December 30, 2010

More Misery

I was given two books today one called Misery the other More Misery, written by Suzanne Heller (no relation). The gifter said he read them as a boy. I read through both of them and began to chuckle, realizing that while these books were made for kids, they have such meaning for adults, as well.

Some of the things noted as what misery is, obviously in the eyes of a child, are indeed miserable:

- When you’re playing “Giant Steps” and you forget to say, “May I?”

- When you’re not old enough to play with the big kids and too old to play with the little kids.

- When you have soft bread and hard butter.

- When you’re thirteen and don’t need a bra.

- When you have to go to the ladies room and you’re a boy.

- When you’ve been promised a dog for Christmas and you get a canary named Fido.

- When you’re riding in the car and everyone smells dog doody and you discover it’s on your shoes.

- When you have a new box of crayons and you have to share it with your friend who presses too hard.

Both books had me smiling. So true, these things are miserable at the time they happen. But it also had me thinking about the past. How many times have I thought something was miserable, even unbearable, at the time that I don’t think much about now? How much time have I spent worried and glum about something that seems very small now? I would like to worry less about simple things and enjoy living a little more.

How much time do you?

Thursday Without (many) Words....

During my Sonshine's holiday break.......

Christmas Day at my Brother's House.....

Japanese Food In Granbury

Visiting with Mom's Side of the family after Christmas Eve Mass

Christmas Day Breakfast at Hotel....

December 26, 2010


I met her in 2001 right after I returned from Germany. A mutual friend introduced us with a simple nod of the head and a quick phrase, “you two need to know each other”. And we did.

I learned a great deal from her over the short nine years I knew her. In the counseling field she was brilliant. She knew her stuff. She was a great teacher. She was very confident about the material she presented. And she cared.

When I sold my counseling center she asked if she could take it over. It felt right letting her because I knew there was a difference in selling it to a large company than to a person who was working in the field everyday.

She wasn’t my best friend. And frankly, there were times we didn’t see eye to eye. I think we were both similar in speaking our minds more often than was good for us. But we had respect for one another. And I considered her a friend as well as a colleague. She helped me through some challenging times. She would lend an ear and words of advice and encouragement when I asked….and sometimes when I didn’t.

When I received the news that she was gone I was shocked. That was only 48 hours ago and I think I still am. I am very sad. Losing her is a loss to the field and to the world. I have gone to her Facebook page a dozen times since and read the beautiful messages left by so many who loved her. I wonder if she knew? I wonder if she had any idea how many people would miss her? How many people she helped throughout her sobriety and her career? And I wonder if that would have made a difference to her? If she had known would she have made the same decisions?

I have talked out loud about it with others. I have had many people tell me they can’t understand why she decided she couldn’t bear the pain long enough to get to the other side. Sadly, I completely understand. In the last year of my life I have understood that more than I ever openly admitted. I get it. Sometimes it is too much. Sometimes it feels that it will never end. I have walked in that valley of hopelessness believing there was no end.

I think of that similarity between us. Typically smiling and telling everyone things were “a little crazy” but “I will be just fine”. Inside desperately wishing to reach out but fearing the rejection from those who judge. I am not sure if that is a trait of those in the counseling field or just a characteristic some of us carry, but either way, this might be a wake up call.

The counseling field is tight knit. It seems everyone knows everyone and knows what everyone does. And we work so hard to help clients overcome their deficits that an outsider might imagine we allow other counselors and ourselves the same. But, it doesn’t always feel that way. It seems we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Even in the greatest depression I experienced I asked only a handful of other professionals for help and I asked most often as if it was for another person.

I wonder if she was afraid of asking for help? For being vulnerable or being judged? How sad, if so. How incredibly disheartening the thought that we don’t love our fellow helping professional enough to allow them to express the same things we encourage clients. That we don’t allow them time to be sad, to breakdown, to be weak a moment, to ask for help.

What a great loss. What a great sadness. What questions left that may never be answered. I pray she has found peace. I pray that her spirit is full. I pray that her family, her friends, and the entire counseling community are comforted and find value in having been part of her journey.

Rest in peace, my friend.

December 23, 2010

The Couch

As the year winds down I typically find myself reflecting. It is an annual event that I recap my year. This is characteristically an event of self-evaluation. It is my litmus test for productivity and growth, if you will.

In December 2009 I was spending each weekend and my son’s holiday vacation at my mom’s house with her death still fresh in my heart. The process of sorting and packing fell to me. For one reason, I had the time. For another, I needed that process. Each of my siblings posses different strengths. Mine seems to be in emotion. I recall those days and think of how dark they were. It seems it was then I felt the most alone in my life. I even recollect writing about the process of losing “home”.

Between her death and through most of the winter I spent time on the couch. I sat on my couch at home and the one in my therapists’ office (metaphorically speaking, of course, he actually has chairs!). The depth of my sadness was brutal. It stole my breath, nearly my life.

As dark as some of my writing was at that time, it was edited in order to be published. It wasn’t out of shame as much as my desire for it to be palatable for those who read. I didn’t want anyone aware of how hopeless I felt for fear others would be ready for me to “get over it”. But not now, as I am getting to the other side of it now and I feel I have a story to tell. Maybe not all of it today, maybe just in bits and pieces….I am going to tell the story. Outloud.

