kids from hard places”. This term is used by many therapists.

Interviewing Trauma-Affected Individuals and Families

In order to gather different perspectives of outdoor time as it relates to kids from foster care, kinship care2, or adoption, I reached out to a network of interconnected people. Some of them I knew personally, and others I only connected with via social media: foster parents, adoptive parents, adoptees, mental health professionals, teachers, and social workers. I asked them invasive questions, often not expecting a response. 

Working with kids from hard places is difficult, and it is often a lonely journey because so many daily experiences are considered abnormal to “normal” families. “The fresh air builds stronger lungs and the demand to be imaginative brings joy,” said one foster mom. “When children must be bored without the instant gratification of television and video games, a new intelligence of kindness is fostered”. She has witnessed many “moments of wonder” occur in her placements, and she makes a conscious effort to prioritize outdoor time as a tool for connection. She has seen “bodies heal and tempers cool” on hikes and camping trips. 

Paris Silvestri, a therapist I interviewed noted that time outdoors “teaches confidence, breathing (so vital), resilience (super important for children), and critical thinking skills which can sometimes becomecompromised with folks who have complex trauma (a common occurrence for children in foster or adoptive care)”. In her own life, she said she has become a more confident version of herself since making the outdoors a priority. She said she even feels more confident in her identity. Silvestri added, she can only see how outdoor time would help children who need support with identity, confidence, attachment, or emotional regulation. 

Outdoor play has also been linked to treating ADHD, among other mental health issues3. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can cause individuals with traumatic pasts to act out4.

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, originally conducted from 1995 to 1997 in California, measures how negative events experienced during childhood have a lasting impact on health as a person ages5. Children in the foster care system, as well as children who are adopted, have often experienced negative events: domestic violence, sexual abuse, drug use, neglect, food scarcity, multiple moves between unstable living situations, etc. In fact, over half (51%) of children involved with the child welfare system have experienced four or more ACEs, compared to 13% of the general child population6. Because kids “in the system” often have more ACEs, their health is threatened: they are at least five times more likely to have anxiety, depression, and/or behavioral problems than children outside of foster care7. 

In light of the difficulties faced by these kids and their caregivers, the importance of finding a therapeutic outlet is obvious8. One of the foster/adoptive mothers I spoke with said that connecting with her kids is easier on the trail. “As a family, we have had conversations that bring tears and laughter. I get to know my kids and learn what scares them, what they dream of…” 

As an adoptive mother, I know this to be true from my own experiences. Even when our outdoor adventures go awry (picture soaked down jackets and temperatures hovering near freezing, or a car broken down on a gravel road halfway up a mountain, or running out of food on day three of a four-day backpacking trip, or being stranded on the Appalachian Trail and hitchhiking into town), backcountry stress wears differently on my kids than at-home stress. My kids are more open and honest, brave, confident, and adventurous when we are outside together. Slowly but surely, I have seen those qualities sneak into their everyday actions back home as well. 

In a 2003 study conducted by Nancy M. Wells and Gary W. Evans, “Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children”, Wells and Evans suggested a correlation between nature (potted plants, backyards, and green views outside the window) and children’s abilities to handle stressful events9. They found that, when kids are exposed to outdoor spaces, they are better able to endure painful experiences during childhood. Spending time in nature may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress. “Greater cognitive clarity may enable children to seek out activities or resources to fortify themselves against life stress as well as enable them to resist the inclination to react to certain stressors…” 10

One of the foster/adoptive moms I interviewed remarked that her family is divided too easily by the outside world. “[Hiking/outdoor time] is a private oasis where we can forget that we are not biologically related” she said. “Where we are just family.” 11 This resonates deeply with me. I am a mama who looks nothing like her daughters, and I’m constantly reminded of this fact by strangers everywhere we go. When we are out hiking, backpacking, or camping, we get fewer glares/strange looks/awkward questions, and this is a relief to all of us. 

One therapist I interviewed had spent time working in an outdoor setting with children and teenagers in foster care. She noticed that these kids became more relaxed the more time they spent outside. “They would have… those ‘holy crap, I can’t believe I just did that!’ moments…” she said. “These experiences boosted their self-efficacy and led to them being more confident in future endeavors.” It is impossible to understate the value of building children’s confidence, particularly children who have experienced trauma early on.

2 Kinship care is when children are cared for by relatives or, in some states, close family friends instead of being sent to a foster home.
3 Frances E. Kuo, PhD, and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD. “A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence from a National Study.”
Mark B. Powers, Gordon J. G. Asmundson, and Jasper A. J. Smits, “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders: The State-of-the Science” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Vol. 44, Issue 4, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
6 Turney, K. and Wildeman, C. (2016). “Mental and Physical Health of Children in Foster Care.” Pediatrics, 138 (5).
Stambaugh, L.F., Ringeisen, H., Casanueva, C.C., Tueller, S., Smith, K. E., and Dolan, M. (2013). “Adverse childhood experiences in National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being” (OPRE Report #2013-26). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults”
Nancy M. Wells and Gary W. Evans, “Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children.” Environment and Behavior, Vol. 35, No. 3, May 2003: 311-330.
10 Wells and Evans, 325.
11  Kaitlin Musser

Interacting with Trauma-Affected Individuals and Families in the Outdoors 

My project didn’t just consist of information gathering though. I also went hiking and camping with the groups I was interviewing. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t merely gathering stories and advice, but also doing life with these people. It is one thing to have a conversation about outdoor experiences, and it is a different thing entirely to spend 36 hours swatting mosquitoes with another family. 

