Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reviewing 2013

At the beginning of the year, I set a theme for myself.  I wanted to work on "mindfulness". Being more present and aware of the moment and what is happening.

I set it into a few specific categories.

1. With my Son
2. Health
3. Spending
4. relationships
5. my own thoughts

How did I do? That is what I am here to review. In some areas I did rally well. And others I struggled with significantly.
A lot of things happened this year. Many things with people I care about, and things I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about, but no control over. And things I could not write about. And many little accomplishments that I am extremely proud of.

1. With my son. : what a joy it was to watch him grow and develop. It was my intention to focus my time with him as being just that, my time with him. Few distractions. TO be fair, its hard. Technology pulls us to look at phones and see what the rest of the world is doing. Someone might be trying to get a hold of me after all! But what on Facebook is more important that letting my son know that he is the most important thing to me. So I put away the phone a fair amount or turned it off. Not nearly as much as I think I should have, but I did. And it was easier when we had a semi-organized activity. Like cooking or going to the Bouncy house place. Perhaps more structure and signing up for a class together would help further.

2. health: well. I made approximately 0 weight goals. But I did complete 2 half marathons. And I came to really enjoy running. Running has become a nice time of meditation where I can center and quiet my mind. I don't realize how cluttered my brain is until I run. Then it can focus. I also have become more mindful of how strong I have become. Lifting and cuddling my 30 pound son and strengthened my arms. Running after him increases my endurance. And I just feel good physically.

3.Spending. I did much better on this in the beginning of the year. I amaze myself how I can spend almost $0 from January until my birthday in March. I think and consider what I am doing and buying.
 After that it becomes a steady decline. And the budget goes a little out of whack. Its not that I do not want to spend at all, but be more mindful about it. About why I need to buy something: to fill an need or void? And am I being conscious about the etiology of the product. We got better again in November. Especially when it came to buying and making presents for Christmas.

4. Relationships: I think I kind of sucked big time on this one. I can get so caught up in my own head and experiences that I can lack empathy and where others are coming from. And this is one thing I want my son to have and learn. He learns it from watching his parents. While I feel I strengthened some relationships with local people and even met a few new people, it can be so difficult with family. Where there is history and expectations and hurts and blah blah blah. This will continue to be a growth area for me.

5. my own thoughts: these will be the death of me. I swear. I need to quiet my mind so badly. Running has helped me a ton. I have learned to try to step back, if I can, when I feel my brain ready to explode. Take a break, settle down, see what is really happening in my head. But sometimes that is not possible. And it is not pretty. Quieting my mind will also be a continuing process. I did become mindful of some of my own fears and stepped into them to achieve some wonderful professional goals.

I have to say I did like the "theme" idea for my year. I am considering another theme of goals for next year, which starts tomorrow. I just need to organize my thoughts.

I hope to continue to be mindful. To enjoy and experience the moment. What is happening. Who I am with. What I am thinking and feeling. It is not a state of perfecting . But just letting things be.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sewing and Christmas

I decided about this time last year that I wanted a cute home made stocking for my little guy. After searching ETSY and not finding quite what I wanted, I randomly decided " I can make him a stocking". Never mind that I didn't really have a working sewing machine nor had I sewn since my 4-H years.

I first explored Hobby Lobby, and several fabric choices later, tried to figure out how to get my moms 40+ year old sewing machine to work. And after almost losing my mind and a few fingers in frustration, I begged my mother in law for help and went up for a visit.  

She helped me piece together this, my sons first stocking. 

By my birthday in March all I wanted was my own machine. And my lovely husband obliged. (Even if I had to drag him to JoAnn Fabric) 

And since I have had some fun experimenting on how to make things. Cute headbands. Stockings. Baby bibs. It's been quite the learning curve as I am not generally known for being good at following directions. I want to try a few more new things, but I think that will wait until after Christmas.

What I have learned is once I figure out how to make it. I am pretty good at experimenting and getting creative from there. The stockings I make now bear little resemblance to Bens first one. But I am more than ok with that. I like these much better now. 

I also just today stole an idea and made my first mini stocking tree ornament. 

So my new little hobby is fun. I am even making some custom orders for people , I just finished an order of 10 full sized stockings ( here are a few of them)

I have created an Etsy shop now too. For fun. But it also makes me feel a little more proactive about trying to recoup some if the costs of starting my own business ( the counseling practice, remember !!)

So. To celebrate and to selfishly self promote. I am doing a little giveaway. It's for 2 items. One full sized stocking of your choice from my Etsy store and one mini  stocking ornament. 

Just fill out the rafflecopter form below

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I was an Angel Tree Kid

I was asked by a fellow blogger to write about my experience as an Angel Tree Charity recipient for her series on Holiday Giving. I thought I would share it here too. Also please check out Michelle's blog. She is a momma of 4 and writes with honesty, spiritual depth and humor   

I was an Angel Tree Kid

I am not sure what people envision when they pull a name off of the tree at Christmas, choosing a child to be gifted by your generosity. (That tree that usually stands near the checkout line of your grocery store or is in your church. )
Do you assume certain family situations. Races ? PoliticS? Welfare? And what happens to those kids?

I can't speak for all of those little angels. But I can speak for one. For a period of time I was an Angel Tree kid

Now to start I don't know if it was the official angel tree program. I am certain it was through our church. And someone shopped for gifts for me. Just like most programs. 

A little history: we were never on welfare. My parents were divorced. We actually lived quite well for a while on a small horse farm. But as time went on, things progressively changed. By my 8th grade year we were struggling.  My mom during this time worked a minimum of 2 jobs. I had 2 sisters, one was moved out/ to college(paying for herself) and working. We lived in a nice town. Were involved in sports, 4-h, horseback riding and worked. And maintained good grades. 
So why Angel tree? Well one job my mom had was Walmart. And another ad a Cna. Not well paying jobs. And to be honest, in retrospect my mom was not making the best financial decision s. she never touched a drug in her life. But I can see now that her brain tumors were affecting her back then. 

From what I am aware of we were on church support programs from that time on. I remember getting Thanksgiving baskets too. I think my mom let us know about where the gifts and food came from from the beginning. 

There are a few pictures and emotions that I connect with significantly. Good bad indifferent. SometimesI was grateful sometimes I was not. I'm just being honest. 

