A blog a day! Day 10: What's really going on? Emotional intelligence and children.

Emotional intelligence. I don’t hear this topic talked about very often and it’s relevant to everyone. Most adults (myself included) have never thought about striving to be emotionally intelligent yet we expect children to do just that. We expect them to learn how to behave, but we really never stop to think about WHY they misbehave in the first place.

How many times do YOU stop to think about, “Why does this upset me? Why did I act like that? Why did I take it that way?” I don’t know about you, but it took me almost 30 years before I started asking myself that question. Being able to ask yourself, “What’s really going on?” is so crucial to being able to have effective communication with our kids. In order get through to them, we have to understand them… and we have to help them understand themselves.

Everything is harder in life when you can’t have effective communication with the people around you and, personally, I would love for my kids to learn that as soon as possible.

Or, at least start that process earlier than I did.

Next time you find yourself getting upset with your small human, take a minute. Ask yourself what they are non verbally telling you about how they feel.

Story time

Lexi, my oldest, is 10 and has constant melt downs as it is… but lately her meltdowns are more frequent and more intense.

She’s hurting.

Her dad (for the first time since we separated 6 years ago) has a serious girlfriend AND due to a private family matter both kids are with me 90% of the time right now, so they also see their dad less. She misses him, she doesn’t want to share her time with anyone else, and she feels threatened by his affection for his girlfriend. It’s clear as day to me.

Also, keep in mind that Jeremy and I have dealt with this first hand already. She doesn’t take to change very well. It shakes her security with her place in this world which (as a child with abandonment issues) is fragile at best. It took her 3 years to say Jeremy’s name.

My ex means well but, like I said, we all struggle with emotional intelligence until we understand it. I want to help him talk to our daughter and I want to help her learn to work through her insecurities with us.

It inspired me to create a list of dos and don’ts when dealing a child’s emotional meltdown.

  • DO remind them that they are safe and loved. Chances are they are insecure about their stability. Even if they can’t figure out how to say that, all a child REALLY wants is to feel safe and loved.
  • DO practice thinking optimistically by focusing on solutions. They’re probably going to shoot you down (I know mine do a lot of times), but if you model optimism they have a much better chance at understanding it themselves.
  • DO validate their feelings (remind them that it’s okay to be afraid/sad/mad ) it’s being hurtful that isn’t okay. What isn’t okay is being hurtful because of these feelings.
  • DON’T blame the child for their behavior- remember they’re still figuring things out. Yes, they are responsible for their behavior and how they react… but maybe there is a bigger fish to fry. The underlying reason behind their behavior is much more important to focus on than the behavior itself. Once you can get to the root of the problem, you can focus on taking responsibility for your actions.
  • DON’T don’t compare child to other children. Nothing is a bigger hit to the ego than being told, “Why can’t you be more like _______” or “________ blank doesn’t have this problem!” Don’t be the voice in your child’s head that is constantly telling them that they aren’t good enough.
  • DON’T tell your child what they “really” feels or what they don’t have the right to feel. 1. You don’t know what they really feel. That’s ignorant. There’s no other way to say
    2. This leaves them feeling unheard and less likely to talk to you about their feelings
    in the future. 

Obviously, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes and I lose my cool… but I’m learning every day. I’m doing my best to be mindful of these dos and don’ts with each meltdown. Trust me… we aren’t running short of those around here lately.

That’s the name of the game though, right? Learning from each adverse experience. Until next time, friends. Cheers… to making it work!

See ya real soon. – Mel


A blog a day! Day 9: Top 5 places on my 2020 travel list.

I really hope you’re not expecting some elaborate destination. Not that we’ve ever really done anything outside of California, but the things we have done

  1. Have been expensive trips. – Mostly because they’re Disney trips and no matter which way you swing it, Disney trips require more spending than we’re allowing from ourselves right now.
  2. Which means we aren’t really gaining NEW experiences. Of course every experience in Disneyland is magical and different on it’s own… we pretty much see the same things when we go. Don’t get me wrong, I will always love Disneyland… I just want to broaden my experiences a bit and chase a little bit of adventure.

We had a fun year and we got to see a lot of Disneyland, but things are going to be a lot more simple around here… so that mean our trips will be also.

This year we are cutting back drastically on our spending, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop exploring. All it means is that we will be looking into more low budget or no budget options. Those are always nice to have in our back pockets anyway, right?

One of the things I’ve always had an irrational fear of is being in nature. I hate admitting it because I know it makes me vulnerable to ridicule, but bugs really give me the heeby jeebies. That being said, I love the idea of being in nature. I love the tranquility, the fresh air, and the sounds of nature. So I want to do more outdoorsy things whenever we can!

  1. Visit the State Capitol
    Part of the reason we want to see more is to educate our kids. Give them every opportunity to learn about the world they live in. Spending a day in Sacramento and visiting the State Capitol is almost a must this year. They’re both old enough to appreciate it!
  2. Take a hike in Yosemite National park
    The outdoorsy thing I was tellin’ ya about. I am doing all of the research and preparing my tush off to help with any anxiety I have about being in nature.
  3. Amtrak to San Diego!
    This one seems the most unrealistic because it is pricey and well… we’re just not about it right now. BUT! I fully believe in creating goals that are out of reach. You never know what can happen!
  4. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, Lancaster
    Another learning opportunity for our kids to experience with us. I didn’t grow up in a home where we took trips with the intention to have fun and educate, so another perk to prioritizing this in our home is I also get to experience it all for the first time with them.

    There are so many cute little towns in this general area. We may turn this into a work trip to get content in some of the cutest little towns in California.

  5. Go camping by the beach (let me warm up to the bug thing, okay?)
    My family already has plans to camp this year and I really want to make it work this year but (seeing as how we’re not normally outdoorsy people) we don’t have a lot of camping gear.

    I’ll have to be on the lookout for killer sales if I want to make this happen for us. (If you have any recommendations, be sure to let me know!)

So there you have it. The 5 places I want to visit in 2020. I think I’ll always come up with 5 places at a time. It seems attainable and not intimidating at all now that I’ve finished.

I’d love to hear your top 5 places for 2020 travel in the comments!

See ya real soon, guys! – Mel Duso


A blog a day! Day 8: 12 ideas for girls night on a budget.

This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Well, this is extremely relevant to my life right now. I love my girls nights! We usually go out though and it’s hard for me to say no to those nights because they are so priceless.

We’re saving for some big purchases, so we’re essentially stripping our lives of unnecessary luxuries. Some of my friends just had babies, some have just bought a home, so we’re all in a “savings” stage of life.

Logically, going out for girls night does fall under the unnecessary category. Not because girls night itself is unnecessary, but there are many girls night IN options that are low cost or no cost. Keep in mind that each of these ideas can be done as many times as you want. It can be a theme you work with all year, you can try game night one month and then host a high tea next month.

12 ideas for girls night that are low cost or no cost

  • Recipe swap
    Bring a dish you’re good at making and bring your recipe for it to share! Then sit around, try each other’s food, and catch up.

    In case you’re extra like me: Create a recipe book together! Each get together, have everyone bring one extra recipe and start a binder of recipes!
    Here is a title cover to get you started!
  • Goals party
    Further reinforcing my belief that there is nothing magical about January 1st, host these as often as you’d like. Monthly, weekly (if your schedule allows this), quarterly, yearly… you get the picture. There is never NOT a time to work on how to cultivate your goals.

    Sometimes, just having a quiet and relaxed place to organize your life is all you need to recharge for more boss bitchery.
  • Game night
    You can play traditional games or find something new on amazon. I’m super cheesy, I’d like to put a spin on games in a way that helps us really get to know our friends. Jenga is a good game for this – you can write anything you want on those little rectangles (and my friends and I are known for a good Jenga game!)
  • High tea
    There are so many different ways to make this fun: long island, 420 friendly if your state allows it, fancy shamncy, mad hatter… you get the idea.

    This is another one that can be done a few times a year if you want to try different tea themes!
  • Love my gals a brunch
  • More of a daytime event. Waffle bars, mimosas, and some sort of activity (nothing too big). Here are some ideas I found on Pinterest that were pretty cool!
  • Have a good, old fashioned, slumber party!
  • You can do this with just your friends OR you can have a giant sleepover with the kids. Bring sleeping backs over, watch movies, listen to music, make friendship bracelets, and have scavenger hunts!
  • Craft night!
    Have the host find a Pinterest craft. Divy up supply costs (or find out who has supplies already) and have everything ready for when your gal arrive.
    • Scrapbooking
    • Color by number
    • Wreath making
    • Sewing projects
  • Book club
  • Find a book you can all agree to start and make sure you set a reasonable deadline for your meet up. If you have girls who don’t really like reading, make sure there’s an audio book version of the book you choose!
  • Taste around the world
  • Pick a country and have everyone make a dish from there.

    *again, can be done as a theme for your girl’s nights all year.
  • Sip and paint
  • You can use YouTube for this so that it isn’t crazy expensive.
  • Party plan or make gift baskets
  • We all seem to want to be better at these things when we set goals. Why not meet up to brainstorm together! These are things we all want to want to do (you read that right), but they can be so dang stressful. This is a way to keep it fun to get shit done!
  • Meal prep
  • Another productive way to work. Make a grocery list, tell them what to bring (knives, cutting boards, bowls) and make freezer bag meals. Prepping meals together is not the most realistic unless you have a really big kitchen and a killer system.

So, maybe boats and bottomless champagne is out of the question this year. Honestly, after writing this out, I’m 100% okay with that!

Now, I’m sending this to my girls and telling them to pick our first one. I challenge you to share this with your girls too!

see ya real soon
– mel


A blog a day! Day 7: Chores for my 10 year old and 7 year old.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that we’ve been working at structure in our home since November and this month we’ve really buckled down. One of the best things about having school aged kids is that you get to teach them about responsibility and how to be helpful… and everyone reaps those benefits.

I’ve picked up on something. My kids LOVE to feel responsible, but they don’t always love to put in the work because this is a prime example of delayed gratification.

A few posts back I shared about how we are using our weekend mornings to cultivate family values and create healthy routines. To my pleasant surprise, the kids aren’t difficult about it. Creating a command center has really helped us out! I can share more about that later this month, but today we’re talking about how I presented their chores to them this year.

It’s important to us that the kids are always informed about our decisions. This has been something we’ve really struggled with in the past. We finally realized the problem. It’s our job to inform our kids about the decisions we make whether they like it or not. Spoiler alert: most of the time they don’t like it. Especially right now that we’re implementing a lot of changes and structure that we haven’t always had. This is exactly why it’s important to Jeremy and I that we explain the changes we’re making.

I created their Spring 2020 chore list differently than I ever have before.

I started with a short message to remind them why we do chores and why we sometimes add to the load (literally, they’re doing their laundry now. Can I get an amen?! Okay.) as they get older.

I left out their daily routine tasks like brushing teeth, doing homework, washing dinner plate, and showering. Those are habits to build not chores to contribute to your household upkeep. I also feel like it’s very overwhelming to both the kids and myself to think of every action and habit as a task. This method may work for some families, but it just doesn’t for ours.

Prioritizing chores every day. Even on the weekends. Weekend chores are usually project based or new chores that we’re teaching.

I hope you guys find these chore charts useful!