Over a six-month period, I took two overnight camping trips and seven day-hikes with kids from hard places, (not including the hiking and camping I did with just my own kids). During these experiences, I allowed our conversations to flow organically. My intent was never to “interview” kids as part of this project, because the last thing they need is to feel like test subjects. 

Sometimes, the subject of trauma-informed outdoor play came up. One teenaged boy remarked that he wasn’t as angry in the woods, because all of his energy was focused on hiking. One preteen girl said she found it easier to get along with her sisters because it was quiet and she wasn’t having to fight over what to do. Some of our guests pointed out that my kids were capable of impressive things: setting up tents, building campfires, navigating with a map and compass, carrying heavy packs, covering long miles. These compliments meant a lot to my kids, even though these skills are normal at this point. Their confidence soared once they realized people saw them as capable. One preteen boy stopped at every millipede he passed and examined it closely. He said he was interested in learning more about insects. I watched him stare silently at a millipede for longer than I’d ever seen him stand still before. 

On one of our hikes, we took a long break at a stream. One of the boys caught a baby salamander and excitedly showed it around. My kids broke the news to him about how handling wildlife is not a good idea, specifically amphibians because they can absorb harmful residue from our hands through their skin. I made sure this information was presented in an unaggressive way. Later that day, the boy told me he had been thinking about the salamander and what it might have felt as it was being picked up. He said he wouldn’t make that mistake again. His empathy for the little salamander made me smile. 

One of the girls we hiked with had been struggling with behavior issues, which is not abnormal in the trauma-informed parenting world. Her mother remarked that much of the difficulty faded away when they were outside together. Instead of petty arguments or power struggles like they would be facing at home, they were able to relax and enjoy their time in the woods. 

I’m deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time with these precious people, and forever thankful for their openness. I know it is a blessing to have such an inclusive community of people around me, and I try not to take it for granted. I didn’t realize how enjoyable it would be to share my love of outdoor time with other people, because I usually adventure with my kids only. Sharing the trails, campsites, rivers, and views with these families was a joy for me.

Practical Applications 

When I began this project, I said that I would consider it a success if it encouraged even just one family to seek outdoor experiences for their therapeutic benefit. I still hold this hope in my heart! But I know that the adults who love these kids sometimes feel lost – and, while encouraging a foster parent to take their kids hiking is great, actually enabling a foster parent to take their kids hiking would be much better. I want to offer practical suggestions which might make it easier to get these kids outside now that we have established that outdoor time can profoundly benefit them. 

There are many reasons why caregivers might hesitate to take their trauma-affected kids hiking, camping, backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing, or on other outdoor adventures. Among the barriers which often prevent these families from experiencing the outdoors are travel restrictions for kids in the child welfare system, fear of triggers, birth parents’ desires, not having the proper gear, and fear of intervention from strangers. (Child Protective Services showed up on the Appalachian Trail in 2018 due to a report that a family of thru-hikers were endangering their kids.) 

In light of these obstacles, getting outside can seem like a big, scary challenge that is better left alone. This is why it is important to start small. Very, very small. Parking-further-away-from-the-grocery-store-entrance small. Taking-a-blanket-outside-and-eating-dinner-in-the-grass small.  Researching-your-local-parks-and-deciding-to-visit-one-each-month small. 

Starting small means setting attainable goals, getting your kids on board with them (let them choose your parking spot, help set up your picnic dinner, or decide which park to visit), and celebrating all of your victories. 

Speaking of celebrating your victories, I must warn you: it is easy to get sucked into the trap of thinking your adventures aren’t adventurous enough. I’ve been there, and it’s an ugly place to be. There are different seasons of life, and that’s okay. At certain times, an adventure looks like playing with my kids on the front porch. At other times, we’re crushing big miles on a long trail.  The “little” adventures far outnumber the “big” ones, and I predict that most of the memories are going to come from the everyday experiences. So I hope you don’t let a fear of not-being-awesome-enough hold you back. Hear this: you are awesome no matter what. 

I’ve included a few links at the end to help you get started. They include really cool ideas that I could’ve never come up with on my own, like nature-based crafts and ways to motivate kids to hike. There are groups out there who organize hang-outs for parents with their kids, and although I’ve never participated in this kind of thing, I can understand how great of an idea it is. If making friends is your thing, I highly recommend you look into this. 

The main thing I’ve learned through conducting this project is that while trauma is multifaceted and murky and often kept private, when it is shared, there is a beautiful connection and that connection can bring about a little bit of healing. Like how they say a burden shared is a burden lifted or lighter or whatever. When your family story is permeated by trauma, it is natural to keep that private. And this is a good instinct, because a kid’s story should never be blasted out to strangers, especially without their consent. But even without sharing intimate details, there is a lot of connection that can happen if we open up to each other. 