I remember one year receiving a Walkman or cd playerI had asked for. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. I don't remember a single other gift I got that year. But this was what I wanted and I could listen to my music in privacy without criticism about choice or volume. It created a little world for me. ( this year i knew these gifts were from the program) and someone out there in the bigger world thought of me. My wants and hopes. 

After some recent discussion about used Angel tree gifts on Michelle's blog, I think about a gift situation with a "used" gift-not from Angel Tree.   I remember opening a gift in 8th grade from probably "Santa" that was clearly a well used puzzle. MY puzzle. Yes, one i already owned and had put together. I was  confused and disappointed. This was out of the ordinary. I wondered about my mom seriously. Not sure if it was her illness or we were that broke. But I wonder how embarrassing that was for her when I was clearly not excited about it. I wonder if parents feel that way when their kids get well loved gifts from strangers. 

As a recipient, I remember getting clothing that I loved and shirts that I did not. To get the gift receipt and exchange it for something I liked, just like any other Christmas present, helped me feel more normal and more myself ( since I already wasn't cool in hs) and that is an empowering gift. 

I asked my sister her thoughts looking back on it. The thing that stood out to her is that it helped her know that God didn't forget about us. Is there really anything else more important than that?
  (FYI she now is a Big Brother/Big Sister in her area and donates toys to needy kids every year) 

And now, that Angel Tree Kid, me, some  15-20 years later. Has a family. A masters degree. Helps people for a living. Lives comfortably. Is happy and extremely aware of how blessed she is. I look forward to sponsoring a few families through Catholic Charities, the main organizer of this program in our area. We have sponsored 2 families , 5 kids total. I take their list with me to the Day after Thanksgiving shopping to get good deals on a few things they want. I don't buy everything. I am not wealthy. But make sure some of their requests are filled as closely as possible. I even throw in something for the parent if there is any info. Like some pampering stuff or a gift card to a grocery store. 

And I do it out of a mix of emotions and reasons. Gratitude. Guilt. Fun. Excitement. Obligation. Charity. Self-fulfillment. Selfishness. Obedience. Empathy. 

I look forward to involving my toddler more in the future. To see a world of real struggling people out side of our own who need him. Showing people that God hasn't forgotten about them. If for nothing more than a coat or a toy. It doesn't take much. 

I guess what I am trying to say is that it matters. It matters to that kid, parent, family in the moment, and in years to come. 

So when you are considering what to do, in these tough economic times, to shop for a child you will never meet, when you see the tree...

I truly hope you consider choosing a name off that tree 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Parent therapist

I started working as a therapist before I had children.

And as a therapist, I have heard some outrageous, horrendous and unreal stories. 

And nothing prepared me for how being a parent has changed me as a therapist. What I focus on. How I hear stories. And how stories and which stories affect me most

Words that would have astounded me 2 years ago, create a momma bear reaction. Things done or said to a child in the past or present(Some tings I can call DCFS  for, some I cannot). I imagine for a second my child. If anyone were to ever say the things I have heard at work to my child... Please don't make me speculate the consequences.

And having to swallow my momma bear reaction and instead have a therapist reaction. Sometimes the hardest part of my job is this separation. Or allow them to merge somehow. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

jury duty

Last week I had the privilege to perform my civic duty, and headed up to the Lake County Court house for jury duty.

Some people loathe jury duty. For some reason trying to get out of it seems the cool thing to do. Like it is some sort of torture.

I for one , while inconvenienced with trying to plan my week and daycare, was kind of excited about it. I had no idea what to expect. All I did know, was that I had been warned that there would be an awful lot of waiting. So I prepared my ADD self like I was going on a long flight, with a bag of tricks. My bag included my Kindle, a for real book, my laptop and all possible plug ins for all things, including my phone.

While I generally love people watching, I wasn't sure how much excitement would happen while "sitting", and I was right, nothing happened. And there was a lot of sitting and waiting.

What I found fascinating was when the "jury lady"...the person in charge of the jury and jury quarters, came up to talk to the group and explain the process and why it was important that we were there. And what to expect if our number did get called. (And you do get assigned a number)

I thought I would share some of what she said...

First, in my county, only about 4% of all cases go to trial. So when they pool a jury, they prepare for enough jurors to cover 4% of all the possible cases that might go to trail docketed for that week. Obviously it never really gets to that 4% which is why so many people sit and wait. She explained that the very fact that we were there waiting makes a difference to those who are in the courts. Most people want some control over the outcome of their case. So they tend to plea down or settle or come to some compromise. Even at the very last minute. Putting a case in the hands of a jury, complete strangers, puts your fate completely out of your control. knowing we, the jury. are there and ready to go at any minute, puts most people into the position to settle.

So if we were to be called to a case, our number would be randomly called. If that was the case, you would be sent "upstairs", given a small schpiel on the case and then interviewed. Demographic questions, some silly questions like your favorite book , your criminal history or whatever they feel like asking or pertains to the case. If you were "accepted" as a juror, you get to sit a trail. It is also possible that an attorney would dismiss you for some reason or another. A few people's numbers were called. Mine wasn't for a trial. And I don't know what happened with those.

I was secretly hoping I would be called upstairs to interview for a trial. I mean, I was there, why not. However I was also realistic that if interviewed, I would probably not be chosen based on what I do for a living, and the criminal population I used to work with. I would be too "biased" But you never know.

Day 1, no such call happened. I did however  do some reading and caught up on Parenthood episodes for the season. By the end of day 1, they said that we were free to go home. Only if you were numbers 1-101 did you have to come back the next day. I was number 74

Day 2 I returned to continue with my emails an Parenthood and reading. it was weird to look around and see a whole lot less than 100 people. The "jury lady" explained that not all jurors come for various reasons. You are assigned your number before you verify if you can come. Lots of people move out of the county or are excused for some reason. Out of 101, there were 38 of us on day 2. Odds looked pretty good that I might be called to interview. Alas, again I was not. in fact 0 numbers were called upstairs on day 2 and we were sent home, as they knew that there were no other cases that would possibly go to trail left that week.

And thus ended my stint as a juror.

