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“I wouldn’t know what to talk about.”


“I wouldn’t know what to talk about.”
This is sometimes the reason people don’t go to counseling. You’re not quite sure what to say to the stranger in the room in front of you. However, something inside of you says that you need to discuss your day with someone else outside of family, friends, or co-workers. It can be awkward at first.

You essentially get invited into a room where there will be a possibility of comfortable chairs or even a couch. You then have the opportunity to tell someone you have never met before, what’s going on. It’s not like a medical exam in which you would sit on a table with crinkly paper. There are no pills or any shots. The counselor may ask you questions, sometimes on initial paperwork or in person that can be detailed and quite personal. Write down what you feel comfortable writing down, and eventually discuss things that you may not at first feel comfortable discussing. Don’t expect that every single counselor knows every detail of your life. They don’t know about you until you share about yourself.

If you’re coming into counseling to talk about not feeling great about your job, well then that’s what you talk about. Chat about not feeling great about your job and all the bits and pieces that go into that. Don’t feel like you need to discuss what was going on in your life when you were a five-year-old if you’re 45 years old and you’re simply not liking your job. However, know that if there are issues in addition to your job a qualified counselor can help you to talk through those things. A good counselor will not judge you for not wanting to talk.  A good, confident, clinically trained counselor will not judge you for any of your most intimate secrets.

Counselors are people that clients can come to talk about the hard or embarrassing stuff in life. Counselors are the people trained to not shy away from topics such as the mechanics of a sexual encounter, the pain of losing someone to suicide, or the thoughts that go on in your head that you might not feel like you want to be having. There is a very broad range of wellness and illness and with it comes the ideas and activities that each of us has in our daily life. A counselor can help you sift through them. Not every session is deep and dark and tricky. Some might be for some people, while other may never have these types of discussions. People come talk to us about their jobs, their parenting, their relationships, their next awesome business idea, or about the people that are bullying them and they just don’t know what to do. People talk to us about the life choices that they are making with drugs or alcohol and they want to find out more about healthful choices they can make for their bodies that may not be as damaging.

There is no right way or wrong way to talk to a counselor. Simply be the respectful person that you are and remember that the counselor is human too. Counselors themselves have been through many life experiences and hundreds of classes that can help guide you to make the decisions that are best for you. So, when you feel like you don’t know what to talk about with a counselor simply say that. Tell the counselor you have never sat with someone like this before and that you’re not sure what to do next. This is probably not a first session ever for the counselor, in which case they can guide you to help discover what it truly is that you’re there to talk about. Try it out. You never know what you might learn.

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Pay It Forward


Pay It Forward by Kellie Boyle

  • One of my all-time favorite books turned into movie is Pay It Forward. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about a young boy who is given a school assignment to come up with a plan of how to change the world. The young boy comes up with an action plan and calls it “pay it forward”. Sounds like a complicated task for an 11-year old, but it appeared that his idea had very little complexity at all. The idea was to do a good deed unasked for 3 strangers and in return ask the strangers to pay it forward to three folks they run across. Then those strangers are told the same thing, and so on and so on, so the notion spreads. I love it because the message is so simple. Doing a good deed is something anyone on this planet can do, you don’t have to have much creativity at all.Sharing kindness can have the same rapid effect that sharing rudeness and anger has. It’s like a domino effect. If it’s so easy to be angry can’t it also be so easy to be kind? If you are having trouble with the concept, think about a time a stranger or friend or family member did something for you- out of the blue, unexpected, or out of the ordinary. In a previous job, I worked at an office with the most pleasant and cheerful Receptionist. I would be going through a very stressful day, and the attitude that this receptionist exhibited- either through a nice email or phone call would literally change my mood for the rest of the day. Her cheerfulness and joy made me stop and think about how genuinely she comes across to everyone that calls in the office or greets her at her desk. It made me feel silly for all the reasons I was upset about whatever was causing me strife that day.Can you remember a time someone had that effect on you? Chances are you felt appreciated and it made you feel good about yourself. Well guess what, you can also feel good about yourself by having that same effect on others. You should try it! And I’ll even give you some ideas. Here are a list of pay it forward activities you can participate in. Remember folks, this is out of thoughtfulness and awareness. You don’t have to have lots of money or time, but you do have to have a heart. Let’s keep the task simple and light. Now more than ever, is a time where we can practice to pay it forward. There is nothing bad that can come out of this, only good.
  • Bake cookies for a neighbor who happens to put up with your dog barking throughout the night.
  • Keep a box of granola bars in your car and hand out to homeless people as you see them at intersections.
  • When you’re at the checkout line, look up from your phone, notice something about the person in front of you and give them a compliment.
  • Send a nice thank you note to school with your child to give to a teacher who has helped him throughout the year.
  • Volunteer a few hours at a local soup kitchen.
  • Sit next to and have lunch with that elderly man who is always at McDonalds having breakfast by himself.
  • Make an extra stop on the way to work to buy your secretary her favorite coffee.
  • Give someone walking through the rain your umbrella.
  • Pull over on the side of the road next time you see someone stranded to see how you can help.
  • Smile at a stranger and tell them you hope they have a wonderful day.
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Effective Communication & Problem Solving in Love and Relationships