If you know a foster/kinship/adoptive family, please help them get outside. If you are a foster/kinship/adoptive family, please get outside. It’s right on the other side of your door. 

Further reading

National Wildlife Federation’s “Be Out There” booklet, summarizing the shift in childhood experiences over the past few decades, benefits of outdoor play, and suggestions to help caregivers get their kids outside. 

Straightforward article outlining benefits of outside time in children. There are many of these lists out there, but this one is abnormally succinct. 

List of ideas for getting children outside! This is an awesome list, and many are doable whether you live in a big city or rural area and regardless of your kids’ ages. 

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Workman Publishing Company: 2005. 

Picture Perfect: Curating Genuine Adventure Images

After my dad died two years ago I tried desperately to conjure up the memories of his life, to piece together all he was. I would sit on the sea foam blue carpet of our office and sort through box after box of old photographs, touching the worn edges and running my fingers over his face as a little boy, large drops of tears evaporating on the prints. I pulled out stacks of the two of us rock climbing together, me in an oversized tie-dye t-shirt and he in his cringeworthy pink 90’s shorts belaying me up an easy pitch with a blue sky overhead. Candid shots of him holding me in his arms, us building a bicycle together, me helping hand him tools working on an old car, the two of us hiking side by side in a thick forest, him tending to my blisters on my first winter summit, the two of us covered in head-to-toe mud. The memories of us together are endless. I held the pictures tight and let the essence of him flood me over. This is the power of photographs; they transcend time and give us frozen moments we never want to forget.

In studying these pictures I became struck so profoundly by the relationship we had. He helped make me brave, pushed my limits, and gave me passion for the outdoors. Even as a child he treated me respectfully, included me, talked to me gently, and took me to have many great adventures. And what became so precious to me about these boxes of photos is the imperfect way in which they were created. The composition all wrong, overexposed, no creamy bokeh of light filtering behind us as we climbed mountains together. They aren’t dreamy or artistic or posed. There’s a collection of shots he took himself on his third attempt up Denali in Alaska, white zinc sunscreen covering his nose and all neon colors of gear strewn about while mountains in the background were washed out by overexposure. And you know what? I look at those pictures and all I feel is joy. I feel him radiating off the paper and into my heart, this man who taught me so much, who lived so big and bold, who left a massive hole in my life.

I share this story because many years ago I learned the art of photography, and I can tell you with more confidence than ever that an aesthetically perfect snap is rarely a reflection of the raw experience. There is no beauty to be had in the illusion of an impeccable life. We live in a time when social media forces us to play a harsh comparison game with one another. What we see as the end result tells very little of the actual story. And we have questions! How does she have time for that? Why does her hair look so good after hiking 10 miles? Who took that photo? Is everyone in the world out having extraordinary experiences while I’m at home folding laundry? Am I good enough? The images we consume on social media can bring up prolific amounts of inadequacy.

Somewhere between dial-up and the invention of the iPhone, we’ve forgotten we once lived our lives in relative privacy. We weren’t privy to first hand beautifully curated glances at how others were spending their free time. We weren’t bombarded with data on how fast someone else runs, what they eat, and their worldly travels.

When apps like Instagram were new, we were all fumbling around together finding our way. My first post was a cheery yellow sunflower sitting on my kitchen table. I added a filter and thought it was the fanciest thing I’d ever done on social media. I continued to share fascinating shots of a ladybug, some cloth diapers, a grainy picture of homemade almond milk, and a picture of my very pregnant self with a weird frame around it. I didn’t put much thought into these images. I didn’t know about hashtags, and I only had 30 ‘followers’. When a username I didn’t know liked one of my photos I immediately texted a friend of mine frantically asking her what was happening. After learning the Instagram ropes, I tentatively found myself searching hashtags for like-minded mamas in the world, and it surprised me to find myself making authentic friendships with people I had never met before. Instagram in particular has since evolved as a platform for marketing, influencers, small businesses, photographers, and everyone in between. Generally speaking, I find it to be an inspiring place to share life.

I pursued some pretty lofty goals this past summer, and I did some epic work. I had heart surgery in April and ran a half marathon four weeks later. I climbed and summited Mount Saint Helens, Mount Baker, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Shuksan, among many other smaller peaks in the Olympic Mountains of Washington state. I had a very romantic vision of the photos I wanted to capture while out on these mindful endeavors, because as a mom of two young children I wanted to be able to show other women it’s important to get out and pursue your dreams in a season of life when many people would say it isn’t possible. It took a lot of organizing my time and arranging childcare, constantly trying to fill the holes I left in my wake as I carried my heavy packs in the mountains. It took massive energy to train hard and well to prepare for these big goals. It took gear and training and commitment and steadfast focus. It took massive amounts of belief that I am worth it. It took knowing the best gift I can give my children is showing them how to live with joy and passion and purpose.

Throughout the process I shared online a lot what training looked like while balancing my life as a mom. I’ve written much about advocacy for self-care and recovery, inspiring wellness, and continuing to go big and enjoy passions in life with honesty and vulnerability. My life is a privilege, and I hold immense gratitude for that. While much of my online sharing comes in the form of words, I do take and share a lot of beautiful images. As a professional photographer I have an advantage of curating more aesthetically appealing content, but that doesn’t mean it’s all I want to be focusing on when I’m out having the experience. 