Other little facts and perks to being a juror.
1. i will be getting a check for $5 a day plus mileage. So it will be like $15-$20. maybe a dinner at Chipotle for the trouble?
2. They do give you $5 a day on your juror number to use at the courthouse coffee shop. Good for a latte and a scone(for me, not sure what anyone else chose). I'll take it!

They say the average number of years between getting called to jury duty is 30 years. So I guess I will be back after I retire. And Ben is married.

See, its not so bad.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Early rising

There is something to be said for getting up early. For a run. A shower. A cup of coffee before children arise. Checking email. Doing a devotion. QT with kitty.  To see the sun rise. I may not be able to enjoy all of these in the morning. But one sure is nice. 

I am also aware of the energy I have in the morning when I wake up early. It might take a few minutes, but the way I feel the rest of the morning and day is dramatically different. I am more energized, alert and present with my son and more productive throughout the day
Or those weekend mornings when I am up to get in a long run. I feel invincible those days afterward. It's the beforehand that I struggle with.  

The time difference I am talking about is not long. Say 30-60 minutes. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. 

So why then is it so darn impossible to get up in the morning? I love those extra 30 minutes in bed. I relish them. Sleep feels good in the moment. When I hear my little buddy waking up I get him and bring him into bed for some short lived snuggle time (he is ready to run in less than 5 minutes!!) and then I find that I am dragging the rest of the morning. I want to sit back and will myself to wake up. I do more watching my baby play then play with him. And count down the minutes till nap time. Not very "present and in the moment" 

I reflect on that this morning as I sit, freshly showered with my cup of coffee and banana. Feeling ready to start the day. Excited about what we can do. I am the one in charge, ready to take off in 5 minutes. And the day goes so much better!

It's like trading 30 minutes for an entire day. 

How do I remind myself of this in the morning? When I am dragging. When I want "5 more minutes in bed" and I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. So I am not sleep deprived. 

(I am seriously open to suggestion) 

Talking to my hubby this morning as he got ready for work helped. Perhaps also creating a plan, though I am not much of a planner. It can give me a goal the moment I wake up. 

I want the day to be mine!

Any other ideas? Am I not alone in this?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Melanie's grave

This weekend takes me to part 2 of my Equine Assisted Psychotherapy training.
This and part 1 a couple of months ago took place in rural Elgin, west of St.Charles, Plano. Actually not far, about 10-15 minutes from my cousin.
But I haven't been in this specific area, where the therapeutic barn is, in over 15 years.

Its an area that I used to drive through often in my high school/4-H years. Each morning/evening I have been driving through this area, pieces of it begin to look familiar and take shape to a memory. Memories that feel like a lifetime ago.

I am fairly certain I passed by the barn that used to house the old 4-H open shows. I know that I passed by the large animal veterinary practice that I interned with my senior year of high school when I was certain I wanted to be a vet. I think I recognized one property that is now for sale as to belonging to an "Ursula" who was in a different 4-H club. So weird.

I like to vary my routes. So each of these I have passed on a different day in or out. But each day I have ended up passing by this old church. With its cemetery across the street. And my gut told me I knew this church. I had only been there once. For a funeral.

Today on my way out I finally stopped. I knew exactly where the grave was. Still. 15 years later.

It is Melanie's grave.

Melanie passed away 15 years ago almost exactly. She was driving back to school at Murray State in Kentucky. A driver in the other direction took his eyes off of the road for a second. Resulting in a head on collision.

I remember getting a call from my 4-H and high school friend. We went to the funeral together, to pay our respects. To her friends. to our 4-H friends. To her family.

The thing is, I really didn't know Melanie all that well. I knew who she was. We were always at the same horse events, shows, did this thing called "Horse bowl" and "hippology" and were on the same team. Melanie was a couple of years older. She was that girl who was gorgeous. She was good at everything. It seemed everything she touched turned to gold. She seemed to win everything at the fair. She was popular. She was smart. She was good people. Never got into any trouble. We did not talk much. And she was as intimidating as hell to me.

She had everything going for her. Her whole life ahead of her.
And in an instant. It was gone.

I recall being struck by a particular notion then, and it still does now: She was an only child.

She lived with her mom. I am not sure what the deal with her dad was. If there was a divorce, if he died, if I just never saw him, etc. But I do remember her being everything to her mom. (I did actually talk to her mom and was kind of drawn to her warm personality)

My heart broke for her.

And now, as a mom, my heart still breaks for her. And maybe more so. My baby is everything to me too.

And it hits a tender/sore spot in me. Her story is an example of while I love my son to pieces, I want a sibling for him. A #2 for me. And desperately. And its killing me that it hasn't happened yet. Even though there is still a ton of time.

Is it weird/sick/wrong to feel this way? maybe. But it is there.
Don't get me wrong, I don't just want another child as a "just in case". I love children and big families and God-willing I would happily have another 5 children. (and if I could only get Bill to be more open to adoption...) My biological clock doesn't have space for 5 more.

My superstition is keeping me very careful with my selection of words from here.

My greatest fear is here. In Melanie's grave.

And as I think of her mother, her poor mother, is her life any less valid because Melanie is gone? Is Melanie's life any less valid because it is gone?

Absolutely not. 15 years later, I still remember her. Her family does I am sure. Her 20 years of existence were full of life. They ripple out. her footsteps give meaning and life lessons to silly folks like me. Who were too afraid to ever talk to her.

But if I live my life in this fear, my life is saying that it is not valid.

All life, no matter how short, is valid. Has meaning. Is beautiful.

And so what is my take away?

I stopped at her grave site today. Her picture, in her prime, still shining on the stone like it was just yesterday. I said a prayer. And asked for strength to be ok with what is. To not be afraid of tomorrow. Of what I have been given or not given. But to live it now. With full attention to what I have now. Not to what could be or should be or I want to be. But what is.

Stop being so damn afraid.

It all comes down to value for me. We tend to value roles. People being useful. My head tells me I am valuable when I am doing things. When I can define myself. But my heart tells me otherwise. We are valuable because we are. No fill in the blanks. Whether I ever counsel, have another child, have physical ability to walk or talk or whatever. Value does not go up or down. It remains the same.

And so it is.
Melanie is valuable.
Melanie's mom is valuable.
A newborn baby is valuable.
Ben is valuable.
I am valuable.