See ya real soon,


A blog a day! Day 6: 3 personality traits I'm proud of.

Proud is something I’m relatively new to feeling. I’ve never really been a confident person despite my bravado. I’ve always kept my insecurities to myself (verbally) and I’m now realizing how that kept me from realizing the good qualities I possess. I’ve lived most of my life thinking about all of the reasons I’m hard to handle that I’ve never been able to really appreciate the parts of me that people love! Today’s post (which was supposed to be yesterdays… whoops) is about the three qualities I love about myself.

  1. Vivacious – lively in temper, conduct, or spirit.

    When I am happy, I feel I move the room. When I’m in a pissy mood, that energy travels too. An old coworker of mine called me “magnetic” once and that word has stuck with me ever since. It was the first time I understood the notion that we are contagious to the people we are around. We can either spread good vibes or bad vibes.

    I don’t ever want to forget that.
  2. Passionate – capable of, affected by, or expressing intense feeling.

    A blessing and a curse I suppose. My passion for many things has gotten me into more uncomfortable situations than most would prefer. Not me though. I’ve learned to love this about myself. I love that I won’t compromise my values even when doing so would be the easiest thing to do… the thing that would make me less “difficult”.

    I love that when I want something I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen and because of that, if I fail I know it’s okay. I’m a passionate mother, friend, and wife. I passionately advocate for mental health and mental illness. I passionately believe in accepting people for who they are and supporting them to be the best version of themselves.

    If there was a favorite trait of mine it would definitely be how passionate I am.
  3. Optimistic – an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome.

    Adversity and my depression have taught me that you can definitely feel deflated to a point of hopelessness and still be able to overcome the obstacles. I’ve learned the hard way that I can make it through some pretty awful situations and some really gnarly negative self talk.

    I know I’m a dreamer and sometimes that looks really freaking reckless to a lot of people… but I’m not sorry. I never want to lose the ability to dream… maybe perfecting the skill of action planning wouldn’t be the worst thing though.

This post was so empowering to write. Really stopping to think about my good qualities and why I embrace them was just the reminder I think we all need to keep going sometimes. So let’s hear it! What are three traits you love about yourself?

I can’t wait to read!

See ya real soon!

In case you missed it


A blog a day! Day 5: The Sandcastle Inn | Pismo Beach, Ca

If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with mild adventure, Pismo Beach, Ca is the beach town to visit. During our annual holiday getaway we stayed at The Sandcastle Inn, which is a hotel I’ve wanted to check into since I was a 17 year old girl, and I am so excited to share my experience with you!

Friday: travel & Check in day!

In high school my family and I started going to Pismo beach every summer. It’s safe to say that my aunt and uncle fell in love with the place because they have planned this vacation every single year for 14 years!

We stay at a time share that is ocean side, fully furnished, and it’s been our home away from home for as long as I can remember, but every year we take a walk along the beach and I always stop to stare at the beautiful property that I finally got the chance to experience last month.

The adventure and relaxation started the minute we checked in. The fresh air, the sound of the waves crashing, and the endless possibility that the ocean symbolizes brings me instant tranquility. My initial plans were to show my husband and best friends my favorite restaurant in Pismo… Splash Cafe.

If you’ve ever been to Pismo and have somehow gone without the best clam chowder bread bowl I’ve ever tasted… well, you’re severely missing out!

After seeing the deck on the upper level that was conveniently located on our floor, I knew we had to order our food to go.

After a couple hours of hanging out by the fire, listening to the ocean, we turned in to get rest for the next day’s adventures.

Saturday: Adventure meets ultimate relaxation

The idea for this last minute double date weekend was to treat our best friends to a trip that they were responsible for planning. My best friend, Tricia, and I both have generalized anxiety. When it comes to traveling, we’ve both been pretty enabling because she’s always driven and taken control (her anxiety trigger) and I’ve always been easy and go with the flow as long as I don’t have to do any driving (my anxiety trigger). One fear I’m really proud of overcoming is my fear of driving long distances, so Jeremy and I decided that we would treat them to a vacation that wouldn’t require them to drive, make travel plans, or decide how to fill our time.

I have never been more proud of a gift. I put together a list of restaurants and a general itinerary of each days events for them to look over and we did some mild exploring on Saturday.

Even though Pismo itself is kind of small, there are so many things that are only a 10 minute drive away! We started our day at the Budget Cafe (figured it was a perfect name for 2 married couples in their 30s) and we loved it! The prices were indeed impressive, but not as impressive as the food.

When we were done, we drove back over to Pismo/Grover beach to explore the Monarch Butterfly Grove (2 minutes away from Sandcastle inn). Tricia conquered her fear of flying insects for us and found that she enjoyed our short walk into nature!

It was important to me to really utilize the amazing amenities of the hotel, so we rented out beach cruisers and rode them around Pismo beach until it was time for our dinner reservations. One of the things I love the most about the Sandcastle Inn is the fact that they make it possible to enjoy so many parts of a beach trip without having to even leave the hotel.

The other amenities they offered that we didn’t get to take advantage of were

  • Beach rentals
    • Chairs
    • Umbrellas
    • Blankets
    • Bean bags
  • The Deck beachfront bar & tapas
    • outside seating with a view
    • fire pits
  • Smores kits available for sale (I can’t wait to do this with the kids!)

Marcus and Tricia celebrated 11 years of marriage that Saturday so they chose where we had dinner. We ate at the Sea Venture restaurant right next door to our restaurant. You know what that means… no one had to be the designated driver! The food was divine, the service was superb, and the ambiance was everything! I failed to get pictures of the food because, well, yum… but I managed to score a shot of the apple crostada also known to us forever as the apple crustacean thanks for Marcus.

After dinner we went back to our rooms for some wine, games, and more sounds of the ocean.

Before turning in for the night, Jeremy and I walked to the pier to see the amazing Christmas light tree. We must have spent an hour watching the waves crash along the pier. It was the perfect ending to an absolutely perfect day.

Time to say goodbye: checkout day. but first… brunch

The day we were scheduled to head home we woke up to the most beautiful view. A double rainbow right outside our window.

Kindness tip while traveling: We knew it was going to rain Saturday night/Sunday because the hotel staff was busy preparing most of the day. Before dinner Saturday night, we took the cushions off of our chairs and brought them in

Since we didn’t experience The Deck either Friday or Saturday, I made it a point to have my weekly planning session there and experience the restaurants brunch menu. Let me just say… everyone needs to experience a nuttela croissant at least once in their lives.

We all stepped out of our comfort zones this trip and I have no doubt that it was in great part due to the company we were in. The four of us have spent 6 years getting to know and trust each other enough to not be afraid of failure. To say, “I’m just not ready yet.” without being afraid of judgement. It’s allowed us to lean on each other and find the courage to say, “I’m still afraid, but I think I’m ready to try.”

I cannot thank Pacifica Hotels, The Sandcastle Inn, and the amazing staff for an absolutely beautiful weekend.

This post is sponsored by Pacifica Hotels. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.


A blog a day! Day 1: Introduction

Hello hello!

To celebrate the New Year, I am publishing a blog post a day as a way for my audience to know more about the woman behind the blog. (keyboard?)

Melinda The beardless Coffee-Melinda The beardless Coffee-0028.jpg

Real and raw.

That description is everywhere right now and I’m so here for it! I think we all mean it differently though – the beauty of everyone being their truest self is that we get to see how different that looks for so many people.

So let me explain. I’m just a person, here. I like to write; I enjoy talking to people; I LOVE watching people find themselves, and I think we are just too damn beautiful to hide any part of ourselves. More often than not, I share the fun parts of me, the ambitious parts of me, the optimistic and kind parts of me. I don’t stop there though. I share my mental struggles, the hard days, and my failures. You know, the parts of being human that we can all relate to but is never comfortable talking about. Well, I got you.

I believe adversity is the best thing to happen to a person. I believe that we have the power to make the best out of the shittiest situations in life to create the life we want and I want to spend the rest of my life sharing that kind of energy.

What you’ll see here?

A blended family

To say we have a blended family is quite the understatement. Let’s just start there.


I’m Melinda (29). I am married to Jeremy (31) and we have two kids named Lex (10) and Eli (7).

Now, pay attention: Eli is my biological son and Lex is (technically) my stepdaughter. Eli and Lex are both Jeremy’s stepchildren.

Confused yet?

I started raising Lex when she was 17 months old. An old friend of mine (my ex) was going through one of the worst things a parent could ever go through and was granted full custody of his little girl after her mom had abducted her and taken her to Wisconsin. I was there to help him and we just slowly became a family. I saw a part of myself in that little girl that I wanted to protect, so being her mom happened so naturally. A 17 month old girl taught me how to care for someone other than myself full time and I became a mother at age 20.

Two years later, my son was born. Truthfully, my ex and I have always been great friends. I love the person he is and the heart he has, but we see the world with two different set of eyes and ultimately… our splitting up was inevitable. Every day I am grateful for the gifts he’s given me and the respect he’s shown me as Lexi’s mom.

When Jeremy and I decided to… be exclusive… he was taking on a life completely different from the one he had always known. Nothing about my life was mellow at the time. My situation with my ex, my children, my family, myself… I was very much so “lost”. He jumped into parenthood with me and, although it did take some growth and adjustment, he’s never treated my children like anything other than his own.

Here we are, 6 years later, and I could not be more proud of my entire team as a whole. We are all here to support each other the best way we know how and one thing I can say with confidence is that it’s obvious we all want to grow!

Intentional living + Mindfulness


Something we are actively working on in our personal lives. As a blended family, we have had our fair share of ups and downs both in each familial relationship and individually.  We are constantly looking at ways to better understand the way our brains work and ways we can live with more intention. Topics like healthy communication, perspective, empathy, self love, and kindness are just a few of the areas focused on in this category.  Naturally, I will share our findings and experiences as we learn and grow how to free our minds of limiting thoughts and behaviors.

Another topic that falls under this category is family travel. This year we will be doing less long & pricey trips and finding low budget/no budget ways to spend more time with the kids and each other outside of the home! Jeremy’s schedule isn’t always family friendly and our financial goal is to SAVE the money we would be spending on those big vacations. It’s our mission to show our children how to make the best out of a situation that is less than ideal.

More of Jeremy

You may have noticed I have used a lot more “we”, “our”, and “us” language in my most recent posts than I have before.


Jeremy has always been supportive of my ambitions, my dreams, and my work. No matter what, he believes in me regardless of the fact that he didn’t always understand it. We’re talking letting me turn his walk in closet into my personal office when we moved in together in 2014. I’m so excited to finally announce that Jeremy is now joining me in my blogging/vlogging ventures.

toMakingitwork Coming in 2020

When we sat down to really think about what we have to offer our audience, we kept circling back to finding ways to be happy and live intentionally when situations are less than ideal (it’s been something we involuntarily have had to learn over the last few years… who ever volunteers for that kind of stuff?!). We want to share with you the ways that we MAKE family time happen, ways that we CULTIVATE good habits, and the key to SUSTAINING these things all as we learn to implement them in our own lives. Join us on Instagram as we share daily life from our 2 bedroom apartment. Follow along as we tackle life’s adversities and celebrate life’s victories all while working to build our dreams. We will share lifestyle videos, workbooks, interviews, and who doesn’t love useful freebies?! Make sure to sign up for our e-mail list to get the latest updates!