And thus, the movement, mindful endurance, relationships, and personal enlightenment that came from living out the dreams I’d been working so hard for became much more important than the documentation of it all. I left my expensive camera and nice lenses at home. The grainy iPhone snap of me and my two friends shoved like sardines cocooned in our tent with big sunburnt smiles on our faces is one of my favorite images. The selfie I took on the summit of Mount Shuksan with a mouthful of snacks reminds me of the joy I felt drinking in the views of my accomplishment and feeling the energy of my dad. I could have framed something more beautiful, but the representation wouldn’t be as true. The photo taken of my husband and I touching noses on the summit of Mount Rainier wrapped in colorful layers of down with nothing but the horizon beyond us is a picture of achievement and love, no doubt. But moments later he was vomiting, I was anxious about our descent, the wind was screaming, and I had a mere 1/2 liter of water left in my Nalgene was starting to feel dehydrated. My point is: there are a lot of very small and big moments and external things happening in the time surrounding the second you see in a photo.

How we craft our lives is important. An image we see online is literally a small, small picture of someone’s experience. We can create an image to look any way we like it. It’s a picture, but not the whole one. The way we ‘see’ other people’s lives might be very different than the reality. Some people have tidy organized homes, some don’t. Some people are kick-ass backcountry skiers and some of us can barely get down a beginning line without crashing and burning. Some of us like fly fishing, hiking, running, gardening. Maybe you love car camping at parks or maybe it’s deep wilderness backpacking which brings you joy. None of these are right or wrong, they are just different. Don’t you dare let someone else’s Instagram steal your thunder or your joy.

The images we see online can make us feel we aren’t successful enough, we haven’t met our soulmate, we need to constantly be pursuing big experiences, working our dream career, have a lot of friends, and that everyone else has accomplished these things and maybe we are the only ones who haven’t. This feeling of dissatisfaction is a psychological trap modern life has set for us, and it makes us look outward with envy as opposed to inward with gratitude. Scientific studies show time and time again that gratitude, no matter the context, brings joy to even the smallest things in life. Practicing gratitude is a real way to reprogram your core beliefs about how you experience life. Spending even five minutes a day meditating on the things and people in YOUR life you are grateful for instead of seeing what everyone else has will have a profound effect on your perspective.

There are many, many, many ways to live. We are living in a strange time where social media and perfect photos can influence our individual identity. It can make us feel like we are always missing out on something. It can make us question ourselves and become discontent. It can be a place where time gets sucked away from us and jealousy can rear its ugly head.

But social media can also inspire, motivate, and cultivate connection. I craft very carefully what I share and what I say, because I want to share conversation centered around images which are good and genuine, meaningful and real. If I share a ‘perfect’ picture on the Internet, I want it to touch on the human experience with words that are written to build up and inspire. I want to “do good” with my online space. I want to connect with people. I want to support women. I want to advocate for wellness. I want you to know that no matter how beautiful and creative an image I edit and share with my online presence, I will always counter it with my words to reveal more about the joy or pain or mishap or work it took to get to that moment in time.

I’d like you to truly know deep inside that you are enough, you are worthy of any dream in your heart, you are just as capable as all the perfectly framed Instagram photographs. The experience is there for everyone. Let’s undress the idea that life is perfect for anyone and shift our focus to one of larger perspective. Life is beautiful and hard and all of it is worth sharing through the lens of honesty, not perfection.

It is my hope that someday when I’m gone, my kids will soften when they hold printed images of us together, unposed and imperfect. My daughter will see the picture of me carrying her up the last steep section of a climb to the top of her namesake, my face red with a slight belly hanging over the hip band. Maybe she will remember how she told me I was a strong mama and thanked me for carrying her so she could rest her little legs. I hope my son sees the pictures of the first trip I took them camping by myself, we took selfies with my phone, sticky marshmallow covering the corners of our lips. These imperfect snaps don’t get shared on social media, but they are the perfectly imperfect details of our life.

Sustainability Holiday Gift Guide for the Outdoor Mama

This is not your typical holiday gift guide. 

In fact, if you purchase nothing from this list of companies, there will be zero hard feelings. We will actually be proud of your restraint, because there’s some pretty epic stuff down below. But more importantly, at AMI we want to empower you to use your buying power to support sustainable businesses.

By purchasing from the following companies you are making the statement that how products are made, how employees are treated, and how the environment is impacted is important. With all that is going on in our world today it is easy to feel helpless to make an impact. But every dollar you spend can speak volumes. 

We organized this gift guide by certification. Each small (almost all) mama-owned business in this guide has at least one (sometimes MORE!).  If you want to learn more about what each certification means click the Tell Me More! link, where you’ll get a more in-depth look at each of the five certifications. This way if you want to educate yourself while you shop, you can click between the guide and the post. If you are only interested in the cool shit, then stay here.