You. Are. Valuable.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Second half

It's been almost 2 months since I ran my second half marathon in September. I have had things to say about it but struggle feeling braggy about running stuff and accomplishments. 

Since this blog is about personal growth and i have grown from this experience. lets do this.

Can I start by saying this race took place in Racine WI. Not known for being particularly special or beautiful. In fact my husband lovingly calls it a"dump town" I can hardly ascribe that name to it after some of these views along the route

Perhaps I am too quick to accept a label

Also I have really begun to enjoy this running thing. It is so mind clearing when I do it alone. I did most of my training alone. 
I did start to get to do my long runs with others. With Sandra who was training for a full. With Alana who would run the Racine race as well. These 2 make 6 am look good. And it's easier to get up when you have others waiting for you. And let me tell ya, 10 miles goes faster and easier with other people. 

When it came to race day, I had been assuming Alana and I would be running our own seperate races. Alana is a more natural athelete than i and believe it ir not, more competetive! Only the day before did she reassure me that we would be running together. (She says she can do short races fast. 13.1 was a whole nother beast)

And so we ran it. Along the Lake Michigan shores. Chatting. Commenting on what we saw. Talking to a few other runners. A guy from Michigan was on a similar pace to us and all smiles. We passes a girl around mile 10 who had an accomplishment pasted to her back of having lost 120 pounds. I was in awe. Alana's dad showed up at a few hilltops along the way to cheer on his only daughter. 

It got hard at a few points. We pushed through. Alana picked up the pace. We started to cheer on those around us. And those we passed going the other way at the double back spots. Ahead or behind. 

I remember near the end we both had this feeling that we were holding the other person back and encouraged the other to go on if it was too slow. I knew we both would finish. But neither of us would leave the other behind. We had come too far together. The last mile seemed like 5. And I needed her encouragement. And we pushed on. 

And in the end I made my 3 goals. I finished. I did not walk. And finished at 2:30(and 30 seconds). For a while that 30 seconds was really bugging me. But have since let it go. 

And now I am scouting for new goals. I have few in mind (maybe a tri. Maybe a full) and plan on starting official training at some point soon. 

And to be honest I am a little nervous of doing a long race myself. I have trained alone. But done the dirty deed with others by my side. And I love it that way. It's so much better. It's more fun. It's more encouraging. 

Life is better when run with others 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Last day thoughts

Today was my second "last day" at my first job out of graduate school. (First last day is a whole nother story). I have worked there on and off for the past 6 years or so. 

Working with perpetrators of domestic violence is certainly not my dream job. Nor was it a bad job. My greatest complaints had always been administration, not clientele. though there were many complaints with them as well. 

My late group, gave me feedback tonight that really got me thinking. Appreciating my growth over the past 6 years. Ways in which I am incredibly grateful for. One guy said he appreciated my directness. No non-sense approach. Willing to challenge and get to the heart if the matter without beating around the bush. I loved that feedback. I apparently don't take any crap. It was freeing to hear. 

I have struggled for most if my life with being passive aggressive. Just not being direct. Holding things in and grudges. Not saying what I am thinking/feeling. When I tried, historically I was shut down or told I was over reacting. And you know what, holding all of that in is tiring. Draining. Like you are carrying around a giant pack of thoughts and words that you are unable to release. 

This job has challenged me to do that. To find my voice and be confidant in it. I was forced to hold my ground. To still be caring and see their humanity, but also the bigger picture. Conflict is hard for me. I am prone towards avoidance. I could not do that here. 

It has taken practice. And it is still a growth area for me. Especially as I find the balance between respecting my true self and others ideas and feelings.

It has also taught me about setting boundaries. Saying no. Which is also not natural for me. I hate disappointing people. I like to be the nice guy. But I have to care for myself before I can help others properly. 

And I think without this chapter in my life I would not be heading in the direction i am. I would not be living where I am or have many of the local friends I have. And who knows what else would be different. 

And so I am thankful for the opportunity to work with a difficult population. (One I wish didn't exist, but alas they do. DV sucks). For what they have given me. And hopefully tools I have been able to give them to help create a more peaceful existence. 

Of course there were downsides. But I do not choose to focus my energies there tonight. 

I choose gratitude. And grateful I am. It's a strange journey sometimes. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Newest Adventure

I am a sucker for a good inspirational quote.

Sometimes on the right day, if caught in the right moment, such a phrase can make me weepy, or at least shed a tear. I can't help that I am a bit of a sap.

There are a few FB pages I follow that I can guarantee something that sparks my inner sap pretty regularly these days. Brene Brown. Trust Your Journey. to name a few

Brene Brown had one recently that sucker punched me. Not so much for its message, but its message being exactly where and when I needed to hear it. It goes a little something like this:

It's ironic that I'm the most afraid when I'm being brave. Vulnerability = courage.

 Man, I know that I am afraid when I feel it right in my stomach. My insides churn. Almost like indigestion. Without the food. And you know much much I love my food.

Recently I have been considering with a close friend, a career directional change. I have always known that I wanted to eventually move in this direction. But did not know when. Did not know how. For I am aware that I am young still. I am a dreamer. But I am also realistic about my lack of business sense and ineptitude with paperwork. I have the organizational skills of a blind monkey. The good news is I have great therapeutic intervention skills!

The direction is to work for myself. To go into private practice. And there are ways in which I want to continue to move with this, especially as I learn more about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.

But to do it myself just seemed too much. Too overwhelming.

I started some questioning a couple of years ago and even started filing some paperwork to register my own business and business name. I just have let it sit for a while. And now it seems it is time to move forward with it. Learning with and having the full support of a friend and of my dear husband, who is much more excited about this opportunity then I ever thought he would be.

We just signed a lease in downtown Grayslake.

I will be a counselor in private practice.

I have more paperwork, insurance, marketing, accounting and other businessy type things to attend to. And will get there one step at a time. Including a training on how to start and maintain your own private practice. I will be attending it with my dear friend who is making the similar plunge.

In it I will continue to work 2 days a week. Just transition the current 2 day a week schedule to what the future one will be. And be an attentive mother and wife to my family. While having a satisfying career.

