January 30, 2017

Driving

My mom's car accident is not my son's burden, yet I cannot breathe
Sitting in the backseat, pushing down the tears and I cannot catch my breath

My anxiety rises and I have no desire to allow myself to be overtaken
This cannot consume me
Yet, here I am struggling for a breath

one....two....three....breathe....

The burden of my anxiety is not my child's
My mother's accident is my history, not his


November 30, 2016

Hall of Fame Award


(Written in August 2016 but unpublished)

Growing up I was taught not to brag and always be humble. Receiving this honor last Friday was overwhelming on many levels. Had I been able to get words organized and out of my mouth, I might have said things more eloquent.
I was so moved being invited into such a prestigious circle of individuals I look up to, admire, and aspire to be more like. 
I've felt called to be in the helping profession all of my life and spent the last 23 years doing what I love. The clients I've seen, the colleagues I've had, and the places I've worked - positive and negative - helped me grow more passionate about the profession. 
Spending the last 5 years at UNT, sharing my experiences with future counselors, has been such a rewarding result of my life's work. Investing in the future of our profession is a payoff that's hard to top.
TAAP is the vessel that guided me to expand my network and group of support. This profession is unique and I value people who "get me". I have met some of my dearest friends and most brilliant colleagues through the association. 
My mom was the first person to introduce me to the concept of counseling. When I was 15 she took me to counseling the first time. She was a saint to have the heart to love me through my turbulent adolescence. She bought me the first self-improvement books I ever read. Her heart and unrelenting belief in me molded my understanding of support. I know she is in my heart everyday but I dearly wish she could have been with me in human form on Friday. 
I am away from home for hours and days for work, conferences, advocacy events, and rallies. My family - even when they don't understand the reason I keep going when I'm exhausted - understand my desire and support me. Having them with me at the banquet was such an honor. I am so grateful for my brother and sister for taking time from their lives to be there. I am grateful they love and support me and my purpose. I was so blessed to also have Caleb's dad with me. He has been one of my most loyal allies for close to 20 years. 
Apart from being made for the helping profession, the only other purpose in my life of which I'm 100% clear is being a mother to my son. I was thrilled he was by my side and that I have made him proud.

May 06, 2016

A Little Morning Glory


Morning Glory Sprouting out of ground

It has been a long and valuable week. I have been evaluating my life a lot lately. I swear, I have been in a midlife crisis for ten years. I suspect is it less of a crisis than a transition. I realize what is most important in life. That little Morning Glory sprout tells my story.

I spent a lot of time in life seeking happiness. I sacrificed a social life in my twenties to climb the career ladder. I certainly don't regret it, nor was it without satisfaction, but I do realize that happiness was fleeting and required me to constantly seek more. 

Today I drove my sonshine to school. The drive takes nearly and hour so we had a great conversation. I returned home. Later this morning I was excited as Max ran behind me when I went into the backyard to see how the cilantro I planted last week was doing. I was ecstatic to see a tiny little sprout coming through the soil. So excited that I came back in the house to retrieve his leash so we could go to the mailbox to look for the results of the Morning Glory I also planted last week. When I saw the sprouts standing proudly I immediately watered them and captured a few photos. 

Morning Glory sprouts


Walking back into the house it occurred to me how much my life has changed and how satisfied I am with my life. The simple things. I don't travel as much as I used to. I don't go out much. I often opt to stay in and watch a movie or do a little yard work instead of going out. Boring? Not at all. I am satisfied. Remarkably satisfied. Lo, do I only wish I had known what real satisfaction could be twenty years ago. 

Live and learn, no doubt. 
#100happy #happy100ntx #happy100forthesecondtimetodayactually 

April 22, 2016

Dearly Beloved



I get it. I didn't personally know him. But I cried this morning listening to a radio tribute to Prince. Why? His music is woven through the fabric of my adolescence. Many of his songs are on the soundtrack of my life. I did not know him personally but I began to know myself while listening to much of his music. 

His age. In the grand scheme of things I am not much younger. Time is fleeting. 