*Quick disclaimer before we dive in: The following list of companies was compiled based on our editor’s personal experience, recommendations from Adventure Mamas, and a shit ton of research. (Special shout out to Amy from Garage Grown Gear for the leads.) None of these companies have bribed or even offered to bribe us with free products or discounts. The only company mentioned below that we have an official relationship with is REDBUDSUDS. You can read more about AMI’s great smelling partnership with them here

Certified B Corporation (“B Corps”)

Certified B Corporations meet high standards of environmental and social performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. Basically, these companies value their impact on the community, their customers, the environment, and their workers. Tell Me More! 

Purple Rain Adventure Skirts

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Adventure Skirt (Purple) – $71.99

Purple Rain Adventure Skirts’ slogan explains exactly why they make the perfect gift for an adventurous mama: “smart, practical skirts for badasses”. Founder Mandy Bland created the first Purple Rain adventure skirt out of an old pair of hiking pants after she tried hiking in a skirt during her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. 

Sustainablility Holiday Gift Guide for the Outdoor Mama
Mandy Bland, owner of Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, hard at work creating in her home office.

Each skirt is handsewn by Bland , sourcing materials from deadstock as much as possible. Deadstock is fabric that has been discontinued and is sitting around in warehouses. Her signature purple skirt is made with 100 OEKO TEX certified materials, which means it was manufactured with no harmful chemicals. Her goal is to move toward 100% sustainable fabrics. Because she does the cutting herself, she makes sure there is very little fabric waste in production. Afterwards, she bundles the scraps and works with Wander Woman Gear who upcycles scraps as pee rags. 

Purple Rain received the Oregon Benefit Corp for Good certification in 2018, and has been working on its B Corp certification. The company is looking into (local) factory production, currently putting the pursuit of B Corp certification on hold until that is ironed out. Until then, Bland offsets the electricity used to create the skirts in her home by purchasing energy blocks, which means Purple Rain’s energy comes from green sources (solar and wind). She also walks each order to the post office, and uses only recycled mailers that are also reusable in shipping. 

Sustainablility Holiday Gift Guide for the Outdoor Mama

Be sure to check out Purple Rain’s blog for more thoughts on sustainable products and taking backpacking trips as a mama.


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Free shipping on orders over $40
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Reusable Silicone Sandwich Bag – $11.99

Stasher founder and CEO Kat Nouri is an immigrant and mother who is committed to stand up for the rights and opportunities of women and to protect our planet. Her company, Stasher, a Certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet member, produces reusable silicone bags that have prevented millions of single-use plastics from accumulating in landfills and oceans.

Sustainablility Holiday Gift Guide for the Outdoor Mama [image is a stasher storage bag]

The bags are made from pure silicone, which is made from natural resources – mostly sand. They are 100% plastic and BPA free – no fillers here.

These airtight storage bags are legit. They are durable, reusable, microwave safe, dishwasher safe, fridge friendly, oven strong, easy to clean, and come in every color imaginable. The bags come in a variety of sizes and shapes from pocket to half gallon. This makes it easy for you load one up and stash it in your zip pocket while hiking. And they don’t just work for food. You can store anything in them: pens, maps, toiletries, first aid supplies, car keys. The possibilities are endless. 

1% for the Planet

Companies pledge to donate 1% of sales to approved environmental organizations. Tell Me More! 


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Adventure Kit (Kickass Lemongrass) – $19.00

REDBUDSUDS creates “thoughtfully clean” 4-in-1 shower bars designed to give you everything you need whether you’re in the backcountry or at home. That’s right: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and shave soap all mashed up in one perfect rectangular prism. The bars eliminate all the bad p’s: parabens, phthalates, plastic packaging, and preservatives. REDBUDSUDS uses only real, recognizable ingredients, and no palm oil. Instead, it partners with local farmers to obtain (sustainably produced) lard.

Sustainablility Holiday Gift Guide for the Outdoor Mama [image is a bar of redbudsuds soap that has thoughtfully clean etched on it]

The goal of REDBUDSUDS is to empower action by encouraging people to switch to plastic free products. Since its launch in 2016, REDBUDSUDS has prevented over 80,000 plastic bottles from entering the waste stream and donated over $8,000 to conservation efforts, and it has no plans to slow down.

The small business has big sustainability goals, including zero waste initiatives with its Leave No Scrap Behind Chunky Bars. The company also partners with nonprofits to protect wild lands and watersheds through its 1% for the Planet membership, as well as Leave No Trace, Save the BWCA, and FLOW (For the Love of Water). 

But its main goal is to empower action. “It may start with a shower bar, but what’s your next step?,” asks founder Aubrey Miller. “Every day, we can Step Outside … outside of ourselves, outside our comfort zone, outside our front door.” REDBUDSUDS is collecting stories of how its shower bars have impacted users, so if you have a story to share about your favorite shower bar, send them to If not, peruse the online store and try one out for yourself. Hint – all the smells are amazing!

wildbird threads

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Do Epic Shit Tee (Unisex) – $25-28

Through wildbird threads, owner Elizabeth Bailey and her family hope to connect outdoor adventure seekers with artists whose works are inspired by nature. The company prints the designs of various artists using water-based, eco-friendly ink on sustainably made garments, many of which are organic cotton and bamboo.

