Val - ZenShmenHi, I’m Val. Thanks for coming by this little corner of the interwebs!

I’m a mom who’s searching for shortcuts and hacks through the hard parts of life to get to experience more of the good stuff.  I explore what’s out there and report my findings back to you, and together we look at ways to turn the things we learn into actionable, doable things to actively improve our lives. Oh, and the thoughts you bring to the table are just as important as what I bring.  (Check out The Rules of The Game below.)


So what’s this ‘hard stuff’ that we’re learning more about?  These are the areas we poke around in:

  • Looking after ourselves properly (self-care + personal growth)
  • Navigating the tricky parts of parenting young kids (strategies + solutions to the challenges we face raising good kids in this crazy, wonderful world)
  • Home ownership and wanting The Pinterest-Perfect Home (but we can’t afford all the things, so we hack our way there)
  • Life Lessons aka. School of Hard Knocks aka Adulting.  Things we’re supposed to know how to handle but have no bloody clue about.  

“Searching for happiness is so cliché”, they said

 Yes, we all cringe at the catch-all answer people give when asked what they want out of life: ‘I just want to be happy’. But what does that mean? Scientifically speaking, happy people have been found to be promoted more often and paid more money at work, be more effective parents, be in better physical health, be better at relationships… and between you and me, I find them to be more fun at a cocktail party. What do these people know that I don’t? These findings have piqued my curiosity and I want to know more! Don’t you?!


If this is your jam, come join us! In our newsletter we’re sharing happiness hacks for purposeful moms & seeking how to use the latest happiness research in our daily lives. Plus tools for growing minds (ours + our kids’)

Sign up to receive the ZenShmen cheatsheet to jumpstart your joy – 10 easy things you can do right now to hack your way to increased happiness (it’s absolutely free and they’re things I’ve done myself over the past year)

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Who am I?

I’m not an expert. I don’t have all the answers. I’m a wife and mom of two wonderful kids; I’m a daughter, sister and friend. I’m a comedy lover and budding book nerd, and kind of a movie buff ‘cause I worked in the movie business before motherhood. I like stopping to say hello to dogs I pass by and have a weirdly/wonderfully large collection of photos of flowers on my camera roll.


I have my fair share of faults and issues, just like everybody else! I’ve been through the ringer called Life and have struggled with bouts of depression over the years… There’s nothing wildly spectacular about my struggles, except that now that I’ve educated myself better in the past year, I can’t help but realize that I could have avoided a ton of it. I’m hoping I can help you avoid some misery too.

ZenShmen - Namastay in Bed

Life is not all sunshine and rainbows — but we’re also not put on this earth to pay bills and die. So let’s you and me rise above the hard day-to-day stuff and get at the heart of the really good stuff.




I’m unearthing some deeper truths about life: methods of attaining more joy and less friction, more momentum and fewer obstacles. I’m looking under every rock — books, experts, courses, podcasts, happiness researchers, etc., and passing my findings and experiences onto you.

Afterall, the ultimate shortcut to happiness is avoiding years of struggle by learning from other people who’ve been through it and come out the other side. The leapfrog approach, if you will.

So use this website as your own personal leapfrog approach.




Obviously, what you read on these pages should never take precedence over any professional, medical or other expert advice you should be following for your particular situation — the idea is that you take what you need and move on. If you are going through a major crisis or have been struggling for a long time, I strongly urge you to reach out to a professional for help. You’ll wonder why you waited so long.


The Rules of The Game


If you’re here to troll or be argumentative and difficult, go play somewhere else. This is a place of growth and learning, kindness and support. If that’s not your speed, move on. I believe we learn from others who are in similar situations to ours, as well as those who are NOT in similar situations to ours, and we need to stick together to be stronger as a whole. Tearing eachother down is not the answer but rather a huge part of the problem that destroys intelligent discourse online, and it won’t be tolerated here.

So now that that’s out of the way and you’re still reading, come play with us!


What does ZenShmen mean?

ZenShmen was the name of a blog I started years ago about home stuff (pretty design, DIY projects, etc), and it has since evolved into this site. It came from the fact that I wanted my home surroundings to be zen and calm, but they really weren’t! I later realized it was also a metaphor for my life. It has absolutely no meaning against any religions or belief systems – just a play on words that describes our lack of control over all the wacky things life throws at us.

By the way, I’d still like my surroundings to be zen and calm… and they still aren’t. You can still read some of those older posts in the Happier Home Section.


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