Rumors. I do not know what caused his death but the rumors are enough to cause me contemplation. If it was the flu? Unfair. If it was opiates? I am ready to advocate.  Either way, he is definitely a music icon. 

I measure ICON status by this litmus test....my son knows his music, too. 


In the immortal words of Prince:


...Electric word life, it means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you, there's something else
The afterworld
A world of never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, 
Day or night...



RIP Purple One 

April 18, 2016

#happy100

Day 12 of my 100 Happy Days is my love of baskets. Really. Baskets. I have more surrounding me than I care to count. I love them. Small, large, round, square, painted, natural. More than I love the basket I love to fill them with things. Anything. I use baskets to give gifts. I use baskets for utility. I use baskets for beauty. I even have some that just sit longingly to be filled.




Because this challenge asks for photos of the things that bring happiness I walked around my home this morning and snapped a few. So pictured here (and there are more, I promise) I have: a basket filled with items I use daily that sits atop my bathroom vanity. Next is the three tier basket contraption holding dishcloths, dish towels, and pot holders that stands in my kitchen. I have one tucked up into the cabinet in the laundry room that contains cleaning rags. Yes, it is behind closed doors, but organization and beauty isn't just for guests. I like the way it looks, too. I have a picnic basket draped in grapevine as decor in my dining area. I bought that in Germany and it makes me smile. I have several filled to their tops with "stuff" that stays in my linen closet. There are more under the sink but I didn't snap any shots. I even have a few in the garage that contain stuff. You know, "stuff". We all have garage "stuff". 

(Honestly, I had to develop a new paragraph simply because to the length, even though this is still the same subject) I love the baskets I use to store hats and gloves. I also love hats and gloves, but this happy day is about baskets. There is that sometimes empty basket sitting upon my jewelry box. I use it for sorting. During the week I am often in a hurry so I throw items there to sort back to their spots when I have time. I have an empty one on top of a cabinet in the laundry room...because...you never know.

The trifecta of basket love sits on my dryer. There I have a huge square basket. Guess what is inside? Three more baskets. One contains my shopping bags. Another contains random items - again a sorting thing for days I have more time. I guess the third is a bit like a sorting area. That is where mateless socks are held until they meet up with their partners again. Some stay there a very long time. 


#Nothingbutbasketlove #happy100 #happy100ntx 

Stay happy. Stay organized. 

March 20, 2016

Leadership

This is a great article on the characteristics of good leadership. Far too many people with one or two of these traits can cause damage and destruction in organizations and communities.

The best leaders I know can lead and follow. Most importantly they know when to transition between the two. Otherwise it becomes about control and selfishness. 


Cleaning up after a self-centered leader comes through a program is heart wrenching. As they move on with their drive to conquer the world, the damaged lives are left questioning the goal of an entire program or community. 





I picked this image intentionally. I see a leader moving in the same direction of those they serve not in battle against. 

What do you think?

February 09, 2016

(Great!) Questions asked by students studying to become helping professionals



What do you do when you don’t know how to answer things?

  •      Don’t answer. I believe it might be much more easy than we think. First, just because you are a counselor doesn’t mean you do have all the answers. Also, it doesn’t mean you should have all the answers. No one has all of the answers. Second, it is a myth (propagated by someplace) that counselors are supposed to be fixing a person’s problems. We aren’t advice or answer givers. We aren’t. We are counselors. We direct, guide, reflect, ask great questions, probe some, and engage our client’s into their own insights, discoveries, plans and direction. We aren’t akin to the local information counter in the shopping mall.  
  • Also, we need strong supervisors, peers and mentors around us. We need others to help us weave through areas we have yet to travel. If I don’t know what to do or if I can’t answer a fact-based question, it is important that I ask someone who might. This better equips me for the next time someone asks me that question. The first time a client asked me what a barbiturate was I panicked. Surely I learned that in school. I knew. I know I knew. But I couldn’t remember for the life of me. I was scared. I had fifty other client’s staring at me waiting for me to give the right answer. Any answer. – I could be exaggerating that part – but I couldn’t remember. So I said that. Whew. No one died. I asked another counselor who had more experience. She gave me a great resource by pointing me in the direction of a list of all substances that even included street names for substances. Next time I knew the answer. To this day I can rattle off every medication on the barbiturate list. Wanna hear me do it?
  • Here is a third little trick. Repeat after me, “I actually don’t know an answer to that. Let me ask someone and get back to you.” Again, it is okay to let your human out once in a while. Who would want a “know it all” as a counselor, anyway?
  • Finally, use those counseling skills you paid all that money to learn. I will refresh your memory…do you recall what Socratic or maieutic mean? The more education we receive the bigger the words we can use. That simply means answering a question with a question. It is therapeutic. When someone pleads, “What am I supposed to doooooooooooo?” Instead of launching into quick fixes for them it might be much more simple - and useful to them if I respond, “What are you going to do?”