One of the things I kept reminding myself during those bleaker days last year was if I allowed myself to be sad, hurt, lonely, angry, and anything else that came up, I would grow and learn. And one day I would be where I am today…..a little better but always changed. With a great deal of work to still be done I am grateful at the same time.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I have hope for the New Year and look forward…..which is more than I can say for last December.

Onward, again.

December 20, 2010

Out of town....

Most people who know me, even a little, know I love to go and it really doesn’t matter where the destination. I do enjoy quiet peaceful days at home, as well. But, there is so much excitement for me in travel. Airlines and hotels know of my travel bug for they shower my inbox with “specials” multiple times a week.

We just spent about 24 hours in Glen Rose, Texas. Our plans were cut short when my Sonshine woke up with a fever and something that is looking like the flu. But before this we had a chance to do some hiking, looking, playing and lots of picture taking!!!

Here are a few shots.....

Signs like these we find priceless because we have many hours of laughs about possible meanings!

He likes to look tough, but I know loves his mom!

Getting to feel like a child is priceless!

Finale of the evening at the Japanese Restaurant!

December 08, 2010

A Decade


You will be 10 in January. You have been part of my life for an entire decade. Amazing. But, honestly, you have been part of my dream for much longer. Sometimes I believe I dreamed you into life. When I imagined a baby before it was even a possible reality I closed my eyes and saw that blonde haired, blue eyed angel.

You have taught me more than anyone so far. And I see no signs of it slowing down.

About a year before the good news that you would be on your way I began planning for you. I remember all the food I ate, all the vitamin enriched drinks, and the things I gave up. I remember telling your dad that I must want you a lot because there had never been another I was willing to give up so much for!

I will never forget the day in May I found out for sure you were on your way I was so excited. I told your dad and one of my friends. Then we started making phone calls back to the states to tell our family. I knew on that day that I was blessed beyond belief.

I have so many memories of carrying you all around Europe in my belly...and calling you EGG. To protect your humility I will keep the reason between those of us who already know why. I couldn't wait until the day of your arrival. And out you bounced on January 11...weighing 10 1/2 pounds (a point I know I bring up way too often)! I fell in love with you the minute I laid eyes on you and it is a love that has been growing since.

You have brought joy, laughter and hope to my life. Each day with you has been new. Seeing the world through your eyes has been phenomenal.

God put me on earth for a few specific reasons. Being your mom was the most important. And I thank Him everyday for the opportunity and gift. Sometimes it seems like my soul is walking outside of my body.

I love you more than words.

December 01, 2010

That time of the year!

I do love this time of year. The weather, just a little more crisp. The smell, just a little more like cedar. The music, just a little more cheerful. The mood, just a little more jolly.

One of my favorite events prior to Christmas is taking photos for Christmas cards. We did that this evening. Of the many, many, many taken only a few are useable. But the process was fun.The older my son gets the more fun he is to be around. The sense of humor he has developed is as if he channels my dad. He is entertaining, joyful and insightful. I couldn’t have asked for a better memory than our 2010 Christmas photo attempt!

And here are some of the results!

November 23, 2010

Generation Gap

(At campsite Monday morning)

I am now old enough to use the phrase, “back when I was your age” a lot more than I thought I would. Camping this week is again bringing those words to my lips.

Yes, I am camping in a tent…outside….and this time no one forced me. It was actually something I thought of on my own. And I am enjoying it more than my hard head will ever allow me to admit.

This morning as I walked with my son to the water faucet so we could wash our hands and face I handed him a bar of soap and said, “do you know how to use a bar of soap?” I wasn’t being sarcastic. It occurred to me that in his lifetime he has used body wash for bathing and liquid soap for hand cleaning. Bars are from “back in my day”.

It is during times like these that I find myself trying to provide him life lessons. Because we have very limited electricity (enough to power my lap top and phone this time) we have talked a lot about how things were when I was growing up. I have also offered a few stories I remember my parents and grandparents telling me about when they were growing up. One of my favorite from my mothers memory was a time when a war was going on and the city required everyone to turn out all the lights as a drill for possible air raids one day. My grandmother wouldn’t turn out the lights because she had an infant. My mom told me how the police would come by and urge the requirement. While those stories mean more to me now than when I was “his age” that is when I heard them.

I assume they were stories with hidden meaning by my parents because they saw how much I had (more than them) and hoped I didn’t grow up being a spoiled brat taking advantage of things. When I was in elementary school learning spelling I was privileged to do so through the fun technology of the Speak and Spell. My mother had to learn standing at a chalkboard with a nun at her back. It wasn’t until I was a mother of a child learning in far more advanced ways than I that I could ever understand the hidden meaning of those stories.

In the curriculum I continue to work on and implement with my clients I talk a lot about the generation gap. I believe it is important to understand our family dynamics in order to understand ourselves better. In doing so I find that recognizing the differences in generations of the family to be significant. I certainly live in a different world than my mom when she was 41 and my son lives in a different world at 9 than I did at that age. Without recognition of those differences, I will fail to understand the people in my family, thus, failing an ability to communicate with them…..which will lead to the success or failure of our relationships. It is simply summed up in the adage, “don’t judge another until you walk a mile in their shoes”……

Even if he rolls his eyes behind my back, I will continue to tell him the stories and hope some will stick.

November 17, 2010

What If'ing Again?

