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?

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

Having a baby – you want me to do what?

A friend recently asked me to write about expectations of a man and a woman when having a baby. Well, we talked about expectations a bit in my recent blog, so let’s reframe that to, understanding the relationship transition with a newborn. When two people decide to have or are blessed with the joy of children, there is a 9 month delay for good reason. Even with adoptions, the process takes time. Being a parent is an awesome responsibility and notably the hardest job on the planet. When embarking upon this new life, it may be easier if you are able to prepare more than 9 months out.

Discussions about values, beliefs, and family rules are a great way to start preparing. Just like navigating the rules in the relationship, new patterns and processes will be an important aspect of your new family dynamic. There will be some things that are extremely important to each parent as your child develops. Having the conversations about what is most important to you, prior to pregnancy, may help alleviate future disagreements or misunderstandings. And then, there are those grand ideas you may have that just don’t work out the way you envisioned. Establishing open, collaborative lines of communication will make future decision making easier.

Written and unwritten or verbal and nonverbal rules exist in all families. A written rule may be – we shower before bedtime, no eating in the bedrooms, saying please and thank you, or no feet on the furniture. An unwritten rule might be something that children observe about the way to behave or what is accepted in the family. Children look to their parents to know what is right or wrong. For example, if the child normally goes to the grocery store with mom, but this week goes with dad, the child may inform dad that they are picking the “wrong” items. The mom never said Cheerios were the “right” cereal, however over time, the child observed the mother’s behavior and determined what was “right.” This concept is extremely important to embrace as a future parent. You have the single most important influence on this little person, more than any other person will have. Have you looked at yourself? Have you thought about the legacy you want to leave behind? Have you identified the issues you struggle with so you can change them, so your children don’t inherit those same behaviors, thoughts, or beliefs?

I grew up knowing that dating outside my race wasn’t acceptable. Nothing explicit was said, but there were comments made that implied it would not be accepted. I didn’t believe the things I heard about other groups of people, and was fortunate to attend school with a diverse student body who I came to know for who they were, not only by the color of their skin. This experience helped me understand how important it is to teach my kids to evaluate people on their characteristics, and to not pass judgment based on what I see.

The hard part was taking my new knowledge of people and weaving it into my family dynamic. The implied or unwritten rules just didn’t make sense anymore, and if my parents were wrong about this, I wondered: what else were they wrong about? It is the little things that are seen and heard, kids don’t miss a thing! As a parent, I know there will be times when I make mistakes, but I truly hope the legacy I leave with them is to love and care for people, to constantly learn and ask questions before they make decisions about people, situations, or their own actions, and to become responsible engagers in the world around them.

So, the day arrives, Mom successfully delivers a healthy baby and you ecstatically, yet almost neurotically bring your bundle of joy home. During this time Mom will be experiencing the effects of her changing body, a very different schedule, and responsibilities will multiply and change.

All of a sudden there are a million more things to do, you’re nervous, worried, in awe of this little person you created, and exuberant all at once. Tasks like who will change diapers or get up in the middle of the night are important questions to negotiate.

Answering those questions will help you both identify which roles each parent will take on. Some partners may not be able to take much time off, so mom is home alone all day. Partners, be sure to help mom out when you get home from work and be patient with the transition.

Expectations may begin to seep in and get in the way of this beautiful journey. The lack of sleep doesn’t help things either, and Dad may feel dethroned, or left out. Making time for each other may seem like the last thing you can squeeze into your busy schedule, but even taking a few moments a day to see each other – not just exist side by side, but see the love of your life, and remember why you got into this relationship may help smooth out the rough parts.

Some parents prefer certain activities over others, but a partnership is the most realistic way to go so both parties don’t feel unappreciated or overworked. The most important thing is to talk to each other. When one person in the relationship feels angry, overwhelmed, depressed, uncertain, scared, or any other range of emotion and does not share it, that is the beginning of a slippery slope. I liken it to a funnel cloud that in time will turn into a tornado, unexpectedly wiping everything in its path.

If you say it out loud, then you can do something with it. Counseling may be a great way to learn effective negotiating strategies during this time of great transition, even if only Mom gets a chance to talk to someone, it may be incredibly helpful. Many moms experience the baby blues due to hormonal rebalancing from 4-5 days after delivery until about 14 days post delivery. If you do not notice an improvement in your mood, you may have postpartum depression. Please seek help from your care provider.