So. If you know anyone in Lake County who is looking for a therapist. I will have some openings. I am especially great with adults, seniors and adolescents. Caregivers. relationship issues, grief, loss, depression, anxiety, life transitions. An actual bio is in the making at my business website: www.bethechangecounseling.com

Oh and the name of my business...in light of my love for great inspirational quotes. And my general admiration for Gandhi...

Be the Change Counseling Services PC

Because real change happens from within,

Like me on Facebook. :)


Monday, October 14, 2013

Coffee shop man (we all have a story to tell)

These Monday mornings as of late, I have had a few extra minutes to grab a cup of coffee on my way to work, AKA "the abuser office" 
With these few extra minutes I have come to be greeted by a sweet older gentleman who frequents this coffee shop every morning. We chat a few minutes. Make a little small talk. Share a brief story of our week or a quick antidote. I know of his wife who is at home on oxygen and his former career and of his appointments. He has seen pictures of my son. 
Today I felt compelled to sit a minute longer. Perhaps creating a rush for myself later when it came to getting to the office. (We don't allow our clients to be one minute late. Therefore I must be held to the same standard). And in pulling up a chair he opened up and told me a story. One I had never expected in depth or content. He had me in tears

He told the story like it was last year or a few years ago. It must have still felt that raw to him. It would for me.   For he is in his 70s and spoke of his daughter when she was 22. 

He told me of how she was abducted and murdered. After going to her car to retrieve a gift for a friend. Her body found a week later. How his heart gave out on him shortly after. He was in the hospital when the trial was happening after they found the guy who did it. It literally broke his heart. 

He described what got him through it. His wife. His faith. His love for others despite tragedy. 

Can you even imagine. Without your stomach turning to mush?

As I wiped my eyes he apologized and said that he didn't mean to make me cry. I told him not to apologize but that his story was sad. I was sad for him. For his loss.  That no man should have to suffer that. That I admired his strength;his faith. His courage to open up. 

He said that he felt better telling it. That though it hurts, somehow it helps him to share his story. 

Sadly I did have to leave. After making sure we had an upswing in conversation I excused myself with a hug and a promise to pray for his wife's health and his pain. He insisted on paying for my next coffee.

All of this in the course of 10-15 minutes. 

It does not take long to connect to another human. To listen. To share a story. To give a little grace. 

My heart opened up to a little more gratitude for what and who I have. I ached to have his bravery, and maybe next time I have a need, I will share my struggles. My story. The human connection to just be there in the moment was refreshing. 

I wish I would slow down. Look around to find the hearts in my community who need an ear and who will enrich my soul. I counsel for a living. (And no story from work has touched me the way this one has in a long time)But what if we counseled each other a little.  Opened up to our insecurities and hardships. Pulled up a chair. Listened. If only for a minute. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A little ambitious

After 4 years of looking at this mess every time I open my basement door

I decided that I could not take it anymore. 
Granted my basement is unfinished and looks equally hideous. But it's at least better hidden from the general public. 

So Ben and I run to Lowes. I love their clearance oops paints. For $5 I picked up a perfectly acceptable neutral color. And as soon as Ben went down for his first nap I set to taping and edging. 

He woke up and we hung out and went to the park. And I finished up during his second nap. 

Bill came home and asked what we did today. I opened up the basement door and showed him this

While not perfect. I feel better. And accomplished. I might even hang a picture. 


Many children have "attachment objects" you know, items that bring comfort, help them get to sleep or otherwise freak out if they don't have it. 

Up until now, my little guy has had no such thing. We never used pacifiers. He has no Linus-esque blanket he carried everywhere. ( not like baby me who had my gee-gee. Aka ratty torn blanket I could not part with. ) and even with all of the stuffed animals that surround him in his crib now. Nothing clicked for him

Paranoid momma has begun to wonder if this is problematic and will forever mar his personal relationships. Normal momma looks at him and can see he is perfectly ok. 

This was the case until the other day, when I was digging through some boxes in the basement, looking for some particular pieces of nostalgia. I found one box of some of my moms old items. Some that stayed with her in her final year in long term care. There were too stuffed animals, dogs, at least one of which I am certain I bought her. 

One still has her name tagged to it. So it would not get misplaced, as items tend to do in nursing facilities. 

I took them out and threw them in the wash. Seeing as they have been basement ridden for at least 4 years. 

These guys were then handed to my son. And immediately he was smitten. 
He takes at least one to grocery stores. The babysitter. Carries all over the house. And goes to bed with all of the other animals. 
To me this is so special. I have always struggled with not feeling a connection or any signs or anything from/with my mom since she passed. Like so many people seem to see or have. 
In a way I feel that this is something. As clear as day. A wink. A nod. A reminder she is always with me. 
A connection


It's still there. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

The one bad apple

I just completed a marvelous 3 day training.
Another training that involved mental health professionals and equine (horse) professionals.
And encourages them to work together. (this one, in my opinion, was more thorough, organized and professional than the last one. I also get CEUs)

I will get into the training itself and where I see myself going with this at some point in the future. However, this is not the point of this post.

This one is merely to vent.

I greatly value my role as a professional counselor. And I greatly value the input and contributions of other professionals who are sincerely trying to improve the lives of others in the community.

Something happens though when you put so many people into an intense and exhausting environment. people with big egos.  people who are trying to prove to other professionals how much they know. When in fact we are all there to learn.

Do you know where I am going with this?

I met some awesome people from all over the country. I met some people who I would love to grab a cup of coffee with and talk to and collaborate with more who are local. A therapist from Wauconda with a hilarious self-deprecating sense of humor. A horse person in Belvidere, originally from Texas with a calm confidence. Another woman is just up 83 from me in Burlington.

But there were also some people who by the end, I would have loved to just punch in the face.

I recognize how inappropriate this thought is coming from a CBT therapist who works with violent offenders. I do believe violence is wrong and blah blah blah. The picture in my head just made me feel better. Catharsis. Coping, if you will.

You know when you start to notice those people a little bit in the beginning. And think that maybe they are just quirky. Or confidant. And you give them the benefit of the doubt. And they magically begin to know more than the trainers. And they brag about how awesome they are at everything. And talk down to people who see a situation differently. Sulk if not the center of attention. And slowly my benefit turns into contempt. And then, by some horrible stroke of luck...you (I) get placed into "processing groups" with those people. And role play. I start twitching. And it is UN-BEAR-A-BLE.