So, I was having a conversation with a friend who was wondering how different life would be if a decision made years ago would have been another. I guess we all do that from time to time, don’t we? What if we had taken that job we were offered? What if we had married this person instead of that?

Today I can honestly say that I am completely okay with the past. While, there are decisions I would make differently today, I would not change anything about my past. The decisions I made then were the ones I made then based on the information and experience I had.

For instance, when I was 21 years old I had my first boyfriend (yes, really my first boyfriend was when I was 21)! I would probably not engage in a conversation with him today. But back then I thought he hung the moon. I made foolish decisions in that relationship. I was incredibly codependent and made him first and foremost.

If you know me today you might scratch your head and say, “codependent? Not Paula”. But, the reason I am a different person today is because of the decisions I made in my life. The good, the bad and the ugly…..the choices I made before helped make me this person I am today.

That relationship alone grew me a million percent. Were it not for being in that relationship it is likely I would have quit college and not have pursued the profession I have devoted nearly twenty years of my life to. Were it not for being in that relationship I would not understand what real love is. Not because he was the real thing….but because he was not.

Everything that has occurred in my life, good and bad…..have brought me here. So there are no “what if’s” of wonder related to my past. Only “what could be’s” related to my future.

That is education.

November 16, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Moving into the future with confidence and strength.

Not the same as in the past.

Not looking to become who I once was…

Only looking to become who I am to be.

November 10, 2010

Miss You...

All that I am comes from your love. You are the inspiration of my life, of my heart.

November 05, 2010

Time Stood Still....

I facilitated a group yesterday and when I got to the part about how response to situations yield the outcome I mentioned, for the first time in a group, about the loss of my parents. I haven’t kept it a secret, but I don’t readily discuss my pain with groups in that way. And I wasn’t discussing the sadness, just the facts. I briefly indicated how different it was to lose my dad at twenty five to a sudden and unexpected death as opposed to losing my mom at forty…..of what was sudden and unexpected but the reality of her having had cancer for two years did better prepare me for eventually losing her.

After I shared that information I moved along okay. But, interestingly, I came home last night and my body was aching. I was very tired but have been unable to sleep most of the night. I have taken three hot baths and still cannot turn off my heart. The day is just around the corner.

And when all is quiet and still I cannot escape the memories of that day. That morning, that afternoon, that drive, and that evening. As if it were yesterday, it looms in my heart.

That morning I recall watching my son take the trash out. When he got to the sidewalk to step onto the street I remember thinking how at that very moment I feared his walking across the street. So many things can happen accidentally. The reason I thought that was probably because of the car accident my mom had sixteen days prior. The idea came into my head at the moment that I wanted to create a workshop about living for today….I wanted to call it, “If today were the last day”…..

When I got to the office that morning I quickly wrote a synopsis, objectives and an outline for just such a workshop. I submitted it to a conference I frequently present. Two hours later my brother called to urge me to come to the hospital because my mom wasn’t going to live. That came as a surprise since I had just left believing she would.

The drive to pack my things, the phone calls along the way, picking up my son at school and telling him what was happening all race through my mind again and again…..and then that phone call…..the one to my sister…asking her if mom could just hang on until I got there….

But she couldn’t.

And time stood still.

October 30, 2010

This Time of the Year...

This time of the year has become difficult. I can’t deny the entire past year has been arduous. Ironic, how fall has always been one of my favorite seasons but with it now comes the constant reminder of what was happening this time just last year.

I will not forget October 25 and the sixteen days that followed before her death. Those few moments when my mom’s car slid off the road and changed our lives forever are etched into my heart and woven through every emotion.

My dad passed away in November, also. I don’t want to believe November is the cause or that fall can no longer be one of my favorite seasons. But it seems beyond my ability today not to relate the season with the heartbreak of being a parentless child.

Feeling more than adrift this last year, I have done a great deal of thinking, writing, weeping, and struggling. It seems as if there is a firm delineation in my mind: Before the car accident and after. Life without mom is tough. Not that I was expecting her to be in my life forever. I understand the circle of life. And because she had cancer I knew the day would come. Perhaps, I didn’t understand the exact impact of a daughter dealing with the loss of a mother. How different it is than the loss of any other. But, it does appear to be dissimilar to any other.

The gratitude I have is that I had a fabulous relationship with my mom. She had a special way about her. Each of her kids had a unique relationship with her. There was something different and special about each of our bonds. We each have something different we have taken into our lives because of her. That tells me how exceptional she was and how lucky we all are to have had the parents we had and the memories they left for us.

November 10 is around the corner…and it is looming in my mind. I think back to this day last year and remember being at the hospital. I remember my son going to a local Halloween carnival instead of his usual ritual of trick or treating in our neighborhood because we were there instead. I remember thinking as much as I didn’t want to leave the hospital she would have wanted her grandson to enjoy a few hours away. And I remember believing she was going to be okay.

It seems my thoughts are too random right now to piece things together. I will get there. That is another quality she provided…..the ability to triumph no matter how grave the situation.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” ~ Pericles

October 25, 2010

Feeling out of words today….I know, hard to believe. So I want to share one of my all time favorites that I’ve given to clients and friends for years……

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters By Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same placebut, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are openI know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

October 19, 2010


Today feels different than the three-hundred thirty before. Something changed on Sunday when I was sitting on my bed crying while having a conversation with my baby daddy. Something was different when I woke up on Monday. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. But when I woke up today I recognized what I have that was absent for nearly the last year. I believe today I have hope.