Effective Communication and Problems solving in Love and Relationships

By Julie A. Holgate, MS., LPC

It’s that time of year again where we celebrate the sometimes welcomed and sometimes dreaded Valentine’s Day.  No matter which category you fall into, this can be a time of reflection on yourself and all of your relationships.  There are three simple ways to evaluate your relationships by thinking about the following:

  1. Am I openly communicating my needs to others?
  2. Are my needs met and cared for by others’ close to me?
  3. Am I considering the needs of others in my life when I speak or act?

The questions asked above fall into a category of someone who is not only practicing good self-awareness, but behaving in a healthy assertive manner towards others.  The most productive way to have a shared perspective in relationships is productive communication.  Communication is not merely blurting out the first thought or feeling that you are having, because what we know is that often times the things we say are driven by emotions (e.g Anger, sadness, frustration).

Emotional communication can sometimes lead us astray.  That’s why we often hear friends and family members recommend that you “sleep on it,” or “give it some time before making a decision.”  The act and purpose of these statements is to give you time to calm down and not speak or act out of extreme emotion.  Often times when we do this we are able to see that either our problems are not a bad as they seem, or that they are bad and we are able to communicate more effectively once we have quelled the extreme emotional reactions.

Communication in relationships allows us an awesome advantage of knowing what our partner, friend, or family is feeling and thinking.  When solving any life problem, it is important that we have all the information before we are able to solve the issue most productively.  Shouldn’t we give our loved ones the same courtesy as we would a math or work problem?  Often times, conflicts at home are not approached with openness and honest reflection.  Human nature often leads us to use our defense mechanism to protect our feelings even in situations where we can acknowledge our own wrong-doing.

Acknowledging our wrong-doing and saying we’re sorry means swallowing our pride.  Let’s be honest; for even the most level-headed, self-aware people, this can be hard to do.  If we are unwilling to look at ourselves and our own roles in relationships, how will we ever change?  How will we ever grow?

Let your gift this Valentine’s Day be strength of character, and consideration for you own needs and the needs of those around you.  Learning and practicing this skill daily can lead us towards healthier communication and more effective problem-solving in our Love and Relationships.

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Bipolar – Some Tips from Research

A couple of summers ago I was asked to be a contributor towards a college textbook for master’s level aspiring counselors. The topic I appreciated researching about for this project was Bipolar. Formally entitled Manic-Depression, Bipolar carries with it moods of all sorts for the person that is living life with it. It is marked by shifts and mixes of depression and high-energy with at times anxiety. Reality testing is a big component in that sometimes what others outside the person with bipolar see are interesting ideas and thoughts that can lead to greatness or if trending to far in a direction, disaster.

This past spring I attended a mood disorders conference at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, which excitedly was open to professionals and the general public. Dr. Kaye Jamison, a pioneer on this disorder as she herself has it, was one of the presenters. She outlined beautifully her more recent research of giftedness and geniuses among poets, actors, and musicians that have been noted as having Bipolar. Some examples of individuals that have been noted as having some form of Bipolar disorder are Hans Christian Anderson, Richard Dryfuss, Mary Lambert, Robin Williams, and Catherine Zeta-Jones we have gotten wonderful works.

