Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My one and only political post.

I think that, if you read through every one of my blog posts, you would be remiss to find much written on politics.
Its not because I don't value them or have political opinions. But for the most part, they are not on my motherhood or professional agenda in regards to writing; and to be honest, I know that I am probably not thick-skinned enough to handle the criticism and varied opinions on hot button issues that are usually embodied in politics.

However today that will change.

Mainly  because there is an issue near and dear to my heart, and to my profession and professional experience that I want to talk about.

And unless you are over the age of 60, or are a caretaker for someone over that age, this is probably not something you have considered.

But let me tell you a fact.
Medicare (the primary insurance provider for seniors) does NOT cover/pay for mental health counseling provided by Licensed Professional Counselors.

Medicare DOES cover counseling services provided by Social Workers and Psychologists. But not Professional Counselors (whose entire extensive masters or doctoral level education is solely focused on mental health counseling services).

However every single  other private insurance carrier offers coverage for mental health services through professional counselors  (BCBS, Aetna, Humana, Tricare, Medicaid, etc)

It is not a secret, I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the State of Illinois and Wisconsin. So I have a vested interest in being included in providing professional mental health care services to this population that is growing exponentially. Much faster than any professional program can educate practitioners.

It is also incredibly frustrating that I am limited in what I am able to do. Much of my professional experience has been with this population. From working with elder abuse, to supervising senior services programs in Lake County, to running support groups and providing individual counseling to residents of nursing homes and working with (and being at one point myself) a caregiver. With this experience, I have received referrals to my private practice for seniors on Medicare with a variety of mental health issues including grief, depression, co-dependency, trauma/abuse, adjustment issues, etc. Each of whom I have to make arrangements to either   1. see pro bono (for free),  2. work out a private pay rate- which is incredibly high for someone on a fixed income, or   3. refer elsewhere. And I think each of these people deserve their services and I will do whatever it takes to make sure they receive it, be it from myself or someone else as qualified.

Now you might ask, how I am able to see seniors in nursing homes? Long story short, I do that as a contractor for a group practice. I am "supervised" by a Licensed Psychologist who signs off on everything I do and so he bills Medicare. Its completely legit and an acknowledged practice, like how other practices (like doctors) can still bill for utilizing interns or nurses services or those without their full licensing credentials.

I just cannot not do it on my own. Even though the services are identical. And it limits the number of highly qualified mental health practitioners who can serve this population.

This article gives a little bit more info about it:
article from the Illinois Counseling association about this issue

So why do seniors need Mental health services? Imagine yourself when you are 65+. How many people around you, friends and family have passed away? grief/loneliness. Its harder to get out/leave your house. You've most likely retired from whatever your life's work has been. You are most likely physically able to do less than you were before. Most are on a new very tight fixed income. Health concerns increase including new meds, eyesight, arthritis, breathing, etc. Its a time when you question your purpose and life contribution. And even more so, imagine for yourself having to move into a nursing home (if you haven't visited one recently, I encourage you to do so. Its a sobering experience). Get the picture. Its depressing. Anxiety producing. Lonely. And Seniors have the highest rate of suicide among any age group by far.

So here's the deal.

Legislation has been now introduced to the house of Representatives in Washington to make one simple change. That is to include Marriage and Family therapists and Licensed Professional Counselors to the list of accepted mental health providers for Medicare. Its called HR 3662 The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013.

If you think that this is important, which I do, here is what you can do. Its really quite easy.

Can you please call or e-mail your local Congressional representative to Washington. Just let them know that you are in support of H.R. 3662, The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013 and to ask for their support of it. To allow for greater access to Mental Health Services for seniors, who need it. Your letter/voice mail does not need to be elaborate. Just state your support.

Here is where you can look up your Rep by zip code (use the "find officials" box). Mine is Randy Hultgren (if you live near me). Each rep should have their own website with a "contact" or "email" section/tab.

The other simple thing is to encourage others to do this as well. Pass this on.

Thank you for bearing with me on this.
But it is rather important to me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Warnings to moms

I was having a conversation with my sister in law the other month about our respective   pregnancies. She is due about a month before I am (I'm excited to have these cousins so close in age).
It's the summer now and our next 1-2 months of growing humans will take place as the temperature continued to rise. 
We shared and compared our stories of all of the people who have felt compelled to warn us about how big and hot and miserable we will be during the long scorching summer months. Because apparently we were probably not aware of this phenomena they call "summer". 

Now I believe that these people were probably trying to be helpful. Or it's make conversation. Or somehow well meaning. 

It got me to thinking about all of the ways that people, especially other parents, feel the need to "warn" and "prepare" you for how horrible pregnancy and motherhood are. Most of these warnings start out with "just wait till...____"

Just wait till the middle of August and you're ginormous and pregnant and miserable

Just wait till your nursing and (fill in the blank for the discomfort of the first 6 weeks of nursing)

Just wait till you are unable to sleep again until they are in college

Just wait till you have to deal with sibling rivalry/temper tantrums/ the terrible twos/ etc. 