In my fear of going astray again as I have recently, I am not getting as excited as I suppose I could. But today isn’t as grey as a week ago. And I am inspired.

So it shall be....

October 17, 2010

Slight Modification

I am on the last day of this detox/cleanse that I kindly refer to as “the devil”. While sipping my non-caffeinated herb tea and pondering the events of this past week, I smile at the irony of my life.

This morning my Sonshine and I had an in-depth discussion about self control. The concept is one he is taught at Catholic school daily. One he struggles with from time to time. At home, apparently because I want to ruin his life, I have a point system he lives by. Where that boy inherited the trait of being dramatic escapes me.....cough...cough. Points equal a monetary value. When he doesn’t score the highest point we have talks like the one we had this morning where I am told how this point system interferes with his life. And I confidently tell him about how life works.

The irony is that I view myself as a rule follower. But following rules isn’t that easy, is it miss thang? (that is the voice in my own head talking to myself about me!)

This detox/cleanse….well, I need to begin calling it a Modified Detox/Cleanse…or MDC…from this point forward. Who modified it, you might ask? My doctor? My nutritionist? My best friend? My mechanic? Nope, nope, uh-uh, and no!

It was me. I found not chewing a little difficult. So, while I still took all the supplements as scheduled, said goodbye to caffeine, stopped sugars (spice and all things nice), and juiced my 87 pounds of vegetables each day….I also ate! Yes, I did. I had a salad the second day. I had three chips with salsa the third day, another salad on the fourth and will probably have another one today. As a matter of fact, I am going to a wedding tonight….and I might even lick the icing off the fork of a friend...or someone I want to make friends with (wink wink)!

Funny, I think back to my mom in this instance. She was diabetic. She called my sister Nurse Ratchet because she monitored her exercise and food intake strictly. And when I was with her I let her slide some. If she wanted something deemed “bad” by a doctor I would order it for me and let her have a few bites. Maybe that is why I was her favorite child!

….My siblings don’t generally read my blog so I feel confident saying that here….but don't tell them I proclaimed this publicly as it might be a slight overzealous idea....

All in all, though, I feel okay about the seven days of change. I didn’t follow the rules exactly. Maybe I am not as rigid or black and white as I once thought. This actually gives me a great deal of hope in many other areas of my life where I need to change.

Something to ponder….or not…

October 14, 2010

Anywhere but Here....

To escape the ache
To get away from the pain
To break free from the anguish

To be anywhere but here

Where is here?

My own thoughts.
My own mind.
My own body.

But that is an impossible journey

No ability to flee from me
And what a difficult spot to be in when there is
No desire to be me…
But getting day at a time....

October 12, 2010

Day Two....not so hot!

Purification Log, Day Two

Well, the book tells me I can do 2 days, 7 days or 21. I was aiming for 7 but as the close of day 2 comes into view I wonder if this isn’t going to end as a 2 day cleanse, with one indulgence of a salad at lunch. Wow! Hard isn’t how I would describe this. It is definitely a challenge but moreover, the physical symptoms overwhelm. Who knew I had so many toxins? And that cellular level emotional stuff the book warned of has hit today. Lord, I have enough emotional surface baggage, I don’t need any to come up from the cellular level.

I don’t know the outcome yet. I know I have done as much as I can and for that I feel okay.

More to come…..

October 11, 2010

Bye-Bye Diet Dr. Pepper!

Purification log, Day One:

The word purification may be too strong. I don’t believe I will be “pure” when this is over. Oh, how I wish. Maybe, nah, on second thought….I just want to be cleansed. I covet my jadedness. I don’t want this cleanse to take that from me! Sarcasm is a second language and I like being bilingual. Besides, people who know me may tell you it might take longer than a week to make me pure again!

I have been up and moving for more than two hours. And so far it has been going well (don’t make fun of the fact that I need to track my progress after only two hours, okay?). Upon waking I had more supplements, vitamins and minerals than I have taken since the third grade. I am sure of it. I had an antioxidant drink, an herbal cleansing formula, three glasses of water, a list of enzymes longer than my hand, a prebiotic (not to be confused with the probiotic that will come later in the day), a package of supplements containing, I kid you not: fennel seed, artichoke leaf, ginger root, licorice root, peppermint leaf, garlic bulb, clove bud, pomegranate, fructooligosaccharides (I think that was all one word), curcumin, and chamomile flower…and finally washed it all down with juiced carrots and beets. And don't poo poo the carrots and beets. I picked that on purpose. It is actually a great mixture!

Now I am supposed to have more…..let me see what is next. Oh, thank goodness. It is only tea. And I am choosing green tea this time. All non-caffeinated, of course, so if I die you will know it was from caffeine withdrawal. I read the book twice and I can’t find a Diet Dr. Pepper on this list of “yes’s”. Funny, I can’t find anything I typically consume in a day on that list. While that should tell me a thing or two about the path my consumption has taken I trick my mind into believing that at the end of this I will be writing a letter to this well acclaimed doctor to tell her she should consider adding Hershey’s syrup on day three!

I am feeling upbeat and confident, as the book suggested I would. However, in that ugly place in my brain I have that impending doom feeling related to knowing the book also said that enthusiasm might pass by day three when the "grouchy" should be expected. Great! And does the doctor wonder why I am already considering making this cyclical? Two days of happiness and enthusiasm…pizza and guilt….two days of happiness and enthusiasm…pizza!