Magazine: If you have Bipolar there is more research and support than ever before. BP magazine would be one place to start your journey of learning. Each addition host articles about other people’s journey throughout life with the disorder as well as share tips and suggestions about research oriented items to consider. For example it has been noted that folks with Bipolar disorder can be more sensitive to seasonal changes or the daily rise and set of the sun. This can affect medication management during different times of the year.

Book: Another resources that I thought was written in quite a humorous way but very well is the book Two Bipolar Chicks by Wendy Williamson and Honora Rose. Throughout this small manual these two women with Bipolar outline different practical things to consider from stylish types of pill cases to how to have your loved one understand what a mood shift looks like and what to do next.

Blog/Theatre: If you are someone that learns about yourself by sharing with others you may want to consider thisismybrave.org. Started by Jennifer Marshall a fabulous mom to two children, and wife extraordinaire whom blogs on bipolarmomlife.com, Jennifer knows all too well the life of bipolar and creates a national theater platform for others to take center stage and share about their journeys.

Film: At the Hopkins conference I had the pleasure of listening to and meeting Filmmakers Paul Dialo and his wife Kristina Nikola. Paul wrote the movie Touched by Fire a tale of two individuals with Bipolar that meet in a psychiatric hospital. Paul and his family fully know first hand what Bipolar is because he works diligently at keeping his own moods level with his Bipolar. He shared that while he note only listens to his doctors about staying on Lithium, he drinks a certain helpful vegetable juice, talks walks every day, and is so rigid about his bed time that he was told if either of his two children were born after 10pm then he simply shouldn’t be present for their births. He loves and trusts his wife who is one of the first people that would notice if his mood was trending in a direction he may not be aware of. From his speech I took home the concept that you should not give up hope. And that while folks with Bipolar have a flame for life it can burn very beautifully as long as it stays within the parameter of the campfire. Spouses, kids can start to notice when embers are jumping out. Dr. Kaye Jamison noted that once a brain is at the outer level that this is dangerous and residual damage can be occurring. When those embers start to jump out be careful to allow others to help you from your forest fire beginning.

Medications: So far among all the research that I have done, lithium continues to be one of the main drugs of choice for many individuals with Bipolar. It can vary in dosing, does unfortunately mean blood tests to make sure that your system is not collecting toxic levels, but can come in tablet, pill, or liquid form. This is important to discover what works best for you as the taste has been something folks have mentioned can vary and prompt food choices about post ingestion. Ask your physician about any of the uni-polar medications used for depression, because the literature to date indicates that certain ones can prompt a manic episode to begin.

Non-medication: Fisher Wallace Stimulator noninvasive electrical brain stimulation. There are mixed reviews about if this items works, but there is enough positive commentary about this machine and it can be used in the comfort of your own home, that I would want you to do your own research about and talk with your physician if this is something you feel would be appropriate for your life.

Food: I am not going to tackle this in this blog as I will be for sure talking more about this is other blogs. There is no doubt in my mind that food is fuel and the type we put into our bodies can for sure affect some of the reactions are body puts out.

Support, support, support. Did I say it enough? Overall I want you to know that you are not alone. There are tons of people with bipolar and tons of people willing to help you along your life with it. Reach out! This is not a disorder you will live well with if you isolate. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but you need to build a small tribe of trusted folks so you can teach them about your needs.

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Adult Grief

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Adult Grief

I wanted to write some things today about grief and loss to honor all of our feelings about the loss of someone close to us. Often times I have someone come into a session and say that they’ve lost someone close to them and they’re not sure how they’re supposed to be feeling.