Questions about becoming a helping professional? Ask. I may not know the answer but I will do my best to find some that might be useful. 


February 06, 2016

For the love of dog...



I want to be more like my dog. Loving unconditionally, warm, and when he wants to love or give love he simply does. #maxlamore

November 12, 2015

Writing




I want to begin writing again. I haven't written in far too long. I am stuck and not sure how to begin again. Suggestions?

Unstick me.

October 22, 2015

6 years

Six years ago I left Holland after visiting my mom. We spent a great two days together and planned our next visit. Two days after I left she had the car accident that took her life. When I reflect on her passing and our relationship I no longer become overwhelmed with sadness. I now reflect with gratitude for the wonderful closeness we shared and the things she passed down to me.

Because of my mom:

I am giving
I am faithful
I love music
I love to clean
I love gardening
I know how to sacrifice
I have a positive work ethic
I am an enthusiastic traveler
I have a thirst for knowledge
I have a lifetime of memories
I know how to do the chicken dance
I have traditions to carry on with my son

The loss of my mom was the biggest and most difficult struggle I have experienced to this point in my life. There were dark days I was not sure I would get through. But I did. I miss her every single day.

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
~ Abraham Lincoln 

October 19, 2015

A few good articles about communication and counseling


By asking better questions, you will get better answers. The following articles can help you ask better questions:

Because sometimes you might be unsure what to ask when you are first meeting with a client, this article discusses "10 Introductory Questions Therapist Commonly Ask"

This article focuses on asking open versus closed questions. "Asking Questions"

Even "Life Hacks" are good resources once in a while. This one addresses how to ask good questions.

Wrong versus right ways to ask questions in this article about asking the "Perfect" questions.

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.     
`Voltaire

May 20, 2015

You Are My Sonshine

I found out I was expecting you in May, but I knew long before I even imagined you growing inside of me, the primary reason I was put on earth was to be your mother. Since the day I found out about you, I have been writing to you.  I hope you don't mind, just once, if I share this entry.  These will only be a few of the photos I have saved. 


 
The two of us in Rome 3 months before your arrival


You will begin your last day of school at ICCS in just a few hours. Your last day of 8th grade.  You've seen me reflecting and reminiscing in the last couple weeks.  I have looked at thousands of photographs and felt so many different emotions.  Cliche as it may sound, it feels like yesterday that you started kindergarten. It honestly feels as if I just blinked and you have grown from the little 5-year old in kindergarten at St. Monica, into this remarkable young man getting ready for high school.


               
You have always enjoyed learning

        
In spite of weighing in at 10 1/2 pounds when you arrived, you have always been my baby. Now you tower over me.  Still, I remember the days I could hold you in my arms and snuggle you up.  You called me meme and I called you bebe.


    
                         I practiced attachment parenting before it was a "thing"


One of your first attachments, apart from your parents, was to a big stuffed rabbit. He went everywhere with you.  Once I accidentally left with him in my car.  I think your dad wanted to pin a reminder on my shirt daily after that so I never let you go without him again. You have also loved your cousins and enjoyed running a million miles with them anytime you can.