Just wait until they start getting sassy and talking back. 

Just wait until the hormones start kicking in. 

Now. I know that being pregnant and motherhood is challenging. But it's not impossible. People have been doing it since time began. I've seen seemingly less than capable people turn their offspring into perfectly well adjusted human adults. 

And I do wish there were some areas of more open discussion about the actual surprising parts (like needing freaking depends for 6 weeks post birth. Post-partum depression. Or the astronomical cost of buying bras for your ever changing size) But seriously, summer being hot is not a shock. I've lived in the Midwest my entire life. I understand the weather patterns. 

I guess I am somewhat confounded by the need for all of the warnings. But what about the excitement of new life and new beginnings? What about warning parents of all the abundant joy you might experience.  What about sharing or warning about how adorable your child might be. Or about how emotional you might get when your child starts saying "no thank you" instead of screaming "no!"  Or warning that your child might actually sleep or nap and you could actually have some "me time". Warning about how much fun it is to see your child's eyes light up when they meet Batman or dad comes home or greets some other superhero in their world. Or how you think you might die of loneliness after leaving your child for a short girls weekend. 

Where are those warnings? 

We live in a world it seems so warped by negativity. And yes, I value honesty and there are negative things to parenthood and the world around us. But why do we give that so much credit and power? I don't want to focus on that. I want to be mindful of the good. Both the yin and the yang. Take it all in. Relish the moments. Not fear them. 

I was given a huge gift about a week before my wedding. Someone told me to take a moment to myself, silently, before I walked down the isle. Take in everything and everyone I saw. Take a deep breath. And I did. And in that moment there was no worry. Only peace. And I fondly remember that moment 9 years later. More vividly than many other moments of that day. (Where there were some messy moments too). And in the meantime, marriage has been messy. But I am learning how to try to hold those precious moments, like I was advised to so wisely.

Can I please do that with my children. My pregnancies. Relish them. Even in the chaos? 

A simple gesture

Throughout the years I have been blessed to know so many generous souls.
Generosity, in my eyes has nothing to do with money or possessions or how much you have to give. But in how willing you are to share what you do have and in making people feel valued. 
There are people who have been immensely generous to me in opening their homes and giving me old cars and helping a silly young girl stay on her feet. For those times and people, my life has been forever altered for the better. 

But it's also in those small gestures where I felt supremely cared for. For some reason lately I've been pondering those and remembering with gratitude those who took an extra minute or thought or $1 to tell me that they were thinking about me to brighten my day. Some were as long as 15 years ago. But I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. 

I just want to share a few. Perhaps you were on the giving end of one of those. And if you were, know that I still remember. And with great fondness. 

A few took place in the year I was working at Wheaton College. 

-a friend/ student stopped by my office to give me a small bouquet of flowers. Just because. No reason. They were just thinking of me. 
-another friend/student remembered my description of a song I heard on the radio and fell in love with. Though I could not remember it's name. A week later she handed me a recording of that song. 

when I was making a significant life move, taking a new job and moving to a new area and leaving some special people. 2 things I still have in my possession were given to me:

 - a scrapbook of memories from the previous few years 
- 2 framed pictures of my favorite place 

After I had had my son, and a few months later returned to work (which if you don't know... Is the single hardest thing in the world. And I was only working 2 days a week!) my coworker left me this on my desk:
- a "back to work survival kit ". Including 2 packs of tissue (that said worlds greatest mom), 2 packs of Reese's Peanut butter cups and done calming tea 

When I left the southern suburbs and my job of 5 years with students, they left me with 2 beautiful gifts:

- my guitar students learned and performed a sweet good bye song for me 
- a collection of letters of people telling me how much they loved me

I realize now that many of these things are physical "gifts". Which if you have ever read "the 5 love languages " it's probably pretty telling about me. 

What does that mean? That someone took time out of their day to consider me and put energy into making me smile. I think it's easier probably to do when someone is right in front of you. Telling a joke or story and making people laugh. But I guess it tells me that out of sight does not mean out of mind. And that feels good. 

So I guess in all of this , it inspired me to want to do the same for others. How can I go out of my way a little bit to let those around me know that I am thinking about them and care about them? That they are important. 
Gestures and gifts are one way
Just telling them is another
Performing some service or
Making time to be with them. 
Affection is another. 

Sometimes fear of imposing myself on others holds me back from doing this.
But it also then holds me back from loving. From creating connections.

It is my impetus to be more brave in this. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A mother and a _____

Recently I've been blessed to participate in a summer bible study with a group of ladies from the MOPS (mothers of pre schoolers) program I have been involved with. This was some spiritual self care I knew I needed. Most of the ladies I had never met before or only met once or twice. And they have been incredibly tolerant of my tardiness, since I come straight from seeing a client. 