In addition to connecting with environmental nonprofits through its membership with 1% for the Planet, wildbird threads does not use plastic to wrap its garments. It mails all apparel wrapped in twine, uses recycled labels and business cards, and ships every product in 100% recycled poly mailers. 

Bailey said in 2020 wildbird threads hopes to host Hike ‘n’ Paint events and trail cleaning meetups to expand the company’s focus on creating community. Check out all the designs available – my personal favorite is the “Do Epic Shit”, created by @liveyourheartfindhome. I’m pretty sure my kiddos, partner and I need matching tees for our next family photo.

Climate Neutral Certification

This designation certifies that a company has a net carbon footprint of zero. It looks at things like office energy consumption, raw materials, and supply chains: all the ways carbon is generated by the creation and delivery of their products. Tell Me More! 

All Good

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All Good Goop (9 oz) – $40

All Good products are truly sustainable gifts. This is a woman-owned, small business with an all-women production team. Sustainable certifications? All Good has them. It’s recognized as a 2020 Climate Neutral Certified Business, as well as a Certified B Corp, a Green America Certified Business, and a 1% for the Planet member. In fact, for 2019 All Good was recognized as a B Corp “Best For the World” in four categories: overall, environment, governance, and change makers. All Good is the total package.

Founder Caroline Duell originally created the company’s signature product, All Good Goop, to aid in her skin’s recovery from rock climbing and farming. The company now boasts a line of organic body care products that also include deodorants, lotions, and reef safe sunscreens. 

All Good had lofty goals for 2019. It went 100% solar on the farm where they grow the Calendula used in All Good’s products. It conducted a global supply chain audit, led the Safe Sunscreen Council, and was awarded a healthy soils grant for building healthy microbes and sequestering carbon in its farming practices. 

For 2020, All Good continues to raise the bar by pursuing carbon neutrality, switching all sunscreen tubes to PCR plastic, and creating a line of products in plastic free packaging, among other sustainable goals.


The bluesign® certification means that a garment meets strict requirements for water emissions, air emissions, resource productivity, consumer safety, and safety of the workers. Tell Me More! 

Wild Rye

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Evie Raglan (base layer) – $109

Wild Rye creates sustainable clothing that aims to help outdoor-loving women feel comfortable in their own skin while adventuring. The company uses bluesign® materials whenever possible in an effort to protect the places we play. In addition to bluesign®, Wild Rye uses 100% non-mulesed wool. 

Wild Rye prides itself on its fight against fast fashion: cheaply made apparel ends up in landfills faster and more frequently. Their merino products are biodegradable and built to last.

Photo cred: Ray J. Gadd

The team at Wild Rye has big goals for the future, including becoming certified Carbon Neutral, incorporating more recycled materials into its products, and “greenifying” its shipping and delivery methods. 

Check out their 100% merino wool base layers and water repellant bike shorts that feature a perfectly placed zip pocket.

Green America Certified Businesses

Companies that have earned the Green America certification have pledged to use green offices/facilities, have transparent return/refund policies, have created a declaration of commitment to social and environmental values, and commit to accurately represent their products and services. Tell Me More! 


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Rawlogy Cork Massage Ball – $11-16

For our sustainable gift guide, we chose Rawlogy to represent Green America Certified businesses. Marek Bowers, Rawlogy founder and trans dad of two, said he chose to become Green America Certified because the certification is a symbol of his company’s values. “I wanted our customers and retail partners to know that Rawlogy cares about the people who contribute to its supply chain, and is committed to preserving the planet for our children,” Bowers said.

Rawlogy upcycles cork, (think used wine stoppers), and manufactures it into massage balls and massage rollers. Bowers founded the company after learning to roll out his Plantar Fasciitis pain with a rubber lacrosse ball while training for a marathon. He uses cork because it’s lightweight (for the thru-hiking or ultralight backpacking mamas out there), natural, and durable.

At Rawlogy, the mission is two-fold. Bowers works to create products that relieve pain naturally: 100% raw materials, no BPA, PVC, petroleum, or phthalates. He also educates communities on performing self-massage to keep muscles limber and strong. To that end, Bowers hosts hiker outreach programs and rolling workshops.

Besides the sustainable material and community outreach, Rawlogy is committed to socially equitable processes. Its manufacturing facility rigorously abides by a code of business conduct that provides for a safe, respectful workplace for employees. “They have been in the business of cork manufacturing for over 20 years and have a spotless track record for workplace safety and fair labor practices,” Bowers said.

For more information on rolling with cork, check out more stunning product shots, and learn more about #ShareYourBalls, check out the Rawlogy website.

Maternal Allies: Women-Owned, Small Businesses with Sustainable Focuses

There are epic small businesses out there promoting sustainability that are not mama-owned and do not boast official certifications. So below, we added three bonus companies that perform essential tasks for adventurous mamas, like push back against fast fashion, help us pee carefree outside, and provide sustainable lighting. 