I will be back to blog if I survive the morning.

October 10, 2010

Time to Cleanse!

I am starting a detox/cleanse tomorrow. I read about it and threatened to do it in January. It only lasted a day. This time I have prepared for a week. On Friday I bought the supplements and vitamins I will take and today I will buy all the fresh vegetables. I think I have a good understanding about what to do each day. I am not as sure I have the ability. Even my sweet son said, “I doubt you will last until Tuesday”. Yep, his faith in mom is strong!

The idea of doing a cleansing detox may be much more exciting than actually doing one. And I hesitate to publicly proclaim such a feat for fear I won’t be able to follow through. I come from a long line of stubborn. As a matter of fact we have coined the term in my lineage when someone is acting inflexible, we say they are suffering from the “triple H”. That is the Heller Hard Head!

I have two siblings that run....on purpose....not because they are being chased by anything.... And when they are training for something or just decide they are going to run they do it every day….rain or shine, event or none. I guess I have that triple H but for me my tenacity shines through more often when trying to finish a bag of chips or cookie dough ice cream. I won’t let anything get in my way!

I have several reasons for doing this cleanse. Part of it is simply because I have been eating like a mad woman since early in the summer and want to get myself back on track to cleaner eating. There are also a few kumbaya type reasons that make sense in my head but not so much when I put them on paper….so for now I will keep those in my heart.....but the book I am getting this wisdom from encourages seeing a therapist related to the cellular level emotions that might break free during this cleanse. Oy vay! Why do I do this again?

I will keep in mind the benefits touted of this doctor from Martha's Vineyard....The ones I want: Healthier skin (just turned 41...check), potential weight loss ( before and after pictures will be posted but....check), better emotional health (have you ever read my blog?.....check), and better spiritual health (frankly, I never understand why people always claim food -or lack thereof- will make me more spiritual and I am frightened to find out if it is because I will be so hungry I will be forced to pray a lot.....but, okay....check)!

Oh, and God....I promise I will also try not to eat three pizzas today simply because I am afraid that I will starve tomorrow....agreed? Thanks!

So this is my shot at being accountable. I am doing it. I begin tomorrow. I pray to make it through the week.

Happy Cleansing!

P.S. Spell check indicated I misspelled the word "Emotions or emotional" three times. Hellooooo....God, what am I a in for?

October 07, 2010

Recovery Today Article Link

October article in Recovery today......

What If.....

What if one day you woke up and were happy
And it didn’t matter the extenuating circumstances?

What if one day you cared less of what others thought of you
And believed more in what you know about you?

What if one day you did something that scared you
Just because you wanted to know how it felt?

What if one day you decided your purpose
And you pursued your dream?

What if one day you didn’t respond to criticism
Or judgment
And carried it even farther by not judging or criticizing others?

What if…..what if we had a what if day? What would you do?

What if?

October 04, 2010

Fall is in my heart

Inspired by one of the more incredible women I know, my aunt, who is a fabulous writer, I have pinpointed my recent mood shifts. I feel safe in naming the culprit: Fall. When I picked up a jacket as I walked out of the house this morning into the finally crisp fall air….I picked up the sting of what this time of year means in my heart……

The first weekend of October a year ago I celebrated my 40th birthday at a Mexican food restaurant with my family. They brought a cake and gifts to the eatery we would go to before game time each weekend UMHB played at home. I recall feeling that all was right in the world that day.

While, we were separated at the time, the father of my child (my baby daddy, my soon to be ex, the once upon a time light of my life) concocted the whole scheme to surprise me. And upon prompting from our son, who apparently was bright enough to recognize his mother needed help in the way of direction, the gift presented to me on that special day was a GPS. I have a long history of getting lost, literally and figuratively. Symbolically, that was the perfect offering. I am still looking for the GPS to guide me metaphorically through life and living with gratitude for the one with road maps given me that day.

My mom was there. She hadn’t been feeling very well but she trudged her way to the football game afterward, as well. And we have some great photos from that day with her looking as happy as ever. Who knew that less than a month later things would change so drastically?

So, here I sit on the eve of the anniversary of my 40th birthday thinking about how much has changed….wanting to feel grateful for the good stuff in my life but failing to find it. Struggling not to be a victim who believes I cannot find goodness again while acknowledging the reality of this very difficult year… first birthday without my mom is tomorrow. And I don’t really like that idea at all.

Feeling fall.

September 30, 2010

Happy is Okay!

Things are going well lately. Consistently I have been recognizing the richness I have been given. I continue to work diligently toward stability and health. The curriculum I started is coming together and I anticipate a spring completion. The book I began some time ago has once again been abandoned but this time for something I am proud of. I began brainstorm writing two weeks ago and have gotten twenty pages into the possibility of a new direction.

The thought entered my mind, “how long until it comes to an end”? That isn’t a productive embrace of the goodness so I shan’t poop on the happiness today.

And of course, my therapy-mindedness turns to wonder about how one might pursue and keep happiness more. This is what I have managed to decide:

Eliminate or reduce stress: Lighten up a little! Not everything is serious. Life is a terminal illness, right? Why not enjoy it more? And that message is brought to you by a chronic worry wart!