Coming summer 2020

Stay kind – Mel


49 Gift ideas for everyone on your list!

*This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

If you remember a couple of posts back I talked about gifting differently. I’ll have you know that despite it being a lot more challenging than mindless shopping, I’m sticking to the plan. I want to clear something up though…

… I’m not anti buying gifts. I just want any gift I’m giving to have some sort of purpose. I did my best to make material purchase suggestions with this in mind!

Here are 49 gift ideas for your entire shopping list!


      Babies & toddlers

  1. VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Mickey Mouse Silly Slides Fire Station
  2.  My nephews are bottomless pits!
  3. Tool set to match dad’s  
  4. Periodic table building blocks! 
  5. Let them dip their toes in sports!
  6. Or maybe a little music?
  7. It’s never too early to show them the stars 
  8. Hours of fun playing piano on the floor!! 


  9. Singing Machine Groove Cube Hype 
  10. Huffy Marvel Spider-Man Bike 16″ – Blue
  11. Travel chess set
  12. Adjustable roller blades – From skates to blades
  13. Spongebob water bottle
  14. Make it cool to do yard work!
  15. I’m going to try to believe these won’t end up all over my apartment floors 
  16. For the prankster 


  17. Ci302 Wireless CD Music System – Black – Capello
  18. Two matching bags for $22.50 (Mommy & me)
  19. Just Dance 2020 – Nintendo Switch 
  20. These again! Adjustable rollerblades are perfect for kids of all ages!
  21. Table easel for the artist in your life! 

    Parents & spouses

  22. Instant Pot Duo 6qt 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker 
  23. A game to play with your spouse is also your business partner. Let loose and get your creative juices flowing in a fun way!
  24. Handknit throw blanket 
  25.  Weighted eye pillow 
  26. Harry potter house mini backpacks
  27. Workout clothes! 
  28. Cool harry potter lunchbag
  29. Iron man bottle opener 
  30. Harry potter house hoodies 
  31. Rain boots! 
  32. More rain boot options! 
  33. Winter coat 
  34. Booties for a steal!! 
  35. Cutting board for the meticulous chef 

    Gifts for the family!

  36. Family recipe book
  37. Splurge family recipe book 
  38. Make learning fun! 
  39. Disney cookbooks
  40. Board game for the family
  41. Strength building game 
  42. Let’s go on a picnic 
  43. Practice gratitude as a family 
  44. Maybe not the strongest parenting choice, but can work wonders for creative activities

    Gifts for your friends

  45. Long distance friendship lamp!
  46. For the couple that loves to entertain 
  47. A runners best friend 
  48. Meditation mug 
  49. For game night


Everything on this list is something I would gift my nephews, my own kids, my husband… myself… my parents, and my friends! I’m going to have to practice some real self control in not buying them all!

Coming up:
Disney vacation announcement boxes, Stocking stuffer guide, Gift guide for bloggers

Make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss future gift guides!

Stay intentional, friends.


Weekend mornings with the Dusos


It’s no secret. I don’t care about posting on Instagram when the weekend hits. A recent development in our home is that weekend mornings are screen free and family focused. I have to give it to Jeremy. He has been a beacon in our family for a growth mindset. He has worked really hard and selflessly to create a routine for our family that is working really well. I recorded a small portion of it this morning because…

  1. We are shifting toward more video content in the new year.
  2. I felt like it was something I wanted to share with you all.

… but I don’t think I’ll be writing about this every Sunday. One of my personal goals is to really be able to balance my work life and my home life. As a content creator, it can be difficult and down right neglectful to have you phone out ALL the time. My work is at home, so it can be easy to fall into the mentality of always needing to be working to succeed. So, when I’m inspired to share (like today), I will share my insights and experiences… but there will definitely be days that I just want to enjoy my family and I’m learning that some things just need to be enjoyed without capturing them.

Moving on

If you’re new around here you may not know, but Jeremy works the graveyard shift. He doesn’t get to see the kids before they leave for school, he’s asleep before they get home, and still sleeping when they go to bed. Our weekend mornings are the only time we get to really spend as a family, so these routines are intentional and special to both of us.

The routine that we are creating is structured like this. Jeremy and I are up about an hour before the kids are and we make breakfast. Once the kids wake up we all have breakfast at the table together. After breakfast, we engage in an activity. We either play a game, do a park workout together, or do an character building exercise. When we’re done with our activity for the day, we do our chores and enjoy some screen time. This has really helped up start our day more positively as a family.

This morning, we did a strength building exercise. We’ve discovered that it all comes down to self worth and confidence.

When we know our worth and are confident in it, we are stronger. We treat people better, we’re more supportive, we’re more mindful of our behaviors, and we are less defensive. These are just a FEW of the benefits that we’ve noticed have improved in our own family.

Jeremy found this exercise online. I will link it here for you!
*we did not create this ourselves*


We, as parents, often look for areas to help our children improve – we want their behavior to be kind, we want them to do their best academically, we want them to eat healthy, and be active. We also have a habit of thinking (and sometimes saying) they can improve or do better. Now, I am currently LIVING by the mindset of, “there is always room for improvement”, but I think we’ve really been approaching it in a way that isn’t inspirational. In fact, it’s almost harmful and I’ll explain why.

I want my kids to thrive and be the best version of themselves possible. I think it’s safe to assume that is what most parents want for their children. When we tell them to act, work, and eat better we are indirectly telling them that they aren’t good enough. At least, that’s what we’re telling their subconscious  (the part of your mind that you aren’t fully aware of, but drives most of your thoughts and actions)
** Let that sink in before you agree to disagree. Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough? Do you ever wonder where that thought was born?**

Before they start to make changes in improvement, let us focus on their strengths and their confidence. Focusing and working on a trait (not skill) they are already strong in will give them the confidence to improve because they WANT to. By working with them to find out what their strengths are you are reinforcing the fact that you BELIEVE in them.


Ultimately, what we want is for their growth to be intrinsically motivated and provide them with whatever support is needed to help them thrive.

Tips for this activity:

  1. Let them do it alone and guide them only if they need a better understanding of a trait.
  2. Be patient with them. Elijah was a pill and a half through this activity, but we stuck to it and he finished. It took him longer than it took Alexa, but he did it.
  3. Display the chain somewhere they can see it.

The idea of creating a chain is so that they can look at it and be reminded of their strengths. We all need that reminder. Imagine how confident we would be if we learned to do this as children. So, we displayed the kid’s chains on our Christmas tree this year. Then, when they work on another skill, they can add to the chain.

I really enjoyed this activity with them. I think Jeremy and I may do one of our own!


If you liked this post and/or thought it was helpful, please like and share this with your friends and family. If you have input or additional ideas, leave me a comment.

Until next time,


What gift giving and receiving means to me: Tis the season for entitlement. Use it to your advantage

I don’t know who else the applies to, but this one is from my heart.

A while back I took a really close look at my life. It’s amazing how far you can get only to realize that growing as a person never really stops. I came to the realization that my children EXPECTED a lot. I had/have entitled children and it (mom shame aside) is all my fault.


I don’t say that to feel sorry for myself or put myself down; I say it because I have realized that I can do better. I can parent with more purpose.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing gift guides to help with your holiday shopping. Before I do that, it is important to me that I share what giving and receiving gifts during the holidays means in our home.


I want the holidays to be remembered as a season of family, friendship, gratitude, and joy. Now, I love a material gift as much as the next person and I KNOW my kids might not understand right away why we are no longer showering them with gifts. Regardless, my hope is that I teach them the importance of intentional gifts instead of enabling the entitlement by giving them a sea of meaningless gifts (that we all know sometimes end up in a pile of unused toys).

In short, gift giving and receiving means the following to me:

  1. Receiving gifts: appreciate the thought and act behind it.
  2. Gift giving: Really think about the person you’re buying/making for.
  3. Secret Santa/Gift exchange: an opportunity to get to know someone better.

I want to share this mindset with my family and I figured I’d share it with you too!

1. Receiving gifts

When someone gives you a gift they are non verbally telling you that you matter. NO MATTER WHAT.

I know what you’re thinking… “Mel, not everyone gives gifts because they care. Some people do it out of obligation.” Aside the fact that we should never assume negative intent (we’ll get into that some other day), there is some truth to this… but hear me out.

We can choose to acknowledge their lack of interest OR we can learn to appreciate the act as if it is genuine EVERY SINGLE TIME.  If you can learn to consistently practice gratitude when receiving gifts, the ripple effect of positive effects is almost endless!

View More: http://wearetheartistphotography.pass.us/melinda--beach-session

Perspective. I have a story to tell from before you all knew me.

I was MORTIFIED when my brother handed my 8 year old daughter a 20 dollar bill for her birthday and she responded with, “This isn’t a present.”

No… not I am not joking. That’s when I started teaching the the importance of gratitude and intent. That day we painted rocks together. Alexa, my daughter, had the most amazing time. She was so excited to give one to her dad, her stepdad, and her grandma. When we were done, I asked her why she was so excited to give them her painted rocks. She told me about how her dad’s favorite colors are red and gold, about how Jeremy (her stepdad) likes cats and she drew whiskers on Jeremy’s rock for him.

When she gave her dads their rocks they thanked her for them with a smile on their face. That day a saying was born in our family. It doesn’t matter if someone gives you a rock; you appreciate them because all they wanted to do was make you happy.

the Beardless coffee

Here is the ripple effect: The person receiving your gratitude is reassured that they are appreciated. They aren’t left with an empty feeling of obliged gifting.

If, for whatever reason, it’s obvious that it’s a mindless gift… at the end of the day someone went out of their way even for a minute to buy, order, or make something for you.

There is always something to appreciate.

2. Gift giving

This one is my favorite. Look at that face!


I love making people happy. Unfortunately, I have facilitated an environment in which making people happy has happened in one way during the holiday season: expensive gifts (and a lot of them). Of course, our intentions are always the best when we shower our loved ones with gifts for Christmas, but it is a recipe for entitlement.

This year we are using this season to teach (by example) how to give gifts with intention. What exactly does that mean? Well… there just might be less gifts under the tree from here on out. Are any of us missing out on anything because of it? Not even a little bit. (Honestly, I’m giving myself the gift of a clutter free home by doing this)

That brings me to my point. What are we replacing gifts with? Nothing. I’m simply shopping/searching with experience, tradition, and memories in mind. Don’t mistake what I’m say with, “No more material gifts… Ever.”

Ways to gift with intention

For example, I gift my little family these Christmas season care packages and they are full of hot cocoa packets, cozy pajamas, and anything else I think they can use for our family mornings/nights. I am consciously giving the gift of tradition, quality family time, and comfort.

When you give a gift, you want to make their lives a little easier, more comfortable, or more fun! It’s an opportunity to really do something for them that they can’t or won’t do themselves.

3. Secret Santa/Gift exchange

I wanted to touch on this before wrapping up this blog post.

The one time it actually is obligatory to gift someone is for family gift exchanges and secret Santa. Instead of stressing out about what to get this person or that it’s “just one more person to buy for”, use it as an opportunity to get to know someone on an intimate level.

Don’t know what to get your secret Santa match up? Start a conversation. Have coffee with them. Connect with another person and learn what you can do for them as their secret Santa.