My saving grace???

I am not alone.

I begin to notice the facial expression I am feeling. Or perhaps unintentionally expressing myself (since we know I have practically no filter when it comes to feeling and my face). On others. not just me. And we smile and give each other a knowing look. And they offer me a chocolate covered cherry.

Even one of the horses seeks me out for a quick nuzzle.

And it is so relieving.

More relieving than my desire to dislocate someones teeth.

I am amazed sometimes at my own ability to allow one or two or three people to almost ruin a perfectly wonderful experience. To overshadow the 40 other professionals who are going to nail this thing. Who I have learned so much from and am inspired by their vulnerability and honesty. And who I hope very much to see in part 2 in November.

May I work to always see the 40. Instead of the 1 bad apple.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

12 years later

I've never been to New York
It's probably somewhere on my top 10 list of places I want to visit before I die. A bucket list of sorts. 
I want to see Broadway. The Statue of Liberty. I want to have that Carly Simon song playing in the background as I ride a ferry and go to Times Square and the Empire State Building and Ellis Island. Maybe wake up early one day to get a wave in on the Today Show. 

And of course I want to see the memorial of 911

When I go, it will be as a tourist. As someone who will visit, get my fill and return home to my safe warm quiet and comforting community. 

I wonder though what it is like for those who live there or work there or frequent there. Like I might to Chicago. I love just walking the streets of downtown Chicago. I feel like I know them like a familiar friend. But Chicago with all of its problems, does not have the scar that New York City does. 

What would it be like to regularly pass a giant hole in the ground. A place where shining towers of human architecture and booming business and trade and tourism once thrived. 

A constant reminder of what was. Of lives lost. Of fear and desperation. The images that will never leave the minds of all Americans, but how much more intensely for those who saw it first hand. And walk by a reminder if an intense trauma. 

I can't even drive by my moms old nursing home without feeling a pit in my stomach. I drove by the Dhamer house in Milwaukee once and that gave me the creeps. 

What then does it feel like to pass the burial ground of such an evil act. A place embedded with grief. Even 12 years later. 

That's what I am thinking about tonight on the eve of 9/11. 

And what good can possibly come out of this tragedy. Cause you know how much I long to and need to see light out if darkness. Good out of bad. 

And maybe it's a few things. It brings us together. It's one of those events in history where we all have a collective and individual story. "Where were you when...".  Like The Kennedy assassination. 

But also just that people still walk by that spot. Life continues. People work. Tourists come. Through fear and sadness and pain. Life still sustains. 

And to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those lost and their families and friends who walk with a hole in their hearts. My heart is with you. You are not forgotten. 


How to speak to seniors

Today I am hesitant to enter one patient room. I have to fight this each week. It's not that she is elderly, most of my long term care patients are. And most talk with ease. I love talking to my elderly clients. 

What I do not enjoy is sometimes seeing in facilities how our elders are treated as objects. Things to be dealt with rather than people with rich histories and good ideas and feelings and stories to tell. 

When I tell people what I do, my current 2 main populations. I often get interesting reactions vary from disgust and shock for working with abusers, and sympathy and boredom with the elders. I am questioned on the difficulty of what to talk to seniors about or if they can hear me. All real questions. But they are also real people. Who are lonely and desperately want to talk. Sometimes it is just to complain about problems. But who doesn't. Talking with them is easier than you might think. 

Want some ideas??

1. Ask them anything about their past. Families. Relationships. School. Careers. And never assume they had kids or did or didn't work

2. Let me back up. Want to open the door a little. Compliment something you see genuinely. Their shirt. A picture. The weather. Gets you off on a good foot

3.  Favorites! Music. Tv shows. Sports or teams. Vacation. Holidays. Memories. 

4. Most have pictures or objects or memorabilia around them. Ask them about them or who brought it or significance of those things

5. Their goals and dreams. Even in your 80s or 90s we have goals. It might be for their family. Or helping a neighbor. Or physical therapy to get out of bed on their own. It gives purpose. 

6. Bring your own pictures. Share about your life. Kids. Job. Family. 
( this is the only population I do much self disclosure with.  As a therapist self disclosure is generally frowned upon. It must be beneficial to the client. And to some of these clients I am their ONLY connection to the outside world. Therefore I see it as often beneficial)

7. Ask open ended questions and be patient on the answer. There may be memory issues. But also our previous generations were a storytelling time. It's how time was passed without tv phones or the Internet at our beckon call. 

And when all else fails. Which is kind of where I am at with the aforementioned client. Just be real about how you are feeling. Ask them what you can do for them or what they need. Ask them to bring topics of discussion. Even if you are asking every week. This client is difficult. And is impossible to talk to and is resistant. But desperately wants me there and do I am trying. Not giving up on her. Cause I get the sense that everyone else has. (FYI. I got her to talk some by asking where she was during major historical events. 911. Kennedy. MLK)

You want to enrich your and someone else's life. Go visit a nursing home. It's not so scary. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


This has been a season of a lot of change and a lot of happenings.

I want to write and update about so many of them.

Many of of them around me and affecting me , but none of them is mine. Nor mine to speak about.

These changes and situations are completely out of my control.

I think that is what is the most difficult.

I know how I would love to see things play out. People not to get sick. Friends to stay. Relationships to mend. Jobs to be secure. People to be happy.

All that I am able to control is myself. My response. How I behave. Support. Love. Pray. In the midst of it.

Monday, July 22, 2013


May we never stop seeing people as people. As individuals. 

Not as labels
As "he" "she" and "it's"
It derogatory terms

Not as inconveniences
Or burdens or roadblocks
Or objects to be discarded and used

Not as less than 
Differences as enemies
Or wrong

I am currently seething with anger at the injustice of an institutions Who is choosing to dehumanize a person who relies on them. Through no fault of their own. And needing to respond appropriately. To breathe humanity into halls who see people as burdens and jobs

May this be a reminder to me to be slow to judge. And quick to love. 

For everyone has a story

Monday, June 24, 2013

Runners are crazy

Runners are crazy

Especially distance runners

Bat. Shit. Crazy. 

