I feel like I was punched in the gut

I literally just read the awful news that Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. I feel like I cant breathe. Everyday it seems like rights are taken from us. Death, destruction, war, panic, fear, opportunity, options at all for some. We as people are being stifled and oppressed and told to just bend over and take it! This is NOT okay!

How should it be anyone’s right to make decisions about the health and care of your own body? Women can make a decision to remove their breasts if they are concerned about cancer, but not reproductive health? If men were the ones to get pregnant this would be a non issue.

I was told a few stories recently that the general public may not understand about what danger is now in store for women. Whether you believe in abortion or not…that really isnt the only issue. There are women who unfortunately have children who die in the womb. Or who at no fault of the mother, the fetus could kill the mother if brought to term. There are also babies that will die once out of the womb.

And those children now will have to be brought to term (due date) before able to be delivered. It will now be illegal to remove the fetus even at risk of the mother dying. One person shared this was the most traumatic event in her life. Besides losing the baby, she was deathly sick. The deteriorating baby was causing toxicity in the mama. If she carried to due date she would die. Then the process of finding a place to remove the fetus was very difficult in her conservative state. The thought of going through this process now, safely, is nearly impossible. Please see this story for a personal account of the events that occur and will be made worse now. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/roe-v-wade-overturned-wanted-pregnancy-miscarriage-b2108799.html

Why are we going backwards? Why are rights being taken away? Why are guns and control over women and people of color where we need to go back to? Where is the America that stands for freedom and justice FOR ALL? Whose agenda is this? The wealthy elite who think we will be so distracted with survival in this new awful world they can do what they want? F@$k that!

You can do something. You have to do something! You can vote for those who want to preserve our democracy, protect our children and women. Those who will remove oppressive and divisive practices from law. You can Vote for those that want to save our planet from climate change. You can Vote for those who will tax the billionaires. Those who stand up to bullies. Those who believe we can all dream and succeed. You can also run for public office and work to change your own communities.

Please don’t give up. Please dont become so overwhelmed that you do nothing. Your voice matters and if you do nothing those that wish to hold the power to oppress win. And we all lose.

Dream

Once upon a time I had a dream. I wrote it down…I thought about it. I talked about it, I asked questions, I did research. I did the work…I did some work, maybe not enough work. I stalled, I second guessed, I paused, I researched some more, I believed more in the not than the can be. I was afraid. I was paralyzed. What if? What do I want? Will this honor God? Will this honor me? My family? Will the work, the time, the sacrifice be for not?

How do I reconcile the dream from reality. If there is a desire in my heart, I must see it through….God would not keep pushing and urging me if it’s not important. But what is important? How do I take a break from my most important job with my little people during a pandemic and feel ok about it? Is that an excuse? Can I begin to take time for me?

These are the thoughts of a mother. A mother who loves her children and thinks of them before herself. I’m sure there are those that can relate. I have to say it, I matter too. You matter too. Your needs and success matter too. It’s okay to take a break and self-care so that you can be a wonderful role model of balance. You got this!

Action is always better than inaction. Take that action to make your dreams come true!

What dreams are you working on? What tactics do you use to balance your needs with the needs of your loved ones?

Marriage

Being married is hard and fun and amazing. The feeling is security, peace, monotony (especially during this pandemic! Total groundhog day), synchronicity, struggle, compromise, journey, love, family, friendship, love, disappointment, sadness, relief, bliss, betterment, love, hope.

There are a range of emotions because being human is hard. We have good days and bad days. We have days where we suck and say or do all the wrong things and days when we really shine. Days where we shine because of me or shine because of we. The thing about marriage is it isn’t a place for selfishness or secrets. It’s not a place to hide. It’s a place to bare your soul, to open that closet with all the ugly things inside because when it’s with the right person even the ugly is accepted.

Fighting and hurting unfortunately occur, but it is the foundation that you pour that allows those blows to ripple off. It is the work you put in each day to mesmerize your love, to thank your love which reinforces that foundation so that when the tough days come they slide by like a passing storm, thunderous but unable to destroy your masterpiece.

I think of the work my husband and I did in the beginning and I am so relieved that we fought for each other and for this beautiful life but am reminded that more must be done each day to ensure this work of art stands the test of time.

To all those working each day to build your own house and construct a house of love with your partner, keep loving, keep working and stay thankful. If you’re looking for that love of a lifetime, focus on creating the best version of yourself and the right addition will arrive at the right time as long as you’re ready and able to receive them into your life.

Love to hear your love stories! Please share how you keep your love strong.