I hope this helps take some of the stress of the holidays off of your shoulders. However you celebrate the holiday, make sure it’s a way that brings you true joy. I, for one, am over glorifying the “holiday madness” and I’m ready to enjoy the holidays with my family!

Until next time!





Mel’s Friday finds!

*This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Welcome to the first blog post in our Friday Finds series! Gosh the name just makes me cringe each time, but until we find a better one… Mel’s Friday Finds! Fall and cold weather have finally decided to come out and play here in California, but let’s just say… I wanted to see it to believe it. We’re in November!

… I have a memory of saying this last November. Hmmm.

Anyway! Here are a few things I bought to prepare for colder days around here.

  1. Catch me in this cardigan until next summer.This is such a great find and price!


  2.  My foundation pair
    One of the questions I do get asked a lot is what foundation I wear. I’ve tried a lot of different foundations in my time. Some really expensive ones that worked amazingly, some expensive ones that didn’t work AT ALL, and some inexpensive ones that worked well for the price.  This has been the best foundation duo for quality and price I’ve ever experienced for myself.If you’re wondering why I’m buying this for cold weather… well… ya just don’t get what a California summer looks like around here! Haha… Really though. I need a winter color.Foundation brush:


    Full coverage foundation:
  3. GlovesIf anyone else’s kid’s are like mine and use gloves… until they lose them… H&M has some really cute and inexpensive ones right now!hmgoepprod (1)
    hmgoepprod (2)
  4.  These are for mama! I live in leggings and I know I’m not the only one. These are the perfect pair of seasonal leggings. You know… you have your every day leggings and your special leggings. Get you some special leggings, girl.9fd20dd9-03e1-4e9a-89d5-7bb64ad69233_1.0570120bfa0748f922ccf4252b86480f
  5.  Jeremy thinks I’m obsessed with blankets and he’s not wrong. I didn’t buy this blanket because I “have enough” (I really do… and I love my blanket, but COME ON!) but if I were to buy a blanket (or be gifted a blanket. Here’s lookin’ at you, Jeremy Duso) this would definitely be the one. 91XadTSvzVL._AC_SL1500_

6. Finally, what I love the ABSOLUTE MOST about colder weather is being able to open up my windows, letting fresh air in, and lighting the yummiest smelling candles. Hands down the best part about fall in our home. I love the scents and price of walmart’s candles. I have yet to find a better candle/price combo! These are my favorite scents!


The black cherry scent is sold out online, but it is so worth the quick trip to Walmart! These are the three rotating scents in my home year round! Maybe I should venture out and try something new this year?

Well, I’d say the first post of the ORIGINAL MEL’S FRIDAY FINDS series is done and over with. Could it have been better? Absolutely… but I always say that nothing gets better until you just hit PUBLISH.

Tell next time, babes.



24 Magical Makers: Affordable park inspired merchandise

I’m going to start by saying that my favorite part of what I do as a content creator and online media and mindset coach is connecting with different people around the world. Hands down, I’ve grown to love making new friends! The Birthday Blogger Bash was the first of many large collaborations for travel content. The following makers donated their time and product to our first blogger bash and it inspired me beyond words to creatively showcase their products! So, expect more content to come from many of the shops listed below!

  1. Ambrie Clothing
    Every kind of clothing type in the cutest park inspired prints! I got to wear her rag doll legging during our trip and let me just tell you – they are the most comfortable leggings I’ve ever put on! & I love me some leggings…
  2. Bianca’s custom canvas
    I didn’t personally work with Bianca for this trip, but I saw the beautiful work she did on Sarah’s shoes! Bianca hand paints custom art onto shoes, wine glasses, and she also sells the most magical necklaces! 

  3. Champagne rain studio
    I hold Kristen’s shop very dear to my heart. As you know, my goal is to spread kindness by opening up about my struggles with mental illness and childhood trauma. Many of her t-shirts promote kindness, which I think is SO COOL!

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    As if I didn’t love Kristen’s shop already – she absolutely stole my heart when I saw her anti-bullying campaign using her Oh Mickey you so kind adult shirts. Check out more about her mission with the kind project here.

  4. Chinas Charm
    Audri is so talented and add all the sass to my front door decor! We don’t have anything Disney – yet, but we have something in the works for Christmas season! For now, look at the front door mats she designed for me!69313971_2535865589803742_3019569486073167872_n
  5. Core Memories Co.
    The Core Memories Co. team creates the most creative and unique park inspired designs with a twist! I love a good modern pop collaborative pun on a graphic tee.
  6. Crafty Twist
    I’ve been introduced to fabric tumblers and OH MY GOODNESS! They are the cutest, most low maintenance tumblers I’ve ever had. They hold an insane amount of liquid in this particular size too. I was pleasantly surprised!
  7. Expedition Roasters
    As someone who LOVES to really taste the difference in specialty coffees without the heaviness of adding milk or cream to it, Expedition Roasters has my Disney loving coffee obsessed heart for life.

    Have a keurig? They also have reusable k-cups available so that you can still enjoy their creative, delicious, genius!

  8. Jax and Grey
    Rebecca is so talented, creative, and just one of the most GIVING people I know and it shows in all of her work. Her vinyl water bottles are perfect for the parks, for working out, or for a busy, on-the-go, lifestyle!


  9. Jolly June Ears

    The quality of these ears are so good. No picture could ever do it justice! They were perfect for my anticipated Sally disneybound that I wore on Day 3 for our Birthday Blogger Bash

  10. Lianas Dazzling Designs
    Liana primarily makes ears, but she’s a total creative who just loves what she does. There are also park inspired earings in her Etsy shop that are stunning!

    These were easily the most comfortable pair of ears from our trip (for me at least) and I loved all the glam!


  11. Little Jane Lane Designs
    A t shirt designer with a love for puns! My kind of gal. I think what I love most about this particular shop is her the material and the color options she offers. I also LOVE a shop with options galore, so if you’re looking to buy matching shirts or sassy shirts, this is your shop!


  12. Little Miss Wonderland
    I am seriously BLOWN away by the fine detail, quality, and durability of Rachel’s ears. They are unique to her shop alone. The headband is a great thickness that I’ve never seen on any ears before hers
  13. Magic and Mimosas
    72277106_540648603408092_392128435360628736_nLike many of these ladies, Cinzia has become an amazing business friend of mine. Aside from the way her shirts make for the best Disney content pictures, she adds the cutest touch of glam to them.

    For a girls trip, Magic and Mimosas is obviously the place to shop.


  14. Magical Pop Co.
     I mean… has there ever been a more PERFECT addition to your mirror selfie??!!!
  15. Magical World of Design
    This was such a statement T-shirt. It was bold, breathable, and flattering on each of us in our own way. I feel like it hugged and hid us in our the best way!

    71962897_495348844649139_6486107139080192000_nAlso, check out Teilor Made Design Co. for the cutest crochet cup cozies!

  16. Magic Makers Boutique
    You have to know this about me. I love everything about Megara. The sass, the hair, the bravado… I just love her. I can NEVER find Meg merch though! Seriously, the most underrated Disney gal.

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    When I stumbled across Linda and her team, I was blown away by the quality of her products. Specifically, her jersey style long sleeves and light up park ears! It has to be said that no amount or quality of pictures will EVER do these products justice. The quality and fine detail in what her team does is incomparable.

  17. Main Street Supply Co72328054_423366764984690_1099168399759507456_n
    Bethany is the sweetest, most dedicated shop owner! Her lost princess ears were the most versatile ears for my blogger bash outfits and I can’t wait to show off her Christmas ears later this month!
  18. Nikki Mouse Creations 
    I would have never tried these hand tied knot headbands had it not been for Nikki! Here is a fun, creative, and adorable shop where your headband can match your hot or cold cup cozie! A dangerous shop for me, but with the cutest intentions!
  19. Happily Ever Hatter

    These 3D ears were so cute and unique! Sarah designed a custom set with a park inspired font displaying her Instagram handle and coordinated the colors to match our go to park hotel – Howard Johnson of Anaheim.

    Again, I think this is one of those products that pictures won’t do justice. (Make sure to follow Sarah and I on Instagram for live updates and reviews of these products!)

  20. Next Stop Main St.
    I can’t think of a more perfect shirt for your family PJ pictures on Christmas morning (or if you’re like my family, Christmas and Cocoa all December long)


  21. Custom Park Ears
    Custom and personalized park inspired home decor!


  22. Mikis Custom
    I can’t wait to use these next year! Now we have an excuse to go every year during Halloween time!
  23. Buy Happy Feet
    To my pleasant surprise, these slippers not only look good… you literally sink into them! SPOILER ALERT: We know which company we’re getting out December Christmas movie night care package this year!


  24. Elle and Ems Wax Co
    My park fix year round! Elle and Ems Wax Co has so many smells that remind me of my favorite place ever!


If you found this list useful when preparing for your Disney vacation or shopping for the Disney lover in your life, please share this article with your friends and family! Each of these ladies hold such a special place in my heart and after meeting them, seeing the passion behind their businesses, and experiencing the quality of their products for myself, I want nothing more than to see them succeed!


Subscribe so you never miss my Disney shopping guides, insider tips, and reviews!





Disclaimer: This article contains sensitive subject matter about my own personal experience with suicidal ideation and may not be suitable for people who struggle with mental illness.  This article is intended as informational only; and is no way medical or psychological advice. If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433.  If you have an emergency Call 911. All information and resources found on thebeardlesscoffee.com are based on the opinions of the author. By using this website, you accept this disclaimer in full.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared an update on my mental health journey on my blog. Those who follow me on Instagram usually know when I’m struggling, but it takes me a while to gather my thoughts and feelings enough to share in a way that I hope helps someone in need. In case you’re new here, this is my journey to understanding my mental illness and learning how to prioritize my mental health.


Around March of 2017, after my worst experience with suicidal ideation, I experienced a feeling of complete emptiness and loneliness that was triggered after watching a show that was narrated by the first-person perspective of someone who died by suicide. From beginning to end I heard racing thoughts and heartbreaking feelings that I’ve felt myself… I spiraled into a depression so deep I no longer… felt anything. I once described it as being anchored under a body of water. I see the surface and all of my friends and family are up there. I want to swim to them – they’re all so happy… but I can’t. No matter how much I try, I’m anchored to the ground. 

I made the call early April. I was given a list of providers for cognitive talk therapy that accepted my health insurance. I called every number they gave me and received 4 calls back. They gave me 10 numbers. I left 10 messages.

The first appointment I went to did not feel right at all. I tried for about a month before I realized I wasn’t getting anything out of my therapist. So, I not only stopped seeing that therapist, I stopped going to therapy all together.

In December of 2017 I was finally introduced to a place that came highly recommended as I was looking into mental health services for my daughter. When I got to our first appointment, I saw that they offered adult services as well. I had loved everything about the office, so I decided to try at therapy once again. 

I really see December 2017 as the beginning of my journey not only to understand my mental illness, but to my commitment at making sure I fight to end the stigma of mental illness and suicide. 

“Suicidal thoughts are scary—and very isolating. It can really make a difference when people check in and really listen. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide. It won’t put the thought in someone’s head. Asking could be what saves them—especially when you take the time to listen and connect them to help,” says Providence Portland Walk Team Captain Dr. Robin Henderson, who is also the Chief Executive of Behavioral Health for Providence in Oregon and the clinical liaison for Well Being Trust.


