Young Love

young_love_wf_04Photo Courtesy of cdn.greenweddingshoes.com

Remember when you were 5, and you had your first crush?  I think back to all the things I did to gain the attention of my first love interest and wondered – what if we used some of these tactics now?  I’m sure we could easily come up with the con list, or lessons learned, but what was the good stuff?  What were the things we did, said, and experienced that could help us now?

Be yourself 

Usually you paired up with someone because you had the same interests.  You started the conversation with comparing your Star Wars lunch box, big rimmed glasses, or artwork. Take notice of people in your circles of interest that you may have overlooked. What’s stopping you from talking to them and comparing your smart phones, Twitter pages or blogs?  Putting yourself out there can be a little unnerving at first, but the reward of being who you genuinely are and having others accept you supersedes the anxiety.  P.S. If they don’t accept you for your true self, then they probably would not add value to your life anyways.

Play

When we were kids we had fun!  We chased each other around, we created high-imagination games, we could play a card game for hours if he was playing.  We shared and laughed and built forts together! A friend of mine joined a softball team after moving to the area. This turned out to be a great way to connect with new friends and crushes. Even on days when he wasn’t 100% in the mood to play softball, the camaraderie and fun of being with others who shared his interests made the activity worthwhile and there was the added bonus of meeting new, interesting women.

Pay attention and make an effort

I remember when my first boyfriend got me a gift for my birthday.  It was a plastic bracelet, but it had a puppy charm on it, and I loved puppies!  I talked about them all the time.  That is the kind of thing that makes a girl feel special; whether you are 5 or 50.  When someone pays attention, and makes an effort to do something nice or thoughtful it goes a long way!

Feel your feelings

What about the feelings that we had?  Remember the hot cheeks, the butterflies, the awkwardness, and shy moments?  Over time we can get desensitized to these feelings because of previous unsuccessful relationships.  After years and years of dating and one break up or heart break after another, you may force yourself to overlook those feelings and cues.  It is important to reconnect your body and emotions so you can keep your mind open to a person who may be a potentially good fit for you.  Those feelings tell us we are into that person, that something about them makes us want to know more.

Hone your inner child and have a little fun with your partner, your crush and yourself!  Hopefully your partner is your crush or your crush becomes your partner.  When we were young we wished we could quickly grow up, but now that we have, we understand the fallible logic of that thinking.  Cherish the fun, spontaneous moments you have with your loved ones that bring back the feelings of childhood.

Would love to hear your love stories and ways you keep love young.  Please share!

Terminating the client-counselor relationship

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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.

Happiness…

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I found this picture and it makes me think of happy times.  I grew up in Florida and I was married on the beach, so it is one of those places that feels like home.  The sound of the waves crashing into the shore, the birds chirping, the sound of kids playing and laughing, and the ever flowing water.  Remembering these things instantly makes me happy.  So, how does it happen?  Where does happiness come from?  How can we all get a slice?  I did some research and it looks like happiness means something different to all of us, but a recent study shows 56% of happiness comes from mental attitude, 25% from love, and incredibly only 4% from money, the other 15% comes from accomplishments and creative activity.  So, if it’s true – that the majority of my happiness comes from me, how can we all
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Ying or yang? Finding balance through your inner dialogue.

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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 Continue reading

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!

Drawing the line, expectations and roles in the relationship

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only what you are expecting to give.” – Katherine Hepburn

Men and women enter into relationships for many different reasons, but maintaining them is the tricky part.  Recently, some friends asked to hear about expectations in the relationship, new rules in the modern household, and how bringing a child into the home influences expectations.  Today’s post will address the former, as bringing a baby into a relationship merits a post on its own.

In my last class as a budding counselor, I learned one of my most valuable lessons – Expectations.  It really is a loaded word.  We discussed expectations for ourselves and the client as well as how to be present with people so that both parties are less likely to be disappointed.  When you are present in the current moment, fully engaged, and remove expectations; a space is offered that nurtures mutual respect and encourages growth.

Think about when you are learning something new or engaging in a new environment.  Be it work, educational, or social; you try so hard to “get it right”, so you are all in your head, working overtime to use the proper procedure, ask the right questions, and deliver the correct results or behaviors.  This can happen in a new relationship as well.

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Burnout

5amIt’s 5am, the alarm goes off and I realize another day awaits, but it’s hard to get out of bed. My body doesn’t feel rested, my eyes burn and my head aches. My jaw feels sore, probably from the clenching or grinding in my sleep. Coffee may not be enough to activate me this morning. When I get to work, Continue reading

Keeping the Love You Have

The pathway to love seemed so hard when I was single, and to be honest…even when I first met my husband. Keeping the love you have requires just as much work, if not more than the hunt. The difference is your investment and your perspective on how this person fits into your life long-term.

Relationships are like plants. They are all a little different, and require a specific type of care, but the basic principles are the same. You water it, fertilize it, give it the right amount of sun and attention, and it grows stronger each day.

For some the difficult task may seem to be finding your partner in life, your person, or as I like to call them – your lobster. The reality is that its harder to keep the love you have, than find it. Some may believe once I have netted that delectable lobster, I am all set and get to enjoy the fruits of my sea voyage. The truth is, your real journey begins. It takes work to meld two lives together. Two hearts, two minds, two belief systems, two sets of values, financial understandings, parenting beliefs, behaviors, etc. It only took your whole life to become who you are, is it realistic to think you can change another person overnight to do everything you want – or think is “right”? Of course not! A marriage/relationship is about coming together with a common set of beliefs and making it work for both people, then creating a new reality that honors the life you want to live – together.

Over the past few years in my marriage I have learned Five Principles that have helped us build a happy life together.
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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

Being thankful in the face of adversity

Thank you.  I appreciate it.  I appreciate you.  Gracia.  Many thanks.  That meant a lot to me.  You helped me more than you know.  You rock!

These are all ways to express gratitude for the gifts large and small that come upon us in our lives.  Thanksgiving is a good day to celebrate your life and revel in the blessings that you are surrounded with each day.  It may be difficult to find something to be thankful for sometimes, especially for those that may be managing a tragedy such as a job loss, financial troubles, mental health concerns, illness, the death of a loved one, or other misfortunes that come around in life.  Even in these most difficult times, finding the things that make you smile, that offer you even moments of joy in your life may build the momentum to bring you out of the life situation you may be in.  There is a saying, “Choose your attitude”  and, “live your  life with intention.” Continue reading