As stated previously, parenting is a lot of work, the folks who do it on their own definitely deserve some type of award nomination. I mean — how do you do it? Single parents – you are amazing people, give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can. As long as your kids know you love them – you are doing it right!

Helpful websites for new parents:

babycenter.com app available for smartphones

thebump.com app available for smartphones

parenting.com

dr.spock.com

parents.com app for the magazine available, have to pay for the magazine

Please share your tips and comments on parenting!

Aging Gracefully

No matter what we do, what we don’t do, what we see, hear, believe or want – one thing remains unchanged about life. Time passes and we get older. We can age gracefully or we can wither away. This year as I reflect on another 29th birthday — hey no judgement! 29 was a good year, so I plan to remain 29!  I think about what I have accomplished thus far and what my dreams are for the future. Taking some time each year to reflect on outcomes (goals), accomplishments, and new challenges to embark upon, offers an opportunity to evaluate the commitments you have made to yourself and others and evaluate the results. If the results are not what you had planned or hoped for, chart a new course and continue or develop a new outcome plan. Read More

Creating a Vision for your Future

One of my favorite exercises in the substance abuse IOP group therapy sessions was Life Mapping. My supervisor used to remind our clients that the work we were doing was great work for all people, including folks with addictions. It was just plain old, good therapy! This exercise helps clients create a clear picture for what they want in their lives. It grew out of some work one of my previous supervisors had done with a Covey leadership development class.

So, how does it work? First, you identify your core values. Examples may include family, career, spirituality, integrity, health, education and sobriety. Then you identify how your current behaviors go against those values. How are the choices and decisions I make dishonoring my core values? For example, if family is your value, perhaps your current behavior is isolating you from your family or causing arguments. Or for career, perhaps your lack of follow through or completion of deadlines is inhibiting your career growth. Here is a worksheet to get you started: VALUES WORKSHEET

Next, you identify what outcomes you would like to see for each value. What do you want in your life? For family, perhaps it is a closer relationship with loved ones, for spirituality maybe it means a closer relationship with God, and for health perhaps your outcome would be feeling well, reducing risk factors or unhealthy behaviors.

Next, you identify the tasks associated with each outcome. These would be the specific behaviors or actions that are critical to accomplishing your outcomes and staying true to your core values.

Examples of tasks for health may be: eat 5 small meals a day, count my calories, exercise 3 days per week for 30 minutes, practice meditation 5 minutes each day.

For family, some examples might include: eat dinner together every night at 6pm, spend time as a family outside the home 2 times per month for at least 2 hours doing an activity in which we are engaged with each other (not going to a movie), implement a date night on Fridays with my spouse.

For career, tasks may include: get to work 5 minutes early each day, ask for additional training, meet with my supervisor to develop a development plan. I created this worksheet: LIFE MAPPING WORKSHEET to assist you in Creating your Vision.

The next phase is consolidating your Life Map into a Vision Statement. This one can take some time, and I recommend doing a talk-through-walk-through first.

Pretend I am an old friend and have not seen you for a year, and I see you at the supermarket and say, “Hey there! I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you? Tell me what’s new in your life?” Using the information you gathered about what outcomes you want for your life from your Life Map, speak as though you are currently living the life you have envisioned in your diagram. Use the tasks and outcomes to describe the changes that have occurred in your life. An example may be something like this:

Gosh, Missy, so much has happened! Life is great! I feel calm and peaceful, my family relationships are loving and connected and we spend time together having fun and learning. My body is strong and ready for each new day that comes. My career has moved to a new level where I feel proud and motivated each day. My relationship with God grows each day through prayer and meditation.

As I blogged about before, creating clarity is the beginning of the process of change. Iyanla Vanzant said in a speech she gave on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Your eyes adjust to the amount of deficiency present.” Think about that.

Read it again….Your eyes….adjust….to the amount of deficiency present.

So you get used to deciphering life through fuzzy eyes, you adapt and compensate, and inevitably miss things. If our vision for our lives is unclear, or we cannot even see an outcome that we would like or need, than we begin to believe that the possibility of our hopes and dreams are unachievable.

The deficiency may be the story we tell ourselves, the doubts we allow others to speak into us, or the insecurities that stifle us. Sometimes we let others talk us into or out of what we truly want and sometimes we do not need any help setting ourselves back. We may even begin to believe that the dreams we have are unrealistic. How will you nurture and foster your dreams to create a vision for your future?

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?” ~ Henry Ford