2018 Seattle team2.JPG

I was recently introduced to Providence St. Joseph Health and wish I had known about them sooner.  With a vision of Health for a Better World this non-profit organization has been advocating for vulnerable populations and health care reform for 100 years.  They understand what it means to connect to the communities they serve (AK, CA, WA, NM, TX, OR, MT) to address wellness, mental health and social needs. 

Since announcing their commitment to improving mental health in 2016, Providence St. Joseph Health knows it will take everyone working together to make a difference.   One example of that is their partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). They are leading by example and employees have formed teams over 7 states to participate in the Out of the Darkness Walks to bring awareness to suicide prevention and encourage others in the communities they serve to join the cause.  Although suicide prevention is important to address year-round, these walks provide a dedicated time to come together in the fight against suicide. 

“This is a great opportunity to show our communities they are not alone when dealing with mental illness and suicide.”  – Erin Wesen, Seattle Walk Team Captain- – Providence St. Joseph Health

Portland Team 2018_4.jpg

This year like many others,  teams of passionate caregivers at Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s largest health system, are walking in the Out of the Darkness Walks.  Kudos to the Providence St. Joseph Health teams (650 walkers strong) for raising over $40,000 in this effort and making mental wellness and suicide prevention a priority and making a meaningful difference. Watch this video to see their impact: https://vimeo.com/361376859/1ac57749aa 

According to statistics more than 40 million adults across the United States have a mental health condition. More than half go untreated because of stigma and lack of support.  That is approximately 26,400,000 people suffering in silence or without the support they need-depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that can lead to suicide.   According to the Centers for Disease suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 and that, to me, is just heartbreaking. The truth is, we can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide, because just one conversation can change a life.

Learn how you can make an impact by walking with Providence or supporting the cause with a donation at afsp.org/PSJH

Providence St. Joseph Health and their efforts are building exciting momentum and I, for one, am so grateful to their sense of urgency and the understanding of complexity that needs to go into making sure that no one suffers in silence.

Portland Team 2018(1)

How Providence & Well Being Trust are Transforming Clinical Practice to Better Treat Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders  


#WhyIWalk: Out of the Darkness Walk Team Captain Testimonials https://blog.providence.org/mental-health/whyiwalk-out-of-the-darkness-walk-team-captain-testimonials 

Teen suicide: Know the warning signs https://blog.providence.org/mental-health/teen-suicide-know-the-warning-signs 

This post was created in partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health. All opinions are my own



Gift guide: Her first period

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my privacy and disclosure page to learn more about affiliate links and how they work. All opinions are my own.

Let me tell ya, the pre-teen years have hit house Duso. I’ve finally gotten down how to mother school aged children and now… I’m in the new world of adolescence. Most days it’s extremely exhausting and anxiety inducing, but I’m working on doing my part to cope with that and be there for her!

One of the things I have really been thinking about doing for her was prepare Lex for her pre-teen/teenage years. I finally put together a basket full of things she may need as she transitions into this new season of life. Oh, the glory years. Looking back I don’t REMEMBER feeling scared and confused, but I also see that I most definitely was. Not having a close relationship with my own mom growing up has always left me afraid that I don’t really know how to be a “girl mom”. I’m SO stoked to be able to be there for my daughter during this time in her life in a way I don’t really feel anyone was there for me during those years. It’s almost therapeutic and healing to take my experience and turn it into an opportunity to do better for her!

“My first period basket”

Earlier this month I finally got it all together! I put together a basket of products that she may need and open up the opportunity for her to ask any questions about what’s in the basket.


Lex loves unboxing things, so this was the perfect way to introduce her to all of this!


Here is a list of the things in the basket!

1. Native deodorant 


I chose to gift her two scents One in a Melon and Loco for Coco. We all know how important finding the right deodorant is. I have a skin sensitivity that has made that hard for me, so I wanted to start her off with a natural, aluminum free deodorant. We’ve already fallen victim to the stenches of adolescence so we were all happy about this addition to her “My First Period Basket”!

Use my code: thebeardlesscoffee20 to save on your order at Native.com

2. Kidskin skin care products


My girl has had her fair share of blemishes already. Between school and acrobatic gymnastics, she sweats a lot! Starting her morning and night routine early will set her up with healthy hygiene habits!

3. A couple of different pads

This was by far the most important part for me. When I got my period, I wasn’t educated in any of it. It took me a long time (and many embarrassing moments) to find what worked for me.

I wanted her to open up the different types of pads

I told her to open them up and ask any questions that came to mind. Instead of throwing a ton of information at her, I wanted to met her where she was at. I wanted to answer her questions instead of lecturing her on The Joys of Womanhood” 


4. Tampons

Even if she won’t be using these for a while, it’s important to know what they are and how they work. I try to remember that if she doesn’t hear it from me, eventually, she will hear it from someone else and she may not be given correct information.


5. Comforte Creme

I am definitely not anti medication by any means, but if I can find a way to reduce the amount of chemicals that go into my daughter’s body I definitely will. Comforte is a topical menstrual pain reliever for women and girls of all ages!


6. Reminders about the importance of self care, mental health, and confidence.

I’m all about changing our environment to match our goals and values. I filled her basket with reminders to be confident, carve out time to take care of herself, be resilient, and prioritize her feelings in a healthy way.


7. Babygirl balloon banner. Because you’ll always be my baby girl no matter how old you get!



I’m so excited to share this with other moms, grandmas, aunts, dads – anyone who may find this useful! It went so well for us. She was interactive, excited, and curious in a way that made this topic easier to tackle!

If you find this article useful please share with your friends! If you never want to miss a blog post, subscribe to my blog!

Till next time!

Mel D






September goals, hopes, and dreams.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Privacy and Disclosure page to learn more about how affiliate links work. All opinions are my own.

Here we are, four days into September. I’m feeling fired up! So many amazing things happening already and it’s only going to get better!!


While I’m still doing a little damage control from my most recent depression – here’s lookin’ at you Mt. Laundry – I have a clear mind, a happy heart, and I’m full of energy and ambition.

Still trying to figure out whether this is just me or if we should be concerned that this is hypomanic behavior. I don’t think so. I feel more myself than anything lately. Regardless, I want to be careful as I am constantly learning about myself and my mental illness. So I’m thinking of keeping a mood journal. Just to jot down the general feel of the day. Maybe I’ll find a pattern and talk to my doctor about it, but maybe I’ll see that I’m okay… That I don’t have to worry about learning to cope with Bipolar Disorder.

Now that you’re caught up with my inner-monologue these days – Let’s move on the my September goals, hopes, and dreams!



I’ve finally managed to create a work flow that works for me! I’m successfully building a healthy work/life balance and being most present at home. That’s been my focus for a while now, so I’m really happy to be seeing progress in those areas!

One of the wisest men I know has always reminded me, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” Thanks, Nino.

I’m going to keep it short and simple. This post is for anyone who needs it, including me. Accountability for all!

  1. I recently got accepted to the reward style platform! Also known as, Liketoknow.it, this is a big driving force of income as a blogger! Needless to say, I’m so excited for it – but also… I’m overwhelmed. I want to focus on devoting time to learn this platform in September. 
  2. On the topic of devotion. This poor blog of mine has not been given the TLC it deserves. I want to post AT LEAST 1 post a week.DSC_0059 - Copy - Copy - Copy
  3. Getting my kids out of the house at least once a week is my biggest goal this month.
    One of the most disappointing mom fails of mine is not prioritizing this sooner. I believe that I do a serious disservice to myself and my readers when I don’t share the things I’m afraid to share. I get better and better each year, but getting out of the house is a big problem of mine.
  4. Move the keyboard out to the living room and practice music with Jeremy. This will be a fun way to spend time together doing something he loves. With the holiday season coming up it will also be something fun to share with the kids.
  5. Start one book – mostly (if we’re being honest) because I want to get rid of ALL of the clutter in my home. I’m thinking it could also be helpful for my business. I can write book reviews and give away each book I can finish. Everyone wins! I’m looking at starting What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty after I finish the horror book The Broken Girls (yes, the same book as last year, but I’m no quitter!)



I just hope that I can go into this fun fall season with stability that I don’t feel I’ve had in the last couple of months. Fall, Halloween, and Christmas are usually so magical for us and I really want to actively enjoy that this year.

I want more of these smiles and memories!



I’m not afraid to say that I don’t yet make enough money as I want to make blogging and, honestly, I know why. I don’t expect to make consistent money when my work and efforts aren’t consistent. I have made great strides in my work as a travel blogger and I’m extremely proud and excited for the content I have planned.

My dream this month is to build a partnership with an airline or Amtrak for my travel blog adventures.

I, before I wrap this up, have to say how much I LOVE Amtrak. I’ve only ever taken one to visit my mom, but they are BY FAR my favorite way to travel in California. I don’t know about you, but the thing I dislike about traveling in a car is that you can’t do anything but… be in the car. Usually, I sleep. Not while I’m driving because that’s crazy, but I’m the worst person to travel with as a passenger. My best friend can confirm that I once slept through the scariest drive of her life. When I ride an Amtrak train the best thing about it is that I can work while I travel! It’s like a transportation service that was literally built for travel bloggers. That being said, they would be a dream to work with as I would love to learn more about them for you all.


Cheers to starting off the month motivated, ambitious, and ready to work! Happy freaking September!


Disneyland: Preparing for my first blogger business trip!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information on what affiliate links are. All opinions are my own.

   While this is the first of many blogger business trips, a Disneyland business trip is an actual dream come true. I’m a Disney fanatic for life. There was a point where I thought being Disney obsessed was just a phase for me, but it’s been 29 years strong so it’s safe to say I’m a die hard Disney gal.

Duso Wedding-27
Photo credit: Elias Pasillas Photography

I know. I know what you’re thinking. A business trip in Disneyland? That’s not a thing. If it is, HOW?!




Here’s how it happened

I took the leap. I mentioned that I was an annual passholder with no plans to go to Disneyland until my anniversary in November and would like to catch a ride with someone who may be going sooner. I met Sarah from @ThatDisneylandFamily through Instagram; This is one of so many things I love about my job as a blogger and a social media influencer. The people I have met through this platform are all of the right type of people I need in my life. “well, we’re going at the end of September for my Birthday. You can totally go!” was her immediate response. Thus was born the Disney Blogger Business Trip of our dreams!

At first, I was just tagging along with her, @Brittanylandetc, and Brittany’s boyfriend. It was a cool trip with an Instagram friend. To be quite honest, I was totally anxious about it. I’ve never just gone on a trip with someone I just met before, but she loves Disney even more than I do so I went with it.

Once the trip was set (and not just an impulsive plan) we really started to connect. We would text about the trip nonchalantly, here and there, but we really built a friendship aside from our Disney plans.


Keep in mind – this is still just another Disney trip for us at this point. We would talk to each other about life with anxiety and depression, trying to build our online brand, and just motivate each other to keep going. Life as a blogger can get really isolating at times. It’s nice when someone really gets what you do as a blogger.

I searched high and low to see if I can find where the idea to make this a business trip was born, but I didn’t find it. Regardless, we soon decided that this was the perfect opportunity to take a Disney trip specifically to create content and take as many pictures as we want without neglecting our families (or hearing our husbands talk about how many picture we want to take. Sorry, dudes.)