Fearless…also known as sister

When we were kids I idolized her. She was the most beautiful funny fire-hearted person I had ever seen. One night, when I was 9 or 10 she talked me into sneaking out. She was 13 or so and beyond worldly in my eyes. I had absolute trust. After our parents were asleep for a while, I tiptoed down to her room. As I crept through the door, her smile lit the dark room. She was so excited. Was it because of the adventure to come or because I believed in her so fully?

We worked together to pull the screen out of the window, careful to make no noise. She slunk out the window with expertise. My heart beat in my ears, my palms grew moist. As I looked at her, she saw my fear and motioned for me to come closer. I stuck my head out the window and she whispered, “it’s ok, it’s not as far down as it looks and I’m here to catch you if you fall.” With that reassurance my heart began to slow and excitement crept in. I turned my body, working to descend in the same snake like style as my sister, but I looked more like a dumpling dropping into a hot pot. Before I hit the ground I felt her hands around my waist. Surrounding me in the safety net I needed to push through.

I don’t remember much else about the night. I believe we got busted and grounded. But I do remember how I felt about my sister. How much her strength encouraged me and helped me feel safe. Now that she’s gone all I have are memories. My whole life I always wished I had her strength, but maybe I do… maybe I have had it all along…maybe I can remember the fire and courage she taught me and honor her by letting go of excuses and live a life that inspires people. A life that helps other people see that you can break through fear and insecurity by following faith and believing in yourself.

God created us… created me and you to be everything our heart desires so we can serve as an example of His Grace and love. Playing small honors no one and nothing. Fear is a choice. Success is planned, disciplined actions that prepare you for opportunity.

One day, one choice, one action at a time.

How are you you honoring your spirit today?

Managing school reopenings and my emotions

Image from https://www.mycustomer.com/experience/engagement/the-20-emotions-that-drive-or-destroy-value-in-customer-experience

It seems like all I have been able to think about is this upcoming school year. I’m sure I’m not alone with millions of parents contemplating their children’s futures as we speak.

It’s an exciting chapter, since my 5-year old will be attending kindergarten. He’s been going to a great daycare for years, so we aren’t unfamiliar with his being away from home, but our current climate makes the idea of elementary school so surreal. Both kids have been home from daycare since mid-March along. We’ve been navigating learning, finding time for fun activities between work and home obligations while trying our best and failing many days to limit screen time.

Then once we finally decided what school the kid would go to and got accepted, the purgatory of finding out the learning format was too much. All the schools seems to be doing things a little different, the choices are so varied, in- person, hybrid, virtual, and homeschool. When I got word it was virtual only, I was so happy I didn’t have a choice because none of the options are awesome and it was one less thing to keep me up at night.

So, now my son will be involved in a virtual educational program. I will have to ensure assignments are done and uploaded, that virtual sessions are attended, that he still gets outside and doesn’t spend too much time on screens post-school. Ughh, I’m tired already! To those parents who have already done this last year, or have kids in multiple grades, I have been hearing the experiences weren’t the best. So, I am prepared to stay positive and do my best, because in the grand scheme of things, what else can we do? I have decided to Elsa it – I have let go the things I cannot control.

Look – 50% of days I feel like a failure, I miss something, perhaps a work deadline, perhaps the baby’s schedule is all off, or my meetings run long and I miss a much needed fun activity with the kids to reduce the screen-time. Some days there isn’t much left in the tank to cook, or hang out with my hubby or to call my girlfriends who I miss so much! And I take it personal, I say all the awful things one should never say to oneself, because sheesh, words and thoughts hurt! But then there are those days I am well-rested, I have gotten a workout in, I spend an extra minute slow dancing with my hubby, and I get the belly laughs from the kiddos.

Those days remind me that we don’t have to have it all figured out. That all we have is this moment – this moment to be better, to live from a place of love and be kind to ourselves and those around us.

I use the acronym STOP (Slow down, Think, Observe the Present moment) to remind me to take a minute when I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. When you stop and make that observation, it helps you gain perspective.

Many of us live in our minds, our thoughts take over and begin to spiral. I call this tornado self-talk. It’s easy to confuse thoughts for feelings, if we blame someone else, it’s likely a thought. Your feelings are your experience, you control them and have power to change them. You may be thinking your partner is ignoring you, but the feeling is hurt, or anger. Using I statements to discuss your feelings may help you separate out the thought from the feeling. For example, I feel angry and hurt when you don’t greet me in the morning when you get up.