Smile a little more at other people! I once heard that if you answer the telephone with a smile on your face the person calling can hear it in your voice. I also think of that insurance commercial on television where a good deed is paid forward all day… what if we smiled at someone else? I think our impact on others is greater than we ever realize.

Stay even: I guess the truth is that it won’t always be good. Some days are better than others. Without anxiety of the future perhaps taking the good with the bad is a decent approach. We can’t expect everyday to be the best, but we certainly can’t expect everyday to be the worst, either. Even on the bad days we can be grateful for the things we do have and less miserable about what we don’t.

Love who you are: When we aren’t happy with who we are we are over-critical of others. If you find yourself believing the world is stupid and people are idiots….that just might be about you!

And my all time favorite topic…..Find and work toward your passion and purpose.

Work daily on that purpose!

September 27, 2010

Lifetime Memories

A million thoughts in my head.
Many voices on my mind.
So many memories of the past.
But most of them were kind.

Which to cling to and
which to toss away?
Holding to hope of promises for tomorrow
without ever disregarding those of yesterday.

September 21, 2010

Your Purpose: Part Three

And the final part.....

While in the transition to change and experiencing the discomfort I find it important to keep in mind the gifts that come with grief, the positives that come from pain and the signs in the struggle.

Grief is tiring. Oftentimes, it envelopes you entirely and it can be different for all of us. Each time we experience loss we have a grieving time. For some it can go quickly and for others it can last what feels like an eternity. This is a place that we cannot compare ourselves to others. Grief takes as long as it takes and what we need most during transition is to surround ourselves with loving people who will hold us up and provide us the loving but honest feedback necessary to move forward. The aforementioned addition that comes with loss is something to keep in focus when working through loss. Daily, when involved in grieving loss, I remind myself that things aren’t the same as they once were. While that is regularly a cheerless reminder it also helps me remember the gifts that are to be had.

There are positives that come from pain. While working through tough times and making difficult changes I have seldom done so without sorrow; however, I adhere to the idea that often it is the painful experiences that produces some of the greatest lessons. Perhaps, human nature is responsible, but many people change only from feeling that twinge of hurt that accompanies consequence. While it sometimes can feel like torture, frequently, I hear people talk about how much they learned in the toil of growth.

Finally, there are signs in struggle. Because I believe we all have a purpose for inhabiting earth, I also believe there is a power greater than me who provides me with great signs toward that purpose if I will only follow. My vision of this is that the power greater than me sits atop a mountain watching my journey. While I can only see the road in front of me, I am provided a map, compass, and signs at every turn. It is my choice to look up and follow them or ignore them completely. And when I am honest with myself I admit that sometimes I see the signs clearly but divert from the path anyway.

Each day is an effort. Each day when working toward your purpose it is important to remind yourself of the big goal. Focus on the small signs and the short-term goals but keep the bigger picture in mind as you work. There will be a reward at the end and there will be small gifts to keep you moving forward to the destination.

Trust your purpose.

September 16, 2010

Your Purpose: Part Two

What next?

First take a look at who you really are today. This is not easy for some. Actually, it is my estimation that 70% of Americans live unconsciously. When I use the term unconscious I simply mean that they are unaware. Unaware of whom they really are, of their impact on others and of what they truly want out of life. This manifests in many forms. Some are running so fast in the routine of their lives that they simply fail to breathe in reality and explore their true desires. Others are victims who daily use statements such as, “I have no choice” to explain away the reason they cannot reach a goal that might be their passion should they awaken their spirit long enough to acknowledge it as such. Finally, there are others that are so caught in the sad state of moving ahead with material possessions that prove their worth and value to others.

I do not have any heart burn with someone who owns nice things and desires to get ahead financially. I simply am heartbroken with someone embracing financial wealth or gain as the only thing that defines them as successful. Should someone prosper from living their dream that is merely icing on the metaphorical cake because they are probably also full with their life vision. I am a fan of anyone who, at the end of each day, can truly say without hesitation that they have been satisfied with themselves, all they accomplished and the life they are living. I am not a judge of what that life looks like.

Looking into a mirror of honesty is not an easy endeavor, but an imperative one to change. Once all of who you are today is examined it is then important to compare who you are today to the person you want to become. The vital concern here will be to determine how big the incongruence between who you are and who you want to become. For it is in this contrast that the work takes place.

If you have already established why you are who you are, who you want to become and the person you are currently you will be ready to put action to your purpose and passion. Because we use routine to guard against change it will be important to be daily aware that the process of change is not always comfortable. Actually, when in the process of change it is imperative to embrace the idea that uncertainty is the only certainty. And know on the front end that with any change comes loss. When you make a commitment to your purpose and passion, don’t be surprised when others aren’t in full support of your new ideas. Others objective for your life are not always your own. However, I believe this kind of loss actually results in addition (I was never good at math). I believe there is much more reward in a loss of this nature.

At this point focus on the incongruence and the nature of the changes that will need to take place to work toward living your purpose. The world is your oyster.

More to come…..

September 14, 2010

Your Purpose: Part One

While walking through Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, a thought crossed my mind. What do our lives mean, anyway? What is the significance of having lived if one day we will all be gone nonetheless? And when I said this out loud, the friend with me said, “you make it count”.

You make it count. Our lives, our legacies, our purpose must be decided and pursued with passion and determination. Each one of us is on this earth for a reason, in my opinion. As I have discovered, determining that passion and purpose might not be the hard part.