This is how we prepared

1. Hotel – Howard Johnson of Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground

One of the many things Sarah and I share is our love for Howard Johnson of Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. Sarah actually posted an extremely thorough review of the hotel on her own blog: That Disneyland Family.

View More: https://wearetheartistphotography.pass.us/mel--flg
Photo credit: We Are the Artist Photography

You can find the review here.

Sarah and I are both part of the HoJo Influencer family. When I say family, I really mean that the relationship is close. In fact, one of my favorite things about the Hotel (and probably the reason why I’ll never stay anywhere else) is their hospitality. Everything about our stays are magical from check in to check out.

All of this to say that our first order of business was booking our room at HoJo Anaheim!

Here are my top 5 favorite things about Hojo Anaheim

  • It’s an 8 minute walk to the parks. This is ideal for every Disney trip. Family trip? Take those cranky kids to the hotel for nap time. Trip for 2? Take that cranky spouse to the hotel for nap time (half joke. also – I’m that cranky spouse.). Business trip? Convenient for 1,000 outfit changes. I mean, you practically get free parking.
  • The water playground (castaway cove) makes our Disney trips even more full and magical! We’ve always liked to take a little break from the heat and the crowds in the afternoon as neither Jeremy or I are fans of either. When the kids are with us, they don’t throw a fit to leave the parks because they know that they’re going back to more fun!
  • The lighting in the restroom – I mean… I’m a blogger. Duh.
  • The retro vibes in the newly renovated buildings! I, honestly, mean it when I say that my stay at HoJo is magical from check in to check out (and even after because we stay connected on Facebook and Instagram) The rooms are so fun that they feel like we are staying in a themed hotel! How much more magical does it get?
  • A great view of the firework show to see even on the nights that we head back early. One of the reasons we love to be annual pass holders is because we don’t feel RUSHED to get on every ride and see every show. We know that we will be back at to see it all. We like to do the Disney parks on our own time when we’re on vacation. Very rarely are we go, go, go when we visit because, well, that’s every day life in the Duso home.

I’ll post a full review when we return, but I’ll be the first to say that for all things Disney, Sarah is your girl. She works so damn hard at creating content for her audience and is so good at what she does! I have to make sure that my people know about my people. *Insert community over competition quote here*

2. Sponsors and partners

As I mentioned, content creation is the focus of this trip. I’m sure we’ll sneak away to write a bit, but we’re focusing on getting as many pictures as we can for Disney, friendship, blogging insight, and so many other topics!

Collectively, our audience is over 43,000 followers for this trip, so it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with companies of all sizes and make new connections!


The beautiful thing about this job is you get to hand pick who you work with. Let’s be honest, not everyone is a good fit to work together. Each of us reached out to shops we wanted to promote. The feedback and support we’ve received from the small shop community is overwhelming! We haven’t even left yet and I’ve already made amazing connections with people like Bethany from Main Street Supply Co. and Cinzia from Magic and Mimosas. I already see a potential friendship in these two! (I may have already threatened them with my friendship.)

I won’t disclose all of our partners and sponsors because I’m still working on content ideas, but I’m just telling you… I’m really challenging myself for this trip!


3. Transportation

We decided to drive down this trip because obviously we need to kick off our birthday blogger bash with a road trip! We’re splitting gas four ways which cuts down costs for everyone to take a trip for content! Reason 340,983,024 why I love Disney business trips. Decluttering tip_ stop collecting things and treat your loved ones (& yourself) to adventure instead!I’m so stoked to be driving down with Disney music blasting the entire time. I also was just informed that Brittany makes special Disney trip cold brew!

Can you FEEL how excited I am that it’s at the end of this month?!

4. Food

I have partnered with Fire + Ice for our trip as well. I love Disney, so it’s easy to want to be in the parks all day, every day, for every meal. I want to start exploring other places to eat outside the parks. They were kind enough to host our party of four for dinner when we go and I cannot wait to try their food and soak in their ambiance as I’ve heard nothing but great things!


So there you have the basics of how we made this happen. I also would love to give a special thank you to Speck Travel who kindly gifted us Disney Gift Cards for spending money as well as Uber credits for our trip. Our trip got so much more magical thanks to you! Shop their travel collection here.



Eco-friendly Back to School Shopping Guide.

This post contains some affiliate links. When you make a purchase anything from the links in this blog, you are helping me keep it up and running at no additional cost to you. As always, the opinions and photos are my own. 

If your life is anything like mine lately, you’re a bit behind on the back to school prep. It sneaked up on me! I can’t be the only one, right?

Part of the reason why it took so long was because I wanted to do back to school shopping differently this year.

I’ve been so focused on making changes to reduce waste in our home.

  • Remembering to take grocery bags with me
  • Drinking filtered water instead of bottled water – all except Jeremy (tsk, tsk)
  • Not buy paper or plastic cleaning supplies
  • Steel straws

It’s addicting and amazing when you really start to think of all of the ways you can help take care of our planet.

I’m using back to school shop and prep to teach my kids about reducing waste.

I’m breaking free from traditional back to school shopping – spending hundreds of dollars on new clothes, backpacks, shoes, supplies that just get thrown away or added to the clutter in your storage areas.

Let me start the informational part of this article off by saying that you don’t need to buy anything new if last year’s items are in good condition. Sure, splurge on an outfit for the first day of school, but there is no need to buy a new backpack EVERY SINGLE YEAR and for goodness sake, before you buy a new lunch bag – make sure they’re going to use the damn thing. Look at what you have already. Here is a checklist of the things you may not need to waste more money (and space) on.

Check your closet!

Moving on.

Here are 5 companies and sites that we shop at during back to school season. They each support a waste free way of life and are working hard to make big changes for a better world.

  1. Parkland MFG Bags, totes, lunch bags, duffles, and more made out of 100% plastic water bottles!67620954_435646640357431_4031487003898937344_n
  2. Once upon a child One kid’s grown out clothes is another kids gently used treasure! I spent $150 on Monday and you know what I got? 5 pairs of shoes, an entire fall capsule wardrobe for Alexa & Elijah, a small summer capsule wardrobe for Alexa, and workout clothes for gymnastics. Pants, sweaters, dress shirts, cardigans, dresses – $150 is likely going to last me until December.

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    What’s best is each time I go in to shop someone else’s closet – I am giving someone the chance to shop mine by selling what my kids have outgrown.
  3. Kidizen
    This is my favorite app for selling gently used kids items. If you shop small and don’t want to lose out on resell value, this is the site. Brands like Wild Rich Kids, Rags to Raches, Remie Girl, Alice and Ames, Wunderkin, and many more are featured on Kidizen every day. Their system also ensures prompt shipping as a priority which is really nice if you’ve ever fallen victim to a sketchy bst seller.67668725_477455029708953_1067893242478985216_n (1)The selling process is also very easy on Kidizen and they take care of making sure you get paid!

    Use my referral link to get $5 off your first purchase.


  4. Wisdom Supply Co
    The site for a ZERO waste school supply kit.Seriously, why are we still buying and throwing away?Wisdom supply co also shares so much useful information on how to live eco-friendly!
  5. This Saves Lives 
    Co founded by amazing people like Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, and Ravi Patel, this company is one of my favorites. Kindness and generosity are the two things I value most in life and I want to teach my children to have a deep understanding of ways to help those who cannot help themselves.To us it may just be another snack, but to other kids – it’s another day of live saving meals!You can find these bars at the McHenry target and starbucks if you’re in Modesto OR you can buy them online here.



I hope you like to read.

A not so quick recap of July…

If you make it to the end, bless your heart. This one’s gonna be a long one.

Those who have been following me on Instagram  know that July just wasn’t my month. I tried to keep up; I tried to stay positive, but July was just a rough month for me and I’m working hard at turning it around internally.

**Trigger warning: This post touches on depression and suicide from my perspective. If you struggle with these issues please take caution and I advise that you consult with a professional therapist before following me along my journey of healing. I want this to be a safe space for all and that starts with making sure my content is helpful not hurtful**

We kicked off the month with the release of a podcast episode of You, Me, Empathy that I had the honor of being featured in. (You can click on the link above to visit the website or listen on spotify here.) I have to start by saying that I love what I do. I have found a power in vulnerability and I never want to stop fighting to help people find the words they need to stand up for and describe their pain.

Aside from my passion to end the stigma of mental illness, it sometimes takes a real toll on me when I revisit the most painful parts of my life. As a child, I was just living; I wasn’t unpacking what it meant to not live with my parents and I wasn’t trying to understand my feelings. That’s something that I’m doing now, as an adult, with the added stress of life at the moment (More on this shortly) so sometimes a slip or a trigger can spiral into a full blow panic attack and/or depression.

Oh. If you don’t know, I live with generalized anxiety and depression. I do choose to take antidepressants to medicate it and it works really well for me when I’m responsible about taking them regularly. Moving on.

My mom had the gastric bypass surgery on July 5th and due to a scheduling change that I couldn’t work around, I wasn’t able to make it.

To keep an extremely long story short, if you listen to the podcast episode, you’ll get a better understanding of the complex relationship I have with my parents. I have had many years of trying to understand myself and my childhood – my mom and I have both put a lot of effort into accepting the way life has worked out for us.

One of the biggest struggles I have in my healing is standing up for my feelings and reminding myself that not everyone is going to understand me, my relationship with my parents, or why I make decisions I do (good and bad). Regardless, I felt attacked as a few of my family members made comments shaming me for not being there… for never being there. You know what? They’re right. My anxiety gets the best of me almost every single time I’m going to be around my extended family – because I have always been misunderstood. Talk about triggers. My mom is in surgery and I am reminded at 29 years old that there are many people who will never get how much there is to heal from my broken childhood. “What’s the point of trying?”

A racing thought all month long.

What’s the point? Has anyone had this dangerous thought? Has it spiraled into… “What’s the point of being here?”

Let me tell you something – suicidal thoughts don’t always sound like “I want to kill myself.” or “I want to die.”

Let me tell you something – suicidal thoughts don’t always sound like “I want to kill myself.” or “I want to die.” They’re dangerous because of how hidden they can be. All month long I’ve struggled to get up and handle day to day tasks at the minimum level. I’ve also missed a few doses of my medication and well, that’s always a recipe for disaster.

Now for the cherry on top. 67903101_2095399907238757_6082872790170468352_n

I am someone who thrives on routine. Sometimes I hate admitting it because it makes me seem rigid – which I absolutely loathe because I don’t feel it’s a voluntary need of mine. My mind works best when I have a routine I can follow. Summers are crap for routine, so I’ve been a mess, my house has been a mess, my husband and I miss each other and instead of dealing with it I’m over here hiding myself in work… that is also a mess right now.

This isn’t to complain or be a “downer” – This is my release of July Jumblies (I did my best)



July wasn’t all bad. The 4th is always a fun tradition with our other half of Team Duso and their gang; Jeremy enjoyed a week off of work to be with the family and get some sun; and I started to make changes to my lifestyle. Somehow, the hard stuff always has more weight on my mind. Gratitude – I need to be more mindful of the good in my life because there is a whole lot of it!

Sharing intimate thoughts and insecurities is quite terrifying. There’s a big nakedness I feel while sharing my story. Why do I do it anyway? I GUARANTEE that there are many reading who can relate. Many of them can’t put into words how they’re feeling. Many of them don’t think anyone understands.