I have attached a link below to a website with a feeling wheel. It is a wonderful list of uncomfortable and comfortable general emotions. You can start from the outside and work your way in to hone in on the specific general emotion. For example, maybe your boss said something in a meeting that left you feeling inadequate, the primary emotion would be embarrassed. How could you discuss the situation with your boss to prevent that type of situation in the future?

Since we don’t necessarily stop to observe and acknowledge what is going on in our bodies, how our body is feeling, or where are we experiencing tension. Use this STOP moment to feel your feelings. Is there heaviness in your heart? You may be feeling sad. Tension or discomfort in your stomach? You may be anxious. Tight neck, high blood pressure? You may be angry.

You can engage in self-reflection and ask the important questions to move forward:

  1. What is bothering me?
  2. What am I feeling in my body vs. what am I thinking in my mind?
    • (use emotion words – angry, hurt, sad, frustrated, powerless, scared; not thoughts – I feel judged, betrayed, taken for granted)
  3. What about this specific situation is unmanageable?
  4. How do I get through this moment?
  5. What actions are helping or harming me?
  6. What do I need do to make positive progress?

We all have challenging aspects of our lives, especially now. Take a moment, breathe, reflect and figure out what will bring positive, happy feelings to this time. If the kids watching one more episode gives you time to get in a workout or take a shower, let those feelings of screen-time guilt go and take care of you so you can be ready to work and teach tomorrow. Stay safe and be well.

Please share your stories, we learn to understand ourselves better when we can share our experiences.

Resources

Bodily maps of emotions by Lauri Nummenmaaa,b,c,1, Enrico Glereana, Riitta Harib,1, and Jari K. Hietanend

Emotion and Feeling Wheel from davidhodder.com

I Was a Screen–Time Expert. Then the Coronavirus Happened. by Anya Kamenetz

6 Tips for Managing your Emotions By Connected Marriage August 16, 2018

Making time for yourself in a pandemic

We are in a new normal, but how has this new normal affected us? How are we making space in our lives to stop and just be in the present moment? It’s so hard to stop watching the news or lament about our current reality and all the things we miss, like spending time with other people than our housemates, enjoying pampering activities, vacations, group activities like parties, sports, and concerts or just allowing people in your home to chill.

Then there are the musts that still have to occur, whether you’re teleworking, going into your worksite, or regretfully lost your job, worrying about your kids – their education, their health, their mental health, then child care concerns, school in the fall, the health of educators, teaching while parenting and working full time… and still finding time to be with your spouse/partner in meaningful ways.

It’s enough to make your head pop off. Like seriously…I’m only one person! Even with a super supportive engaged hubby, its tough.

And for those single parents out there, ya’ll are the real MVP’s! How you do what you do is commendable, and if no one told you today how awesome you are, soak it in, wear that cape like the super hero you are. I’m sending all the positive vibes and letting you know how appreciated you are.

We can really put ourselves through the ringer and adding that unneeded pressure to do it all…and if you’re anything like me, to do it all perfect…becomes problematic when reality sets in and reminds us that we are in fact human. YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT.

So how do we do it? It’s critical to identify your family’s needs and wants and set expectations so everyone knows what to work toward. Then make a plan to get it done. Next, identify the extras that would be cool to accomplish, finally the rewards are those special treats that you deserve for getting through all this and staying safe, and they can boost mental health.

MUSTS would be things like laundry, food shopping, making meals, work, school tasks, sleep, fitness, solo quiet time for your brain (at least 10-15 mins a day, more if you can). Some musts can be contracted out – could you order food online to save time? Could you wash a load of laundry each night? Could you use a meal delivery service to cut down on food prep or teach the kids to cook? Bonus! Cooking with kids is teaching, learning, having fun and creating memories while doing a daily chore. Taking a walk after dinner could fill that fitness need while giving much needed brain space to recharge.

EXTRAS are those things that put a little pep in your step. Watching a funny movie with the family. Having a healthy meal together, calling a friend, journaling, listening to music, video chatting with friends or family. Making a tiktok video to laugh at your mad dancing skills or cat/dog/baby videos.

REWARDS could be learning something new, reading a book, spending alone time with your partner, helping a neighbor, walking in nature, creating art or slime with your kids, giving yourself a pedicure, facial, or taking a bubble bath.

Then make a schedule and a plan, write it down. Make yourself a priority and don’t feel bad about it. Mom guilt comes fast and hard when we think of time away from the babes, but you need to take care of you so there is something left to care for the family.