Typically, when speaking to this subject I find the best question is: “What would you do if you could do anything”? The only two stipulations, unfortunately, is that we cannot make someone love us who doesn’t and we cannot bring someone back from the dead. Those are two things beyond our control. So, answer this: If I waved a magic wand and granted you your wish, what would it be? That is as close to the purpose and passion of your life as you will get at this moment. And if you are disappointed in your answer, that is an entirely different issue!

The next step to living that dream is to find out how to become that! If you want to be a surgeon you can’t simply walk into an operating room. I don’t really know what you have to do to become a surgeon, because that isn’t my dream. But, someone knows. Maybe a medical school or someone who is already a surgeon would be a great place to start. Sitting around saying you have a dream and delving into the process of actually working toward that dream are two very different animals. I find a great deal of dissimilarity between wanting something and wanting it enough to make it happen.

After you find out the “how to” the next step is putting that how to into action. Making a plan, a map, or a vision board is a powerful tool to turn a dream into an actual purpose. For myself, I need daily reminders in front of me of my objective. I need to be reminded of the BIG goal and the smaller steps each day in order to see (because I am rewarded visually) the events unfolding before me.

Not dissimilar to housekeeping for me is large goal accomplishment. I need it broken down into parts. I am not one to clean my entire home in one fell swoop. I clean a bathroom, then the kitchen, then the living room. I have discovered that I feel remuneration in bits and pieces. Some people like to take on the whole house and receive their prize at the end of the entire task. That is something only you can determine for yourself. You know how you operate best.

This is not the final step, of course. There are two more areas to rummage through….but as all good writers do…I will leave you wanting more! I shall return to this idea soon….

Determine your purpose!

September 11, 2010

Friendship & Laughter

Dinner at Palomar; Arlington, Virginia

In the Metro Station; Washington, DC.

Airplane! No snakes on the plane.

Advocacy in Action!

Dinner on Dupont Circle

Washington, DC

I just returned from an advocacy trip to Washington, DC. My colleague and I made 12 visits in the House of Representatives and Senate. Key issues addressed during the visit:

· Support to increase funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block (SAPT) Grant administered by SAMHSA within the Department of Health and Human Services.

o The SAPT Block Grant is the single largest funding stream for treatment programs and the most important program that affords addicted individuals treatment.
o The SAPT Block Grant serves our nation’s most vulnerable, low income populations.
o The funding for the SAPT Block Grant has been stagnant for the last several years, yet demand for services continue to rise.

· Support to make addiction providers eligible for HIT funds in HR 5040, the Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services act of 2010 (HITECH).

o Most providers of addiction and mental health services were not eligible for the health information technology funds allocated through last year’s stimulus bill.
o HR 5040/S 3709 would make providers of lifesaving addiction and mental health treatment services eligible for these funds and strengthen for cost-effective, quality care.

· Support by Congressional members in joining the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and the new Congressional Caucus on Youth Drug Prevention.

· Support of workforce development and potential loan forgiveness programs could promote job growth in the addiction counseling field. The field is losing professionals every year. In 2008 nearly 10% of Americans (23 million) had treatable addiction. As this number continues to rise there will continue to be a great need for professionals in the field.

If you are in the field or a friend of the field, I urge you to contact your Representatives and Senators to ask them to support these issues. Treatment and Prevention work. I see the results every day. I have devoted nearly half of my life to assisting people with addiction. I hope you will speak up for these and all the other issues that are important to you. We do have a voice. Many of these matters will be decided between now and November 3.

Speak up!

September 07, 2010

An Event

I have been reading a great deal lately about the Tao Te Ching. More than two years ago a co-worker began talking about it and it sounded intriguing. A little less than a year ago he gave me a book for my birthday that had Tao messages woven throughout. This summer I picked up a book by Eckhart Tolle that had been recommended by another friend years ago. And finally, the book that took me to my knees a month ago smacks of these ideas.

I am not converting religious beliefs or giving up my clothes for a saffron robe and shaving my head. I am simply beginning to see something about peace that I had not the eyes to see in previous times. Were one to spend a week, perhaps less, with me they would see that one of my biggest hang ups is worry. I worry about the past, I worry about the future and I would worry about the present moment if I allowed myself to be in the present moment for a moment! I will pat myself on the back in acknowledgment that it has diminished from the enormity it once was, but it creeps out now and again.

The Tao Te Ching has been studied, dissected and written about, so I don’t for a moment pretend that I know enough about it to even consider myself educated. However, the gist of the message I am receiving is of the possibility to incorporate peace into my hectic life. Perhaps in time even do away with “hectic”. There are many other lessons but the one I am clinging to is currently related to the power I give events.

As I understand in the most recent book I am reading (and mentioned several times throughout the previous), I give events too much power. While I have long believed that there aren’t good and bad things, only things, this idea is much more profound. The idea of not giving an event power would free my mind and heart to so much conformity. Conceivably more than I can even comprehend today. This speaks to me on a core level. The idea of how diminished, if not expelled from thought completely, any guilt or shame attached to decision making overwhelms.

Most recently I sent an email to someone hoping for a particular response. Before sending it I even thought about the possible responses. I weighed the pros and cons of both positive and negative reactions. And for me, the most negative of all…the possibility of being completely ignored (which for me is an equivalent of soul torture and something I am certain to blog about in the coming weeks). I decided instead of fretting about the possible outcome and whether I should have even sent the email, I would apply this new principle.