We've been reading "Known and Loved: 52 devotions from Psalms" directed towards moms/parents. 

One of its foci has been around identity. How often when we become parents, sometimes that not only becomes our life, but our sole identity. While parenthood is a significant role in our lives, it is NOT all if who we are. 
We were each made with unique gifts and abilities. To be creative, in many different ways. To have multiple purposes. To love and be loved. To be complex and multi- dimensional. 

Some "assignments" from the book called for us to do a role call of what we do and who we are, as people, not just moms. Cause either way, we are valuable. 

I guess that this is my exploration of my role call. Who I identify myself to be. (In no particular order)

I am  A mother and a _____.

Fierce friend
Loyal wife
Guitar teacher
Animal lover and advocate
Child of God
Supporter if my community
Green Bay Packer fan
Running enthusiast
WW2 history buff
Perpetual learner
Believer in each persons potential
Nature lover
Down home/ from scratch cook
"Don't take crap from nobody"
Person who can laugh at themselves
Fascinated by geography
Hopeless romantic

I disallowed qualifiers, negativity or self pity. I have lots of those. But I found them unnecessary for this purpose. And perhaps we all should. Love ourselves for who we are. Not always pointing out the bad. But allowing for The good. God does. 

What/who are you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

on the eve of

9 years ago this evening, I had several of my favorite ladies sitting with me on the floor of Bill's 1 bedroom apartment (far larger than my studio apartment) making bouquets and boutonnieres of several of the 200 roses I bought wholesale, and folding programs for the festivities of the next day. Laughs were shared, projects completed and mattresses and sleeping bags were spread out, and well before midnight, just about everyone was ready to call it a day. The next day was going to be pretty busy.

Everyone was ready to call it a night except me.

I had the excuse of "I need more tulle" to decorate the church with, so I left to make a run to up all night Meijer store to make this seemingly necessary purchase. Meijer wasn't exactly close. It was a few towns away. I'm sure I could have driven to Walmart just across the highway.

Obviously, the next day would carry on with or without more lacy fabric. I doubt anyone even noticed. But I needed to get out. I needed to breathe. I needed to think. Alone.

As you may have figured out, that next day, July 9th, 2005, was going to be one of the biggest days of my life. I was going to marry the man who was created to be exactly who I needed. A sweet, generous, annoyingly honest, intelligent and godly man.

But to tell you the truth, I had some reservations. Not about him. But about me. About marriage. About the complexities of life lived not only for myself anymore. No more survival mode. Other people were involved. I knew that everything was going to change. There was no gong back. I have always been aware of my belief system of "marriage is forever"

But you see, I had no idea what that looked like. What that meant. How do people do that? Most of the marriages I knew fell apart. Or the lengthy ones I did get to observe were terrifying. I knew a lot of what I did not want. But had little clear vision of what I did want. In a marriage.

Whats funny is that I did know what I wanted in a person. A potential spouse. I suppose thats where I got lucky. I was picky. Not that I had more than a handful of people ever interested in dating me. But I had my specifications. And to tell you the truth, I had been praying for the person who I was going to marry for years and years. Even though I did not know who that was. Someone once told me, as a young adult, to think about praying for your future spouse. I have always wanted to get married one day. So I decided that was not a bad idea. And my prayers often contained blessings for whoever was out there for me. It certainly couldn't hurt, right?

And somehow we found one another.

And in the party section of Meijer I stood there, staring at bolts of tulle. Considering all of this. How blessed I was. But also how scared I was. This was my last evening/night as just plain old me. I would be a part of a new family. A new name. A new system. A new way of life.

I decided I was thinking too hard, and after making my purchase,  made a stop at Steak and Shake on my way home for a small order of cheese fries. (most people starve themselves before weddings, right?) But fries may or may not be my stress/comfort food.

And while driving the rest of the way home, with salty and sticky hands, I decided that it was going to be okay. That I really believed that "life is what you make it". Even with the ups and downs, and I knew those would happen. I would choose to do my best. I was not alone. God was right beside me. And these had gotten me through thus far.

And 9 years later, I think about that girl in Meijer. Still the overthinker. Still married. Still sure she made the right choice, and that this is the man she prayed for long before they ever met.
Life has not taken us where I ever expected. But far exceeded where I dreamed.
There have been some incredibly tough times and moments in there. Changes. Losses to great for words. fights. Words we wish we could take back. But also adventures. Support. laughs and ridiculous inside jokes. goals and dreams met and accomplished, with many more on our list. We have a beautiful son, and another baby coming.

All in all I cannot complain. If I did, it would be about a few dishes left out of the dishwasher. Of course a few other issues that we may never resolve. Don't all marriages have those? And really, in the scheme of things, they are pretty petty.

I hope the years multiply. And even if our days end long before we are ready, I am incredibly grateful for the past 9. For there is nothing lost in love.

Happy Anniversary.