Although I think it’s important for EVERYONE to understand mental health, the people who share my struggles are the people I really hope have made it this far. What’s coming… this is for those people. 

Hello August!


July is officially behind me. I learned a lot last month about the things I would like to focus and put into action. I’ve set some goals for myself.

  1. I am going to be setting “working hours” for my online business. My work time will be completed while my kids are in school so that I can honor my “no screen time” rule between 3pm-8pm. Focus: Be a more present parentI try to do this constantly, but I also constantly have a million things going on and that is a quick road to over exhaustion and a mental break downs. Which brings me to my next goal.
  2. I have one social event going into August and I want to keep it that way. Just for this month. Focus: Practice prioritizationAugust is all about getting into a routine that works, so the only areas I want to put my energy in is my family, my job, and my health. This is sometimes the hardest. I never want friends or family feeling like they’re unimportant. There are, however, times when I don’t have any more of me to give and I’m learning to be okay with that.

Bottom line: I am practicing self control in home management, food/exercise, and sticking my schedule. 


I’m optimistic that I can work hard and create a positive change. I’m going to kick this depression’s ass!


Entryway Apartment Decor

This post may contain affiliate links. As always all thoughts, opinions, and experiences are my own.


When you think about your home, what does it look like? Mine? Every way I decorate my imaginary dream home there has ALWAYS been an entry way table! In fact, both apartments I’ve lived in have had entryway tables. I’m kind of obsessed with them no matter how small they are.67223842_2481710005448706_3297392181509095424_n


We’ve gone through some ups and downs with our entryway situation, but I think we’ve finally settled into a system that works and doesn’t greet us at the door with clutter. It’s nothing too fancy, but I am pretty dang proud of it.

I got the table from a Facebook yard sale site for $10, but I have seen them on walmart’s website!





Our “command center” is set up for efficiency. It’s one way we make the most of our space.

I use command hooks to hang our purses and reusable bags — I’m slowly getting better at not forgetting them when I go shopping this way too.





I use a two tier tray for quick snacks and busy mornings and KIND Snacks makes filling our breakfast/snack bar with a delicious variety of options!

Kind snacks fills our breakfast and snack bar

Healthy, delicious, and convenient. Isn’t that the trifecta of a perfect snack?

I’m pretty obsessed with this notepad for any messages I need to send the kid’s teachers. For most situations I can call or text them, but sometimes I need to attach a not to a question and you all know how much I love stationary. I picked these up a few years ago from an adorable Etsy shop that I’ve linked here for you.



If you’ve ever come to my house, you know how much I like to send you with something when you leave. Like, always. I have a gifting addiction! Last month I framed these inspirational quotes for the girls to take with them and I had some left over. Now they sit in my giving basket – kind of like my version of a treasure chest. The items in here are always up for grabs and I love the entire concept of it!


I can’t wait for the most perfect entry set up in the home of my dreams, but I don’t let that stop me. This little table and I have done some pretty creative and amazing things — this was one of our better ideas. Okay, I think it’s time I leave you — I’m talking about partnering up with furniture.

Stay fierce babes!



The Ultimate Guide to your Self Care Staycation

Self care is going main stream and I’m here for all of it!

My only complaint is that the things we’re seeing with #selfcare attached is either all about salon days and shopping sprees. DO NOT MISTAKE ME – I live for salon days. I’m a girl’s girl through and through, but I also know that self care is way more than LOOKING good. First and foremost, self care is about FEELING good. Taking care of your mind and body.

We live in a world that demands so much of our time and energy to just live. Self care has to start with making sure we aren’t working ourselves into a panic attack (been there and it is not fun for anyone.)

For me, what that looks like is a good old fashioned veg day. I learned this from my uncle growing up. I must have gotten his “I can’t sit still” gene because all I ever need is a veg day to get back up and keep goin’. A veg day is what we now call a Staycation, which sounds much more fun and cute so we’re rolling with that. So without further delay, let’s prepare you for your first Staycation.


  1. Prep. The anatomy of any good Staycation for me starts the week before – I do a good, deep clean in my little apartment. Let me tell you I DO NOT DO ANYTHING I DON’T WANT TO DO on my veg days. The last thing I want to do is clean my apartment before I can enjoy it. So here is a short list of what I clean so that I can enjoy my day! (working on a detailed list to share soon!)

what to clean and when to clean it.png

2. Communicate that you’re taking a day to yourself. I am pretty active in my community and I tend to fill my calendar with events and meet ups to keep up with my friends and family, so I also try to prepare by letting people know that I’m taking a day to myself. Just a short and sweet message saying,

“I’ll be unavailable this Saturday, so I’ll be turning off my phone. If there’s an emergency, please text Jeremy to reach me!”

3. I go buy everything I’ll need for the day.
Food. I buy food.

Most days, I treat myself to delicious take out that I try not to have during the week.


The rest is really up in the air. Sometimes I need to sleep all day and not feel guilty about it, sometimes I venture out to a family BBQ that I WANT to go to, (Let’s be honest, some family events are obligatory and you don’t go to those during your Staycation) and sometimes I park it on the couch and watch movies while I craft!



However self care looks to you, make sure that you prioritize it. You are the most important person in your life; never forget that.


Here is a list of ideas for a self care Staycation!

staycation ideas

The photos in this blog post and used in my graphics were taken by
Monique Josephine Photography.


How To Promote A Growth Mindset In School Aged Children

Before we get started here, I want to remind you that I am FAR from perfect. I think we’re doing a really good job at coming to terms with the fact that we’re all a hot mess. Regardless, I want to mention that the things I talk about are based off of years of experience and research. Motherhood is a ton of trial and error anyway isn’t it? One of the many things I love about blogging is the ability to share what I’ve learned with my readers and support them like I would any of my closest friends.


  1. Model happy and positive behavior
    • Take care of yourself: I don’t just mean the fun things like salon days and getting dressed in the morning. Take care of you self esteem, your mental health, and your physical health.
    • There are many things you can do to support a growth mindset, but the most influential person in their early lives is you. I think so many adults demand respect and communication from children who are taught to react and yell. I’m a firm believer that you teach people how to treat you by your own behavior. Children are no different.
      • My kids (bless them) are very in touch with their emotions. By no means do they have a handle on them, but they’re aware of what they’re feeling and I’m still debating whether this is a win for me or not.
      • Something we are big on in our home is asking, “Is it okay to be angry/upset?” – they respond with yes – “Is it okay to be mean?” – They respond with no. We think it helps them think critically about how they’re behaving. It doesn’t help 100% of the time. Kid’s are all over the place, man! We do have quite the success rate with it.
      • Tell them how they make you FEEL – whether it’s frustrated, confused, happy, excited, proud, intrigued, hurt… talking about your feelings instead of scolding their behavior seems to also change the way they approach confrontation as well. In my experience, they either apologize for how they’re making you feel or go on to talk about THEIR feelings – this is a DEFINITE win in my book.
      • Show appreciation for when they practice a growth mindset. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of effort to think positively.
  2. Teach them to practice gratitude  – something as simple as asking them what they’re grateful for a few nights a week.
    • Always write thank you letters when you receive a gift!
    • Teach them to thank people for coming out to their parties.
    • Encourage sibling love and bonding.
    • Thank them for being mindful!View More: http://wearetheartistphotography.pass.us/melinda--beach-session
    For so many of us, it’s easy to default to punishing our kids to try and correct behavior. Positive parenting is, quite frankly, a lot of freaking work. Honestly, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn. When we are frustrated, fed up, or just tired, it’s hard to think of how to structure the way we discipline our kids to support positive parenting. I still have quite a lot of work to do in this area, but here are few things that help me move further away from toxic parenting practices like yelling, nagging, and scolding.

    • Keep calm – that might seem obvious, but it is a very mindful practice. Take a few deep breathes or a step back when you feel yourself becoming emotional.
    • Be mindful of your wording – There  is so much power in our words. You can really hurt or help not only your ability to teach your children, but you will hurt your relationship as well if you’re constantly using negative wording.
    • Allow them to be in their feelings – Let’s be real… some adults are unable to handle their own emotions. Why do we expect our children to do so? The only way they’ll learn to handle big emotions is if we let our children experience them and talk about how they’re feeling WITH them.Duso Wedding-57
  4. Teach them to appreciate constructive criticism. Here’s the thing… Mistakes are inevitable. I make mistakes ALL THE FREAKING TIME. This is another area you can teach by example. When they’re upset with something you’ve done or said, ask “How can I improve?” or “Do you have any feedback?” and then teach them to do the same.
    • Use a kind and firm tone when giving and receiving constructive criticism.
    • Redirect them instead of only pointing out their mistake.
      “Instead of doing ________ maybe try it this way instead.”

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  5. Encourage them to work together and to put their siblings first.
    • Despite common belief, constant fighting and bickering does NOT have to be the norm – it’s not completely inevitable but let’s have an early intervention on healthy conflict resolution. Siblings (if they have them) are the first real social relationship our kids will have; Teaching them to be kind and supportive of each other will make it easier to cultivate these qualities with their peers later on.

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  6. Be their friend.
    I used to think it was impossible to be your kid’s friend. I’m definitely their mama first, but man do I love hanging out with these kids. When we have a moment to hang out, we indulge in several different activities together.

    • game nights
    • movie nights
    • walks
    • cook together
    • nap together

My kids will be 7 and 10 this year. By no means am I an expert in parenting or a growth mindset for that matter… but after nearly 10 years of repeating myself I am starting to really see the benefits of my consistency in these areas.

I hope you all find this useful. If you do, I would love for you to share this post with your friends and family! It really helps me out!

Until next time,


Some of the photos in this post are curtousy of some amazing photographers! We Are the Artist Photography, Monique Josephine Photography, Elias Pasillas Photography, and Kiss Me Again Photography


8 Essential items to pack for a Disney day!

Hey guys!

Over the past years people have recognized my obsession with all things Disney by asking about tips and tricks for a Disneyland vacation. I have gone to the Disney parks multiple times throughout the year for almost a decade and this last trip, was the smoothest by far. (It was also the only trip I planned on my own) So I wanted to share with you all how to pack for your day in the parks (especially with kiddos, but these work for any trip) while these items are fresh in my memory.


Disclaimer: I do use affiliate links in this post. This means that if you purchase an item through my link, I gain a small commission at no additional cost to you.

1. Portable chargers

Between using the Disneyland app for fast passes, taking it out for the photo pass, recording videos, taking pictures, and playing games in line… my phone lasts about half of the day. Taking a portable charger during our last trip was a total, “why did I never think of this before?!” moment for me.

This is the one I used. It charges quickly and kept a charge for the rest of the day. Portable chargers are small gadgets that make a HUGE difference.

2. Snacks

Kind snacks and Jolly Ranchers worked WONDERS for us. The KIND breakfast bars  are perfect for a quick grab and go to make it in time to get all the necessary fast passes (here’s lookin’ at you Radiator Springs and Soarin’).

The Jollys are a great little treat – they’re not awful in calories and they’ll kick your sweet tooth right to the curb until your next treat splurge in the parks (mmm churros)!