I sent the email. And sending an email was an event. It is over, it has passed. The outcome is out of my control. Furthermore, the result does not reflect in my worth or value. No one event, no one choice, no one consequence culminates in who I am. Who I am at this very moment is simply who I am at this very moment. And at this moment I chose to be pretty spectacular.

Will I check my email a couple of times today looking for that response? I might. Maybe I won’t. Will I have feelings related to the response or lack thereof? Possibly. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Nevertheless, I will embrace the idea that each thing is simply an event. The behavior or opinion of another does not identify me. And with that thought I can put space around the feelings that are historical for me (the ones I like to refer to as “go to feelings”). And the event will simply be an event. And I will be okay.

Event by event.

September 06, 2010


Our perceptions are colored by our hopes, fears and experiences. Isn't that true! Nearly everything we do is colored by experience.

So, how then can we say we don't judge? How then can we say our hearts are open? How can we say the slate is clean?

And most importantly, how do we move forward with positive attitudes and aspiration?

Colored glasses....

Colorado Trip 2010

September 05, 2010

Shopping Bags

I folded one of those shopping bags yesterday that I used to save for you. You loved them so much. I used to bring them home to you. I don’t know what to do with them now. I learned over time which bags were "the ones" and those that just wouldn't do! There was a right size and right handles.

How much fun we used to have with you carrying those bags and all of the things you used to fill them. Books and magazines were your favorite. And you would come to my house and we would carry them to your room. At night when I would come in there to say goodnight you would have the magazines spread all over the bed and always have a pair of scissors nearby for clipping articles. It never failed that you had an interesting article to share. A clipping about “raising boys” or a helpful hint on stain removal, frequently a recipe to try or a positive affirmation to hang on my refrigerator.

So many trips with those bags we took. We went to the coast, from home to home of your kids, on vacations. I remember when reusable shopping bags first came out. We must have bought them from every store we went to that weekend. Your favorite was from Sprouts and how you loved that store, too. That is where we found your tea tree oil the first time.…and so many other goodies.

I smile to myself now when I pack a shopping bag to take “extra things” on a trip. And every time my sonshine tells me his tummy hurts I bring out the chamomile tea…when something itches I get the tea tree oil. And I smile. Because you live on.

I miss you mom and I am so glad you are still all around me, everyday.

September 02, 2010

Lesson Learned

For one week I committed to simply posting one thing I am grateful for as my Facebook status. As simple as that may sound, I wasn’t certain I could do it for seven days. However, I just posted my seventh day. Seven, actually eight things I was grateful for. And there are so many more. And unequivocally they aren’t all that hard to see….when I use my eyes of appreciation. Blessings are abundant in my life, despite the many losses I still grieve.

Just yesterday I was talking with someone I haven’t seen in sometime. She didn’t know about mom passing away but had heard of my job loss that followed quickly after. She said, “that just isn’t fair”. And the truth? No, it isn’t fair. But it is. And I can’t change what has happened. But, I can change what I look for in what has occurred.

There are so many lessons in life. Even in loss.

With the most recent loss of a friend I experienced a few weeks ago I believe it felt a little different because they moved away from me, they didn’t die (while there is some figurative therapeutic value in that concept). With my mom and the company I worked for that folded, that loss seemed out of my ability to control. I had the idea in my mind that I could somehow control the behavior of my friend. The truth is that I can’t control the behavior or feelings of anyone….ever.

Can I have an impact on others? Without a doubt. My behavior can impact the world around me but it can’t cause someone to change by sheer attempt alone. And I am metaphorically hitting myself on the forehead saying, “uh, duh”! Isn’t that something I became skilled at early on when working with drug addicted clients? Absolutely. So, what gives me the power to change anyone in any other scenario? Nothing. Categorically – nothing.

While I believe in hard work in relationships with friends, family members and romantic partners I do not think it is my job to fix them. I have lost someone in all categories this year alone (wow….maybe something else to look out there…the common denominator issue and all….but not today). And when I love someone I believe It is my obligation to work hard and give to them. But a major lesson learned is that I cannot be the only one giving and working hard. It will never work that way. At least it will not work for me.

Looking for more lessons.

August 30, 2010

Stopping Activity!

Many times we talk about wanting things to be different. If we really want different outcomes, oftentimes that means we have to have different behaviors. That isn’t always easy. Perhaps, not because we don’t want to change, but time and again I find that is because we don’t really know how.

One of the places to begin is to take a look at a behavior you would like to stop. We all have those. Maybe you want to stop smoking, eating chocolate, having wine with dinner, or even end that dysfunctional relationship.
Once you have made a commitment to stopping the behavior and are beginning to move forward, it is likely you will have a desire to engage in the behavior again. When this occurs, ask yourself these questions:

1. What is the behavior you would like to do that you know is unproductive?

2. What would this behavior look like, in detail, if you were to follow through?

3. What are you hoping will happen if you engage in this behavior?

4. Based on past experience, what is the likely outcome if you engage in this behavior?

5. How will you likely feel when this happens?

Playing the situation through from beginning to end will likely assist in your making a healthier choice. Desires to engage in unproductive behaviors will pass. This stopping activity is valuable in supporting the discontinuation of behavior.

© Paula Heller-Garland, Conscious Life, 2010