   
       There is "wabbit" sliding with you           With your cousins at Easter

There are so many decisions I have made in your life that have impacted you - decisions I often pray are the best.  I didn't want for you to have a mom and dad that divorced. I pray a great deal that you experience the least negative impact possible from that decision. You have a great dad who has decided, with me, that we will co-parent and provide you a role model of mature adults, even though not married, working together for the best for their child.

          
                                                    You will always have us both                        


We were so far from home when you were born.  Sometimes I wonder if that is the reason you still have such a sense of adventure and never hesitate to grab a suitcase without asking where, when I say, "let's go somewhere!"


                                                          Frankfurt, Germany

You embrace your faith in a way I am so proud and impressed.  You even encourage me to be closer to God.            
           
       
       Father Bomba at your baptism

Not having your grandmother here causes me sadness once in a while.  However, she was with you so often during the first nine years of your life, I know you still have that bond in your heart. She jumped on a plane and headed to spend one month with us as soon as you were born (do you think she is where I got my sense of adventure?) and that didn't stop after we moved back to the states. 

    
Always with you


You have grown into a wonderful young man I am so proud of. You are so bright, kind, and witty. I enjoy our in-depth conversations, traveling with you, listening to you process thought, and goal-building for your future. I am thankful to you for wanting me, still at 14, to be part of your daily activities. 

    
Always the witty kiddo




I am blessed to be your mother.  I wish you the best in high school.  I pray you dream big, continue to be involved in the extra-curricular activities that you love and trying those that look a little interesting.  

         
                              Boogie Boarding                                                 Basketball 

Football


     
                                                Mathematics                                 OAP

     
                                                                     Calculator 


     
                                       Science                                      Even Soccer


You are my sonshine, my only sonshine.  You make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know boy, how much I love you.  Please don't take my sonshine away.




May 11, 2015

Lessons from Church




The homily in mass today moved me to tears. Tears of joy, that I am blessed to be a mother and that I loved my own mother dearly.

I learned about:

Unconditional love. We love because we love. We ought not put conditions on our love, being exclusive only when someone believes as we do, votes as we do, belongs to the same clubs as we do.

Patience. Sometimes it's important to just shut up.

Humility. Ego steps forward. Humility steps back. I do not need the spotlight.

Joy. We can have joy and happiness in our emotions. We can also have joy and happiness in our psyche. But, to hold joy and happiness in our heart, is the space of God.

Mother's Day is such a bitter-sweet time for me.  I stood up and allowed the love of God, the other parishioners and my sweet sonshine to pour in when Father Khoi prayed over the moms.  I also shed a few tears that my mom is not here with me.  After mass I went to the chapel and lit a candle for mom.  My sonshine asked me the reason I was crying.  It seemed hard to explain. I value every moment I had with her on this earth.  I know I will see her again.  I live in this moment and love every bit of being a mother to him.  But, once in a while, I miss her.

Happy Mother's Day
(posted one day late)


April 28, 2015

Disappointment



dis·ap·point·ment (disəˈpointmənt)noun. the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations.

That sums it up.  I am disappointed.  I attempt to keep my expectations low in order to avoid disappointment; however, I suppose I had some recently.  A friend, one I considered close, disappointed me. He made a disappearing act.  The actual disappearance doesn't surprise me, but his timing does. There was no precipitating circumstance, no notice, no explanation.

I can believe this isn't about me. I can believe I might be better off without a friend who doesn't support me. I can even believe there are better friends in store.  However, I struggle with the departure void of explanation.  Scream at me, accuse me of something I may or may not have done. But, don't just close the door without giving me cause. Especially, while we are in the middle of a conversation. In the middle of making plans.

Does this say more about him than about me? Without a doubt. Will I be better in the long run without "friends" who behave in such a juvenile manner?  Absolutely.  But, in the short term I am left with a few tears.  I am scratching my head attempting to make sense of something that isn't sensible.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” 
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

By now I should be so damned beautiful.