3. Water

You do get free water in the parks, but it doesn’t hurt to take an extra bottle or two. The biggest bloat factor for me in the Disney parks is not enough water. Who wants to wait in line for it? Grab a free water when you’re already in line and drink your own any other time you remember to take a sip.


4. Line and car games

Obviously, you can’t pack up monopoly for a long line or a road trip but here are some options for family bonding during any down time! They work great now that both kids can read.

5. Max Pass

It is well worth it for so many reasons. The biggest reason being that we waited in MAYBE 3 lines during our trip and I’m pretty sure it’s because the ride either didn’t have a fast pass or the fast passes were sold out for the day. If you’re going with kids, I would definitely look at the max pass as an investment to keep their energy up and positive.

PLUS, any digital version of ride pictures you may want are included as well as pictures from any photopass cast member (They’re everywhere waiting to capture magical moments) This perk is gold for me. How else could I capture this memory of Eli’s first time of Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout?


6. Fanny packs (even for the kids)

I love having free hands to enjoy the parks like a kid, so I wear that fanny with pride! Disney has a ton of cute ones, but you can find them on Amazon as well like this one.

Having Lex wear her own fanny pack where she could carry her snacks and pen for autographs was so helpful. As soon as Eli thickens up a bit, he’ll be wearing his own fanny pack too!

7. Extra socks

So your husband can’t turn splash mountain down! Seriously though, you can never go wrong with extra socks.

8. Sunscreen

I can’t believe I almost forgot about this one! You’re in the sun all day long… protect yours and your family’s skin.

And don’t forget to reapply every 2-4 hours!

Along with cash and sunglasses, these are the must have items for an ideal Disney trip in my experience! If you find this useful, please share and save this post for your next Disney trip! Did I miss something or can you think of something else? Let me know in the comments!

Take care,


A little girl with no place in the world

I have been putting this off for some time. I feel I’ve told my story so many times people might be sick of hearing it. Then I remembered why I started sharing. It wasn’t for the people who may be tired of reading my story (the same people who are able to exit at their convenience) it was for the one person who hasn’t yet heard my story.

“If I can help open one person’s eyes to the fact that they’re not alone… I’m happy”
“If I can help open one person’s mind to empathizing with the people in their life that struggle with mental health instead of trying to understand it… I’m happy”
“If I can introduce one person to my empowerment group on Facebook where they will find sisterhood, guidance, and accountability… I’m happy.”

So here goes nothing… again.

I moved out of my mom’s house when I was 5 years old to live with my maternal grandmother. Life up until that point was… well I don’t really remember, but I’m told it was chaos. I was my mother’s first born and my father’s youngest daughter (and the only one in his life). Both of my parents were considered the “black sheep” of their families, so it’s pretty safe to assume that things were less than ideal for newborn Mel.

Sadly, I don’t seem to have any memories with my mom and I’m still working out a lot of the issues of abandonment that I struggle with in hope of maybe changing that. There are, however, so many memories of my dad in my early childhood years. Looking back, a few memories I have are a bit traumatic. I have memories of walking in on my grandma tending to my dad’s stab wounds from a bar fight, smelling a weird drink my dad had while we were out having a picnic, my mom asking me weird questions like “does your dad ever touch you in bad places?” (which he never did) and the worst… sneaking into the hallway while my aunts were all at our front door trying to fight off my drunk dad in the middle of the night.

The strangest part of all of this is I don’t remember EXPERIENCING my childhood negatively. Even if I don’t have any memories of my mom, I’ve ALWAYS remembered my dad as the goofiest and most loving human I’ve ever met. Some of the better memories I have include sitting on the porch swing laughing for hours at the things my dad said and walking back and forth from my mom’s to my dad’s because they lived just down the street from each other. I loved spending time with my dad before I started to catch on to a few realities of his… other side.

I think that’s when I started to become aware of just how shitty my situation was. My maternal grandma would call my paternal grandma and ask if he was “ok” before letting me go over. They had to make sure that he wasn’t drunk before I went with him.

During this time, my mom was dealing with inner demons of self worth and struggling with her bipolar depression diagnosis. She lived with her boyfriend, my two sisters, and my baby brother in a nearby town. I saw my mom building a family that I wasn’t a part of and that’s where I believe my own issues of self worth were born. “Why can she raise them and not me?” “What’s wrong with me that I’m not good enough?” “Why do I have to live with other families?” “My mom doesn’t want me and my dad isn’t allowed to have me.” These are the thoughts that I imagine began to fill my 6 year old mind.

I lived with my grandma, my aunt, and my cousin (who I consider a brother). They were my family and I am so grateful to them. There was, however, no replacement for my own mother and father. I think the most damaging part of my early childhood years is that no one explained to me why I didn’t live with either of my parents and it left me to come up with reasons of my own.

I don’t want to paint this tragic picture. I was an outwardly happy little girl. I loved the time I spent with my father, I had an amazing support system, and more family than I could ever imagine to spend life with! Still, I was a little girl who felt like she didn’t have a permanent or secure place in this world and I’ve carried the weight of my early childhood insecurities for decades. The little girl who didn’t have a place in the world grew up to be a woman with the inner voice that says she’s a burden to everyone she meets in life and my heart hurts every single time I think of that little girl.

I may have been happy growing up, but the negative voice inside me quickly grew like a field of weeds and I only wish there was someone in my life who was informed or educated on how to help the little girl who was silently dying inside.

To be continued…


This is probably the most I’ve ever elaborated on the subject of my early childhood and as I’m writing, I’m still uncovering some thoughts and feelings that I didn’t know existed. My journey is a long one, but I’m determined to walk through it in order to finally find more inner peace than I’ve ever been able to feel. My idea for sharing all of my story thus far is to break it up into segments so that I can recall as much as possible without publishing a novel in a blog post. Thank you for allowing me to trust you all with a very personal subject. As always, stay fierce!




3 things to change TODAY to adopt a growth mindset

In a nutshell, mindset is a very simple idea that makes a world of difference in how you face day to day challenges. You do know that we all have them, right? Growing up, I want to say 90% of my coaches talked about how they would rather have someone with heart than someone with talent on their team. They were, unknowingly, talking about a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset.

We see it everywhere. People with talent, intelligent people, people with money, pretty people… some of them seem to rely on these qualities alone in life to succeed. It works… for a while. If you’re more intelligent than the average person you’ll probably receive better grades. If you have a natural talent for something, sure, you’ll be better at it than most people. How long will that last though? How far will that take you?

Spoiler alert: Not long enough and most definitely not far enough.
When you practice a growth mindset, whether you have talent or not, you focus on developing or enhancing those abilities (no matter your starting point) through hard work, persistence, and dedication. When you have a thirst for further knowledge, your abilities are ENDLESS and THAT’S the key to success.

Aside from your own successes, believe me when I say that a growth mindset improves your relationships too. When you empower yourself, you also empower others and there is nothing more desirable in a friend, family member, or spouse than empowerment. At least, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t LOVE being surrounded by empowering people. When you settle or dwell on hardships many of us end up subconsciously hurting others because we’re unhappy with ourselves and if someone is on a journey of self improvement, they won’t want to associate with someone who puts them down without even knowing it.

So how do you improve your mindset?


  1. Change the way you talk about yourself 

    “I’m fat” – this is something that slipped out of my mouth daily for so many years that I not only hated looking at myself, I actually hated myself. While I am overweight and this is true, I believe “fat” is a mindset. I am not fat; I have excess fat. When I changed those words, I started to believe that I can lose the fat I have and that “fat” isn’t something that I would let define me.
    This is only one example. “I’m never going to get out of debt.” “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m a bad mom.”
    The things that come out of your mouth go right back into your own ears and you end up being the most toxic relationship you have.
    Be kind to yourself. Empower yourself. Encourage change within yourself and you’ll start to REALLY believe that you’re capable of so much more than you’ve ever realized.

  2. Allow yourself to grow

    Maybe you’ve always struggled in school. You categorized yourself as average, so you never attempted anything that seemed like it was meant for “smart people”. You created a dead end to your knowledge because you thought you could never learn as much as someone else who was naturally smarter than you.
    I’m a go-getter… a dreamer if you will. 5 years ago someone made the assumption that I would never know as much as my (then) boyfriend EVEN IF I had as much schooling as he did.
    The ignorance was unreal to me.
    Sure, he was about to graduate college and I was in yo-yo relationship with my own college career, but even then I knew that was a matter of discipline and drive instead of ability or potential.
    Unfortunately, you will always encounter people like this in life. People who doubt you based off of their own insecurities or assumptions of you. These people with fixed ass mindsets don’t know your potential the way you do. (Excuse my frustration!) Be your own light.
    Understand that where you’re at is not where you need to be forever and watch yourself grow!

  3. Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections

    To put things simply, if you are constantly trying to hide your imperfections (from yourself and the world) you’ll never really overcome them. When you view setbacks or failures as a reflection of who YOU are (or worse when you worry about how other will see you if they know you fail) we’re right back at square one. You’re limiting your success by trying to achieve the idea of “perfection” that absolutely no one has.
    I learned to love my flaws so much that I started to share them. After that, a few thanked me and so I shared another setback a few weeks later. Fast forward a year and 8,000 followers later, I now talk to and coach hundreds of men and women about mindset and mental health.
    Are you ready for it?! THERE IS POWER IN TRANSPARENCY!

I could write forever on the MANY ways to make strides in your mindset and change the way you tackle life, but these three are a great attainable place to start. What will you do today that changes how you look at life, it’s challenges, and your potential?

Let me know! I’m always excited to learn from my followers!


Stay fierce,

Thank you to Monique Josephine Photography for my home photo shoot and the pictures used in this blog post


The Pitch

Hi! You can go ahead and start calling me Mel because we’re about to get pretty intimate around here!

I think this is where I’m supposed to sell you. In a few short sentences I am supposed to convince you that I’m worth subscribing to. That’s a lot of freaking pressure, okay? I’m not a professional blogger (yet). I don’t drive a Yukon (yet) and, in fact, my two little cars are basically fighting for dear life. I don’t own my own home (yet); I have a decent sized two bedroom apartment and I am okay with that… for now. I work part time, I have two kids, and I am planning to marry the love of my life in just 23 days! This means I’m dog paddling these days to stay afloat. Have I sold you yet? Don’t I sound like a prize?

Why should someone follow me? Sheesh. What a question. If you like raw and real, I’m your girl. If you like crafts, rants, fashion, family, and food, you will 100% find those things here. What you’ll find the most of though is empowerment. Not too long ago I hated myself. I didn’t feel worthy, special, beautiful, or love-able. Did you just read that? I didn’t feel like someone could love me. That’s awful. I still struggle, but I am so much stronger and so much nicer to myself which has made me so much kinder to the people around me. That’s why I write. I want to be the CONSTANT reminder that you are allowed to feel things. That seems simple enough, but so many people become ashamed of simple truths: failure, laziness, ability, SADNESS. If you don’t know the secret yet, I’ll just tell you now – all of those things are normal and EVERYONE experiences them.

If you take one thing away from this sales pitch to subscribe to my life, let it be this: It’s my hope that by being fearlessly (and fiercely) authentic, I inspire you to be yourself. I want you to embrace life on both the good and bad days. Mostly, I want you to know that you are not alone. We all struggle and it’s just about damn time we stopped being ashamed of it.

I’m glad you’re here. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s vibe.

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