Home Free Tees

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Climb On Sister 1/4 zip – $17

Part of living a sustainable lifestyle is considering where things you purchase end up when you no longer need them. In the case of your favorite t-shirt, passing it along to a thrift store feels sustainable because you assume someone will buy it and wear it. But the truth is, most clothing donated to thrift stores end up in landfills, not someone else’s closet. 

Until biodegradable textiles become the norm, Home Free Tees offers a solution for those of us who enjoy wearing fun t-shirts, but want to lessen our contribution to textiles in landfills. Owner and operator Anika Erickson peruses local thrift stores purchasing high-quality second-hand clothing and repurposing them. She builds her own screens by hand, reuses them as many times as possible, uses water-based dyes, and gives new life to discarded clothing by printing designs inspired by her experiences outdoors.

Erickson lists her one-of-a-kind items on her Etsy site, and also accepts custom orders. Recently she has worked with brides to make wedding day flannels for bridesmaids. “I love getting to collaborate with businesses or events to create unique and intentional designs,” Erickson said. Selling upcycled clothing is just the first step to building her brand. In the future she looks to build a wholesale line of ethically sourced products and to continue to support her community and causes around the globe she feels passionate about. To read more about Home Free Tees and how to push back against fast fashion check out her blog.

Kula Cloth™

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“Nice Ax” Kula Cloth™ – $20
No one wants to stumble upon used toilet paper in the wild. Anastasia Allison and her team have created a fun and sustainable way to prevent this: the Kula Cloth™. “Not only can you use Kula on the trail or while traveling, but we even have people using it at home to cut down on their toilet paper use (peeing only!)” said Allison. 

Kula Cloth™ is an official Leave No Trace partner, and has a completely transparent supply chain. The pee cloth is designed and produced with sustainability in mind. Everything from the fabric to product production happens in the United States. Fabrics are milled at an eco-friendly facility that uses eco-friendly dyes and processes for printing and production. Customer packaging is made from recycled materials and is recyclable after use. 

Lola, a member of the Kula Cloth™ production team, making Kulas.

At Kula Cloth™, it’s not just about quantifiable sustainability, it’s also about encouraging a sustainable mindset. One of the main goals of Kula Cloth™ is to support environmentally focused organizations, artists, and individuals. For example, Kula Cloth™ will donate a portion of their profits from three of their newest prints to the Washington Trails Association, Washington Outdoor Women, and a native pollinator nonprofit. They are also in the process of donating 100% of the profits from their first “Kula for a Cause” to help a local high school purchase a water bottle filling station. 


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Responding to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork founded LuminAID.  They were inspired to design a simple rechargeable light that could be distributed cost-effectively after disasters. Today, LuminAID lights have been distributed in more than 100 countries world-wide to families lacking electricity after disaster events.

Shresta and Stork designed LuminAID with sustainability in mind. They reduce carbon emissions created in transportation by designing every solar lantern and phone charger to pack flat. Additionally, they use thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) – a medical grade plastic – instead of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). TPUs do not contain or release dioxins, lead, or phthalates, which keeps hazardous chemical byproducts out of landfills. And of course, the whole point of their products is to provide renewable energy. Their solar panels replace environmentally harmful alternatives like propane and traditional batteries and operate with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that may be recharged 1,000+ times. 

LuminAID’s founders Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta enjoy a well-lit campsite thanks to their solar powered lanterns.

LuminAID’s products are not just for emergencies. They also come in handy when camping and traveling. AMI board president Meghann Beer is in the middle of a year-long adventure around the world with family. They use a LuminAID Packlite Firefly USB to charge electronics and read bedtime stories when their accommodations lack electricity. They also use it to save electricity in places that do have power. (Read more about her sustainable travels here.)


Great job making it to the end of this awesome guide! We at AMI would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season filled with joy, adventure, and perhaps a few gifts from sustainably-minded companies. 

Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts

One of the most impactful things adventurous mamas can do for our planet is to be purposeful with our spending. We can support businesses that support the environment. However, there are so many brands, and so many things that we purchase, it becomes overwhelming to research the supply chain, materials, and packaging of every single item we need. Not to mention the core values of each business. And then we have to determine if their values align with their actions. This leads to more time with our noses in our phones/computers, and less time unplugged, breathing fresh air, and bonding with those we hope to protect. 

The following are five important certifications to look for when selecting businesses and products to support financially. In our sustainability holiday gift guide, we highlighted 1-3 businesses that hold these certifications and make gifts worth giving an adventurous mama.

Certified B Corporations

Certified B Corporations (B Corps) balance profit and purpose by meeting high standards of environmental and social performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. Basically, these companies value their impact on the community, their customers, the environment, and their workers. The phrases “fair trade”, “social responsibility”, and “sustainability” are their main focuses. It’s considered a big deal because it is the only certification that “measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance”.

Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts (Image is the certified B corporation logo)B Lab, a nonprofit, administers the certification for interested businesses. B Corps receive a score on the B Impact Assessment. This assesses the company’s impact on its community, customers, environment, and workers. B Corps must make their assessment results (“impact reports”) public. 

One of the most visible outdoor companies holding B certification is Patagonia. While Patagonia was not founded by a mama, it is currently run by Rose Marcario, who is a major maternal ally. (Read all about Marcario supporting mamas here.) 