If you are a runner you know exactly what I mean and you are not offended

They say crazy things, use crazy terminology and do crazy crazy things.
For example they:
-choose to run 13.1 than 26.2 then 50 and on and on. The other day I saw a guy with one of those runner bumper stickers with 140. Seriously?

- they run into traffic. You know against traffic, as pedestrians are supposed to. Or sometimes can't be bothered to wait at a stoplight so will maneuver like Frogger to keep the heartrate up. 

-They are always thinking about where they fit in a run anywhere and have extra running clothes in car "just in case"

-They know exactly has far it is in miles between their house and anywhere in 5-15 mile radius. And all routes. 

They  use absurd words and Terms:

Foam roller- I had no idea what this term was and why use it until a few weeks ago. As I am more regular I feel the highly worked muscles on need of relief.

It band- while again I have heard the term before, didn't quite gert it until I started feeling those muscles. fyi, they run along the outside of your upper leg. they've been stiff in the beginning of runs. thereby the need of the use of said foam roller.

Naked running and Barefoot running - one is exactly as it sounds the other is not really what you might think. I have tried one. And gotten some funny looks on the path.

PR- ever the goal. to beat your personal best time. its the song that never ends. yes it goes on and on my friends.

Thought process, possibly the most certifiable part of the runner...

- Like the midwestern mailman, neither sleet nor snownor rain nor grisley heat or humidity will stop you from doing your job, completing the task. 20 degrees or 90. it will get done.
-Boston, New York, Chicago, are races not towns

- injuries are common and badges of honor, especially if you run through them. pain, cramps, pulled muscles...and proudly limp to the finish line. with the war stories. they love the war stories.

- After running  3.1, 6.2, 13.1, 26.2, they cannot wait to do it again. and maybe longer the next time.

- guilt. after missing a run. feeling sick. slower pace. whatever. guilt guilt guilt. reminds me of my Catholic elementary school.

- ha. and jealousy when they drive by another runner. "I should be doing that"

-drop $100+ on a pair of shoes that will last only a few months

So you see runners are crazy.

But this label has always been applied to everyone who has ever tried to push limits and boundaries, physically and mentally. Who attempt what is told cannot and should not be done. Who chase dreams and try to do better.    If that is crazy...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

water your own garden

I realize this is a bit out of season. But I must be dreaming of spring already..,

My dear husband has been working on his garden for years. Since we bought our house.  I think his favorite feature of having a house has been a yard. And a garden.

over the past almost 4 years we have planted a wide variety of plants and mini-gardens. We have the vegetable garden

some ornamental gardens


potatoes and asparagus.

fruit trees


I would post pictures if they weren't currently under a layer of snow. 

And we do it, our garden, our way. Slowly, one step at a time. We do not use any chemicals or pesticides on anything, including our lawn. That food that we will ingest. That lawn my child will play on.

If you look around our neighborhood, you will see some meticulous lawns. Overflowing gardens. Gorgeous flowers.  If you look at ours, it is not meticulous. it is not neglected. It looks like nothing all that special. What it is, is cared for and watered and loved and used.

When we go for walks, it is so easy to look at what everyone else has. Some people have some pretty amazing  landscaping. Some lawns are bright green with criss cross mowing patterns akin to a baseball field. My neighbors vegetable garden looks like the Garden of Eden. We look around. We compare.

And I wonder how much energy can get wasted looking around. Wishing. Envying. Working to make it be like everyone elses.

Rather than just tending to my own. Weeding my own. Covering and protecting vulnerable parts when the storms pass through. Cutting back and pruning when necessary. Picking the bounty when its ripe. Reading among my bulbs. Rolling in the grass with my son. Working within our own limits and values.

Watering my own garden.

What is the saying:? "The grass is always greener ... Where you water it" 

Where else do we do this. In life. Compare and envy and judge and work against our own nature. Work. School. Parenting. Vacations. Money. Stuff.  Politics.

And its not to say we cannot learn from each other. My neighbor has given us wonderful gardening tips. Some we take and use and have been utterly helpful. And some we choose not to. I see "information" people post on Facebook. Some I read and roll my eyes to and some I find pieces of value in for my own life and incorporate. 

Sometimes I need to just enjoy looking at what my neighbor has and appreciate. Sometimes I need to look ahead, put fb and my phone away. Sometimes I need to eliminate excuses and just get to work on my own piece of earth. 

its hard to tend to my own garden when i am using all of my energy comparing it to everyone elses. It's difficult to appreciate by bounty, my blessings , when my focus is elsewhere. 

And when I tend to what I have. I find that I in turn have more to give. I can give tomatoes and applesauce back to my neighbors. Teach my son a new skill. 

May I remember to let go of envy. And water my own garden. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spotlight: Stepping Stone Farms

I have been a woman of many ideas and dreams.

With each of those my life could have gone in so many different directions.
One of these dreams, and i am not sure when it started to form, is the idea that to use horses, especially rescue horses and abused/neglected people, especially children, to help heal each other. 

It has stayed in the back of my mind for some time. And in the mean time, I have gotten my Masters degree in counseling, worked in various areas of trauma and maintained my love of horses. Oh and started a family. :)

A few years ago I started seeing that there are places that are doing just this thing, in various ways. There is even an organized group called EAGALA that does Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and trains people in it. Another organization exists doing the same thing called OK Corral. I have been dong research on them and following where all of their trainings take place and what agencies and organizations actually practice this.

However I have remained stuck in actually doing nothing for a long time. 

Something in the past few months has clicked and changed for me. I have worked through a lot of my own barriers and fears and to make a long story short, I finally signed up for a training in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. And the OK Corral series happened to have a training about 35 minutes north of me last month. So I went. It was at Stepping Stone Farm in Franklin, WI

And this act of actually signing up has set a ball in motion for me. I cannot begin to tell you how nervous I was going to this training, not knowing a single person. but hoping to learn something and make some connections. And I was able to do both.

a few pictures from the farm and the 3 day training:

Lia, the head honcho at Stepping Stone made it clear immediately that they were looking for help. I did not know exactly what that meant or looked like so I eventually spoke to her during the training and after. And have since been working with her to develop some programs, help recruit some fundraising help, going to networking events and actually counseling a group of veterans who come out on Friday mornings. I am stunned by how the veterans are able to open up let their guard down with the horses. "Its like they get me" they say. And the farm is safe and peaceful.