I like to find time early in the morning before any other distractions so I can center and stay focused on my goals. I spend time with God, workout and attempt a learning video on YouTube a few times a week, other days I go for a Netflix comic or cat/dog/baby video on YouTube. I’m thankful my hubby is supportive and wrangles the littles during this time. It keeps me sane and fills my spiritual tank so I can be the person I am instead of the crabby lady that comes out from all the stress.

What do you do to take care of you? What extras and rewards are meaningful for you and how are you staying sane amid the pandemic?

Check out blessingmanifesting.com for more info on self-care.

Black Lives Matter

As a white woman who grew up in the south, rural Florida, Confederate flags, rifles and proud rednecks were customary in the large trucks cruising down most streets.

My stepfather worked at a local pawn shop and carried his gun strapped to his side every day, prepared to fight back if anyone were to rob the little pawn shop where he worked. Back in the 90s, growing up in a small town, parties, attending car races, and muddin’ were normal weekend activities.

That background could apply to any typical southern family. Racism was also in our family, that piece may or may not be typical. In my optimism and perhaps blind faith, I pray it’s not. I don’t know what happened in other homes but in mine the echoes of the N word, explicit rules forbidding me from dating outside my race, and other implicit rules that aren’t worth mentioning were a constant reminder that race was an issue.

I think the day I lost respect for my parents was in middle school. I had a BFF who was black but I never hung out with her outside of school. I never even asked. It’s a shame to hear the people who are supposed to be teaching you right from wrong say awful things about people of color and you KNOW it’s wrong and hateful, racist and ignorant. I couldn’t put the things they said in the same mind space as my friend. I completely rejected it and by doing so rejected them. I lost respect for my parents and didn’t trust the life lessons they had for me after that. I regret not being strong enough to tell them then how I felt.

So at about age 11, I knew the world was not what I had been told and made up my mind to meet people where they are. Am I perfect? No! There are those old parts that still hear the ugly echos of my childhood, but I have spent my life seeking out people for who they are. I love people and believe in their beautiful spirits and humanity. Hate cannot exist where there is love, and so I seek to bring love and joy into the lives of others.

So what does my story have to do with the Black Lives Matter Movement – besides the obvious, as a white lady, I need to do better? Well, I met a wonderful amazing man and had 2 beautiful babies. He is a black man who experiences the awfulness of systemic racism daily. I spend my days thinking, how can I create an environment for my husband, so that when he comes home he can leave the filth of the world outside and be treated the way he should be, with decency and respect and love.

I think about my children whose skin may be lighter like mine but who are black. They cant just be people who are judged by the content of their character, but always in this world, they will be judged by how they look. Will life be a tad easier because they may pass as white? Would they get pulled over less? Would they face less discrimination in school or the workplace? Or will they struggle to understand who they are? Never black enough… never white enough? As parents we have started early to help our son understand and embrace both parts of his heritage. We have a lot to learn and teach, but it’s the most evil s#$% of this world to tell a 5 year old…oh…btw you are beautiful and perfect and made in God’s image but not everyone sees you that way so be careful, don’t trust people, be wary of this ugly world.

Why is America so divisive? Why is it okay to be so judgy? Why did it become okay for white people get to decide who has value in this world? Last I checked the Big Man upstairs is in charge of that.

We lived in Pensacola, FL for a bit and decided to come back to DC. Pensacola was just not for a family like ours. When searching for places to live I chose PG County which is predominantly black, on purpose. It was hard for my hubby in Pensacola. I wanted him and the kids to live in a more diverse area. I wanted them to be in a community that looked more like them. I try to check in on things like that. As much as I can control it, I want them to be comfortable. And if they are good, I am good! And I love everybody…mostly, minus mean people.

I know I will never truly get it, it being the experience, the pain, the frustration and stress, but my heart aches for my husband, my kids’ future, my friends, my coworkers. I know all these beautiful black people who experience such garbage treatment and it makes me sick. We white people HAVE to do better. Tell the people who are being racist they are racist. Stop awful people from harming people of color. Refuse to accept people in your life that are racist.

One of the hardest things I had to do is stop talking to a family member because of their views on my marriage. It hurt, it still hurts but I cannot allow ANYONE to disregard, and disrespect the love of my life simply because of the color of their skin.

This is a time for hard conversations and reflection and learning. This is a time to lift our black sisters and brothers up. Because we have failed them for 400 years. We cannot espouse to be the greatest nation in the world …to encourage the pursuit of happiness for all Americans and continue to kneel on the necks of black and brown people for our own selfish growth. You are not truly successful if it comes at the harm, hurt and expense of others.

I invite dialogue and would love to hear others’ experiences.