Mama-owned B Corps we selected for our sustainable holiday gift guide include All Good and Stasher. Purple Rain Adventure Skirts is in the initial certification process. Search for other B Corps here.

1% for the Planet

1% for the Planet began with two outdoor company founders (Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies), agreeing to donate 1% of their sales to environmental nonprofits in 2002. Since then, it has grown to over 2,000 members in more than 45 countries. According to Chouinard, the mission of 1% for the Planet is to fund “diverse environmental organizations so that collectively they can be a more powerful source in solving the world’s problems”. So far, the program has helped over $200 million be invested in environmental nonprofits working to create a better world.

Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts (Image is logo of 1% for the planet)You can join 1% for the Planet as a business or an individual. Businesses join by committing to donate 1% of their gross sales through monetary, in-kind, and approved promotional support directly to environmental nonprofits. Individuals commit to donate 1% of their annual salary to environmental nonprofits through monetary and/or volunteer support. 1% for the Planet pairs members with nonprofits whose values align and certifies all donations.

Mama-owned 1% for the Planet business members we selected for our sustainable holiday gift guide include All Good, REDBUDSUDS, Stasher, and wildbird threads. Search for other 1% for the Planet businesses here

Climate Neutral Certification

As more businesses look to become carbon neutral, the founders of Peak Design and Biolite (Peter Dering and Jonathan Cedar, respectively) created a nonprofit to certify companies as having a net carbon footprint of zero. The certification looks at things like office energy consumption, raw materials, and supply chains: all the ways carbon is generated by the creation and delivery of their products. The nonprofit measures a company’s carbon footprint, helps it reduce what it can, and then guides it in offsetting the rest. So far, Climate Neutral has helped 44 companies become carbon neutral for 2020 – by pledging to offset their emissions for 2019. 

Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts (image is black box with climate neutral certified logo)Popular outdoor businesses have joined, including Klean Kanteen, Lifestraw, and Rumpl. All Good is the mama-owned small business touting the Climate Neutral certification we chose to include in our sustainable holiday gift guide. Click here to view all the Climate Neutral Certified businesses for 2019 and 2020.

Green America Certified Business
Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts (image is green america certified business logo)

The nonprofit Green America focuses on four areas:

  • use of a green office/facility
  • transparency in return/refund policy
  • declaration of commitment to social and environmental values
  • a commitment to accurate representation of products/services (aka no greenwashing)

Green America certifies businesses through its Green Business Standards. These standards cover everything from how a company sources its materials and markets its products to the values statement the business places on its website. 

Clif Bar is a well-known Green America Certified business that happens to be co-founded by a mama. We selected one you may not have heard as much about – Rawlogy – to include in our sustainable holiday gift guide. Find more Green America Certified businesses here


The bluesign® certification means that a garment meets strict requirements for water emissions, air emissions, resource productivity, consumer safety, and safety of the workers. The goal is to let the consumer know that the manufacturers are acting responsibly towards the environment, resources, and people.

A Swiss group called bluesign® technologies awards these third party, independent certifications. This group is involved in every step of the supply chain, monitoring materials from the factory to the finished product. To be considered bluesign®, a product must contain at least 90% bluesign® approved textiles and 30% bluesign® approved accessories. 

Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts (image is a bluesign system partner logo)There are no women-owned, small business bluesign® system partners. Well known outdoor companies that use bluesign® textiles and were co-founded by women include Eagle Creek, prAna, REI, and The North Face. Patagonia also uses bluesign® textiles, and as was previously mentioned, its current CEO, Rose Marcario, is a badass maternal ally. 

We included Wild Rye, a sustainably-focused, woman-owned small business in our sustainable holiday gift guide, because it uses bluesign® materials whenever possible.

For more information on bluesign® and to search for bluesign® system partners, visit the website. Also, REI has a great article explaining the bluesign® certification if you are looking for more information. You can even limit your searches on with sustainability filters, including bluesign® and recycled materials. (Go REI!)

Maternal Allies: Women-Owned Small Businesses with Sustainable Focuses

Awesome small businesses are out there doing epicly sustainable work that do not hold any of the aforementioned certifications. The three we mention below fill unique adventure mama needs: fighting the uphill battle against fast fashion, the age-old issue of how to pee carefree outside without a penis, and sustainable lighting. We chose to include three in our sustainable holiday gift guide: Home Free Tees, Kula Cloth, LuminAID.

Sustainability Certifications: What to Look for When Choosing Gifts (image is women owned logo)

Above we highlighted five certifications that denote sustainability efforts made by businesses. Being purposeful when selecting which businesses to support when purchasing gifts is only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. AMI’s board president Meghann Beers wrote a blog highlighting her family’s efforts to live sustainably as they travel the world for a year. This includes offsetting carbon emissions from air travel, using public transportation, selecting sustainable housing, eating out without using single-use plastics, and so much more. 

You can use your everyday actions to support sustainable businesses. Get your haircut at a zero-waste salon – that’s right, even the hair is recycled! Vote for candidates in local and national elections that support environmentally friendly policy. And of course, check out our sustainable holiday gift guide for environmentally friendly businesses to support.