A lot of work that I can do at home, except Friday mornings, and Ben gets to come with me and experience farm life.

Lia works so hard and is so passionate about the work on her farm. And did I mention that most of the horses on her farm ARE RESCUE HORSES!! Each with their own rescue story.
this horse is Nina, so far one of my favorites

Stepping stone farm rehabs these rescue horses, uses them to teach riding lessons, do equine assisted psychotherapy, equine assisted learning and therapeutic riding. We are also working on having workshops, team building, and camps using EAP/EAL. 

Stepping Stone is a non for profit and runs primarily on the heart of Lia, many volunteers and many generous donors who believe in what they do.

I am a believer. 

And so they are my other organization I am running the Biggest Loser Half Marathon for in September this year. Would you consider donating to their cause? My goal is $500

If you are unable to donate financially, can you do one of the following for me?:
- share this cause with friends and encourage them to donate
-keep this organization and its clients in your thoughts and prayers

to donate go here:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sweet 16

I love the 13th
It has been our "count the months" day. Which is so much fun, as so much happens in these fast precious months of our son's first years.

Today marks 16 months. 

And today he did one of my favorite things yet. 

We love reading books. This farm book is one of our favorites. 

As we turned to this page, we asked Ben where the kitty was on the page. And sure enough, he pointed to it. And my heart swelled with pride at this new little marker of brain development/intelligence. 

Other honorable mentions in this past week or 2 include:
- spinning around in circles (probably from watching Ms. Becka)

- hugging and kissing when we ask him to
- walking himself all the way down the street on the sidewalk. (and his general love for the outdoors. He could be outside all day long if we let him)
-playing on this new slide

I love watching his personality develop too. He is so sweet. Loves to laugh. Cuddly. Is a little mischievous. has gotten pretty good with "no" so far (with a little work). Is fearless. And is kind and gentle with animals. And plays independently pretty well. I have been so lucky with how "easy" he is. 

And it has gone by so fast. 

And I am loving every crazy moment. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spotlight: Choosing Hope Adoptions

I first met Angela, the driving force behind Choosing Hope Adoptions, about 10 years ago. We were both registered for a 6 week Youth Ministry training course outside of Minneapolis. Furthermore, we were paired up to be roommates at a very "special" home. Oh the stories from those first 3 weeks. At least Angela had family nearby and could escape on the weekends. Remember the cat, Angela???

During those weeks we got to know each other and I was blessed to connect with someone who was so personable, full of life, funny and passionate for ministry and for God. We reconnected at the second 3 weeks and have stayed in contact, even though she was called to Ohio and I to Illinois. She even allowed my youth group to spend the night at her church on our way to a youth conference in North Carolina.

Angela since has gotten married, started a family, and has 3 beautiful children. She was a Youth Minister in Springfield Oh until just a few years ago, when she knew her life was needing to head in a new direction. She just did not know where yet. But they took a leap of faith.She and her husband felt strongly called about adoption and were blessed to add their third child, only a month younger than my Ben through the adoption process.

During that time, she saw many of the complications and heartbreaks that are involved in adoption. From fees, to caring for the needs of the birth family, and simplifying the process that turns off many potential adoptive families.

Rather than just complain or sit back and wait for someone else to do something about it, she stepped up to the plate, with a team of other passionate people and started an adoption non for profit out of Springfield Ohio. This non for profit is called : Choosing Hope Adoptions. .

Choosing Hope is still in its initial stages. They have all the certifications, they have an office and they have a plan and the support of the community and have just begun operations.

What makes them different from other adoption agencies: 
1. Our care for birth mothers and fathers is as important as the care of the baby.  Our ultimate goal is to see them walk in the freedom and love of Jesus.
2. Cost. Most domestic infant adoption cost a family between $22,000 - $35,000. We are working to cut these costs in half. 

This agency is beautiful to me. It is seeing a problem, a need, and working to fulfill it. Not just talk.

That is why I am choosing to ask you to help me help them.

I am running the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Racine on behalf of Choosing Hope and one other completely different non for profit. I would love to raise $500 for them.

Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

If you cannot donate, please do one of the following:
1. pray for them and their ministry
2. forward this on to others and see if they are wiling to donate or pray. or both. :)

TO donate please go to:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

On being entrusted

I have been entrusted with my family. 
With my son who looks at me with adoring eyes and ....
With my husband who needs a partner, a confidant, support and a little smile and squeeze of the hand.

I have been entrusted with friends.
I consider my sisters my closest of friends. And those other people around who can count on me for a chat, a cup of coffee, a listening ear, a word of advice, a good laugh, a long walk. Even if its been months. or years.

I have been entrusted with my clients. 
With people who have been hurt, are hurting and need a little help and direction. Whether they come by choice or not.

I have been entrusted with a dream
As fragile as dreams are, they are gifts. Something to work towards, to hope for. And to take a chance and be courageous with. I am making steps towards a heart-song that I have held close. And I am living the dream of a family.

I have been entrusted with this body.
A temple. To use it as it was intended. It is beautiful and unique and it can do amazing things, overcome injuries and hardship. It can run long distances. It held 2 heartbeats at once, it birthed a child. Like a machine it requires maintenance and care to function properly. And to last a long time. 

I have been entrusted with unique gifts and abilities.
Intellect. Music. Art. Creativity. Love for animals and compassion for others. The ability to look ahead, to see good in dark places, to see infinite possibilities. Hard Work. A goofy laugh. I find it so important to know who you are what these things are. There is a world out there that needs you. Just as you are.

I have been entrusted with finances.
Money, possessions, a home. Some things I have worked for, and some I have been extremely fortunate with. All of which I am unable to take with me when I die. Or can be gone in an instant of bad luck. So what will I do with them now. Especially when there are others who are in need. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"

I have been entrusted with language.
The ability to speak words into the universe or into lives. What words do I choose. Kind or harsh. To instill hope or disparity. To make you laugh and smile and think or to weep. 

Each of these is a gift... a privilege.  Not a right. And can be taken away at any time. 

May I have the foresight every day to remember this.