Creating life

As I stood in line at the fertility doctor that morning I was overwhelmed with a feeling of awe, sadness and hope. My husband and I had been trying to have children for almost 2 years. We began seeing a fertility doctor in October, then instantly found out we were pregnant. Unfortunately that little blessing didn’t make it.

So, we began again. We went through the testing that revealed it may be more difficult for us to conceive. We were ready to do whatever we could to create life with the love we have for each other. We prayed and hoped and attended the IVF classes. No matter the cost we would figure out out. Then in June, a couple weeks before starting the IVF process, God answered our prayers with a positive pregnancy test.

So, as I stood in line at my third follow up sonogram to make sure baby is on track, I was overcome with emotion as I realized how much all these women around me wanted the same thing I had growing inside me. I was in awe at the resilience and commitment of these amazing women. To put your body through the hormones, procedures, and emotional roller coaster of producing eggs to hopefully get fertilized and become an embryo then properly implant – well, it’s a process to say the least. I also felt so appreciative that God saved me from that process. I really wanted a baby, but hoped my body would cooperate the old fashioned way. I recall in my younger years praying not to get pregnant, what a mistake, now all I could think about was conceiving.

I felt sadness that so many people around me in this small office desperately wanted to create life, to be parents, to guide and protect and raise fabulous people, while some in this world brutally attack, neglect or discard children daily.

Finally, hope! Glorious hope washed over me that these women will too feel the way I do right now – joyous, nervous, excited, blessed and so in love with this little person growing inside me!

I cannot wait to meet this little miracle!

As an update *** This was written almost 4 years ago. I was nervous to post as many women understand that have had fertility issues, you want it to work and don’t want a reminder it didn’t. I’m happy to report my little guy is 3 and he has a baby sister coming in September. We are beyond thrilled and filled with gratitude.

For others facing the struggle choose hope and faith, they will guide your journey.

Terminating the client-counselor relationship

Courtesy of tagxedo.com

What is the best way to end the counseling relationship?  A counselor’s hope is with the client in a better place and with a higher level of awareness.  Of course we want to know that we made a difference, but that’s the tricky part of working with humans.  We are all unique and results are measured differently.  With one client a certain level of progress may not seem very significant, but with others that same type of progress may be just enough to leave a lasting effect.  No matter how significant the results, terminating the counseling relationship is just as important as beginning it.

When meeting with a client, I like to be as proactive as possible.  The more information my clients have the better, that way there are no surprises.  Counseling is a very intimate relationship.  People don’t generally put their whole selves along with their secrets on the table for all to see, so developing the counseling relationship is instrumental.  Part of gaining trust comes with informed consent, making sure they know what to expect from you, and ending treatment in a respectful way.  Carl Rogers theory, person-centered approach, is drilled into your counseling education for a reason.  The three aspects Rogers believed are critical to the counseling relationship are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness.  If your clients feel that you are present-engaged- participating- and you care, they are much more inclined to do the work.  Get them started with an understanding that there will be an end within a timeline. This gives them a metaphorical carrot to chase; an outcome to look forward to.  One caution – you can be a part of the journey without getting on the bus.  Meaning, maintain your differentiation to prevent transference and countertransference.  It takes practice, patience, and diligence to confront your own emotions after a difficult session.  Be sure to take the time to meet with a supervisor or peer to process the session, your feelings and move through it.  We must constantly take care of ourselves, spend too much time giving all you have to everyone else, and there is little left to work with.  This work helps you and ultimately makes you a better counselor.   

The interesting part of counseling is when your clients surprise you.  Sometimes we can make termination such a big deal in our heads, and admittedly feel a bit disappointed when they are not nearly as bummed as we are to end the counseling relationship.  Bottom line…Inform them, Rogers them, and give them a loose outline so they can take you on an incredible journey!

Transformation is an experience that few of us have a front row ticket to, get in that mosh pit, get engaged, and take it all in. It will change your life as well.

Ying or yang? Finding balance through your inner dialogue.

Picture Courtesy myepiclove.files.wordpress.com

I found a poem about balance that I wrote many years ago.  It is a great lead into the topic of finding balance and appreciation in all aspects of life.

sometimes the sun shines on my life, it makes my whole world glow. 
i love to feel the warmth on my skin, on my soul.
other days the rain pours on my heart and overflows into areas that are saturated.
every part of life needs this balance.
without sunshine, my flowers will not grow.
without rain, my garden would dry out and die.
i am grateful for both the good and the bad. 
those opposite forces bring balance, contentment, appreciation.
~Melissa Cooper

 It may be hard sometimes to find anything positive when unfortunate events occur, but this way of thinking Read More