By day, Leslie goes by Dr. Ralph the psychologist. By early morning and lunch hours and all the spaces in between, she’s a writer and budding artist. And at home, she goes by Mom. Leslie’s the author of the blog A Year of Happy, where she’s showing other mothers how to nurture themselves, be present in body, heart and mind, and bottle up the good stuff for rainy days and bumpy roads with her signature blend of joyful projects, guided journals, and delectable meditations. Her work has been featured on Tiny Buddha, Mind Body Green, Mamalode, Parent.co, and Positively Positive (not to mention The American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and a few professional journals).
In addition to writing for grown-ups, Leslie creates picture books for little kids with great, big ideas. Although she’d always drawn and made up stories as a child, Leslie put that part of her aside to pursue more “serious” things as an adult. And then she had kids. She started making up stories and drawing for her children, and it wasn’t long before they all looked forward to their evening ritual of storytime improv. Inspired by her children’s courage and creativity, Leslie began putting these stories into book form, and she couldn’t stop!
Leslie lives with her husband, three children, and even more pets in Tucson, Arizona. When she’s not making up stories and writing, she’s devising kitchen table science experiments and taking magical family photos. Find out more about Leslie’s words and pictures for moms and kids at ayearofhappy.com (for mom) and leslieralphstories.com (for the kids). You can get your year of happy started now with the 2-minute revitalizing meditation on the house athttps://www.ayearofhappy.com/revitalize.
Tell us a little about your childhood and the impact your mother had on shaping you…
I grew up with my mom, dad, and brother in Northern California until about 11, and then we moved all the way to Texas. It was uncharted territory for us, and I’ll admit that I fully expected cowboys to be riding horses down the street. In California, both of my parents worked full-time with long commutes, but in Texas, my mother was able to stay at home. It was in Texas that my two youngest brothers were born. Even though all of the details of our household had changed, the family values and rules of the heart stayed the same.
My mother, Elizabeth, was the kind of mom all my friends could chit chat with about anything, and she genuinely wanted to know each of them. She works hard and loves even harder. She’s quick, compassionate, and fiercely loyal. Even though her Mama Bear moments could embarrass me as a teen, now as a grown-up and mother myself, I have deep gratitude for her brave spirit, bottomless heart, and unwavering commitment to looking out for me.
Even today, my mother always encourages me to give my all to the things that matter and reminds me that it’s totally okay to decide that something’s not my cup of tea. Whether it was figure skating, track, the clarinet, applying to the Ivy Leagues, starting a blog, or writing a children’s book, my mom was behind me 1,000% when others told me,
“Don’t you think you’re aiming a little high?” I truly believe that her support lifted me up and made me the kind of mother that will lift her own children even higher.
What has been a “spark moment” or “moments” that set you on your path?
There was one spark that lit the way for everything that was waiting to come out of hiding. About 4 years ago, sitting in my little office and watching a virtual summit on meditation, I realized that there was nothing stopping me from getting out there and growing into my full self – nothing, that is, but me. I also admitted to myself that no one was going to do it for me. So, I took a deep breath, gathered up my courage, and started a blog, and it has changed everything.
That one spark opened doors that I didn’t even realize were closed. Writing and art have become an important part of my daily life, but they weren’t always. That one spark helped me discover that just because you can live without something doesn’t mean you have to, that healing, restoration, inspiration, and excitement are essential to your health, and that taking care of your SELF helps you take care of your kiddos.
What is your passion and purpose (the “P” in EPIC)?
My passion is happy, mindful, and creative living, and I see that my purpose is helping others define what that means for them. If I had one wish, it would be for everyone, especially moms, to love, nurture, and encourage themselves. This is maybe most essential for mothers. I believe that by nurturing ourselves, we nurture our kids. When we live with joy and purpose, we teach our children what the most important things are. And when we savor the goodness, we teach our children to hold on to the magic.
What are you currently reading or listening to for inspiration?
I devour anything written by Pema Chodron or Thich Nhat Hanh. Lately, I’ve also been addicted to podcasts for writers and creatives. Magic Lessons withElizabeth Gilbert and Naptime Empires with Nikki Elledge Brown are my absolute guilty pleasures right now.
What is one message or affirmation you tell yourself to ground you on your quest?
I’m a recovering control addict and perfectionist, so I remind myself of my favorite quote from Thich Nhat Hanh any time I feel like things aren’t moving fast enough or aren’t lining up as I expected. “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” It has changed my life.
In one word, what are you seeking most right now on your Quest?
TRUST. Trust in myself and trust in the whole process of growing kids and growing up.
What challenge or offering would you like to share with the Mother’s Quest Community?
I challenge mothers to give themselves permission to be everything. You are allowed to be nourished and supported, inspired and happy. You are allowed to be a legendary mom and still have your own hopes and dreams that are just for you. In fact, I think that’s a necessary ingredient. You are completely allowed to go slow, be flawed, mess up, and change your mind. Above all, I believe you are allowed to be truly, deeply happy.
How did you learn about Mother’s Quest?
I found Julie and her podcast in the Naptime Empires Facebook group. She mentioned her podcast and I immediately thought, this sounds AMAZING.
What have you appreciated the most about Mother’s Quest?
I have appreciated the courage the mothers on a quest have to tell their whole, honest stories. Truth and trust are my watchwords right now. My very favorite episode has been the unedited solocast on Episode 13: Focus on our Goodness. I nodded my head right along with Julie as she shared her process of sharing her unedited voice, cried along with her as she discussed focusing on our goodness, and cheered her on as she shared her personal goals.
Mother’s Quest Circles
A Signature Experience to Spark Your E.P.I.C. Life:
First Review of Applications starting on September 10th for the MOTHER’S QUEST CIRCLE Pilot happening FALL 2017. Learn about the Power of Reflective Circles and How They’ve Changed Me by reading here. To send your application, click on this link.
New on the Podcast:
Ep 27: Courageous Conversations about Race with Nicole Lee