Everyone grieves differently; there’s no one way to grieve. There’s no perfect or correct way to grieve. Your sleeping can change, your eating can be challenged in that you either want nothing or a lot more. You may not want to talk to others, or go back to your everyday life of keeping up your space or going to work. Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross developed her concept of the stages of grief which include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial
Denial is when you really feel like your whole body and your whole mind is just trying to re-create what happened so that it didn’t happen. You can’t believe that your loved one went off to work and was killed in a car accident on the way home. You can’t believe that your parent who just retired and was moving around in great health died from a sudden heart attack. You can’t believe that your child playing on her bicycle died by the end of the day because she hit her head in just the spot to cause permanent brain issues and loss of life when she fell off into the grass even while wearing her helmet.

Denial can be very strong. It is real and you completely feel to the core that the horrible story you are living must’ve happened to someone else’s family, but surely not your own. You may not want to help with the planning of the funeral because you just know it’s not possible that your family member is gone. You may not want to talk with or hear from the doctors, nurses, paramedics, or people close to you because they are saying that the person you adore is no longer breathing.

Anger
The intensity of being angry is different for each person. Don’t fear it if it’s there. There can be anger towards a spiritual being that you feel is responsible for this. There can be anger towards physicians. There can be anger towards other family members who had nothing to do with the loss. You can just plain feel mad because you’ve been hurt and there’s nothing you can do to change the trauma that occurred in your life. You CAN NOT trade your own life for theirs. The anger can be intense at the beginning, and it can stick around for quite some time. Be kind and caring towards yourself if you are feeling mad. If you are generally not an angry person then sometimes guilt can arise if you have acted in a way that is not normal for you, like saying or doing things that are hurtful towards others. This feeling is your reaction to the loss.

Bargaining
Bargaining is when you wish that if only you had gone to work, then the other person could’ve stayed home and you would’ve been the one killed in the accident. Bargaining can be the thought that had I not watched that television show, I would have been in bed next to them and then they couldn’t have passed away in their sleep. You want to trade back the time. Bargaining can be when you’re trying to trade your life for others and it just not possible. It’s a time of confusion.

Depression
Sadness can lead to depression. Depression is the blues times a million. It can come with a loss of the desire to be around. You can experience a change in eating and sleeping. You may just never want to go on again. You might not have the energy to want to even try to keep living. You don’t know what you’re going to do with the loneliness. You don’t want anyone else to support you, you just want to sit at the bottom of your hole like Eeyore when his tail is gone and never have anyone pull you out. Your self-care can go down in terms of showering, in terms of being present for others, in terms of being the person you were before the loss of this loved person. Depression can come with behaviors that you don’t want to have. You may start driving faster once you get in the car, because safety doesn’t matter to you. You might decide you want to spend all of your money because what’s the point of it, anyway? You may take on some more addictive behaviors such as drinking or taking drugs. Your faith and your hope have been shattered, and your every day existence makes no sense anymore. It’s OK if you start to feel like this, but get help! Don’t isolate, it will only make you feel worse. Everyone grieves differently. Some people grieve privately. Some people grieve publicly. Some people like to be alone on a hike in the woods. Others may like to be surrounded by people, but not necessarily to be comforted. The closer you were to the person, and the more sudden the death, the more likely you’re going to have a longer time healing.

If you have time to prepare, or if you were to consider the loss of a loved one developmentally appropriate such as they were 104 years old and they had a full life, then your grief might look different than if it was your 12-year-old daughter who went off to school and did not come home.

Acceptance
Some people, after a person’s death, take on projects to honor the loved one. Be careful not to go too fast or use all your energy because you are running away from crying. Celebrations of life are important and are a powerful way to continue to live and remember. You need your strength to keep on going. You may go on a campaign to make sure others are not lost in the same means that your person was. You might become a mentor, a sponsor, a donation organizer. Remember there is no one way to grieve. Your loved one is gone, and that is painful no matter how you choose to continue living. Honor yourself through kindness of yourself first.

We wake up every day assuming we have the next minute, assuming we have the next hour or the next day and weekend. But, our reality is that we don’t know and that our assumptive world we had was lost when our loved died. You have changed forever. Grief brings us back to mindfulness and helps us make choices when we’re going about our busy days.  You don’t fully forget; it’s a wound that heals with a scar over time, but one that stays forever. You may go about your day not realizing on the calendar that your loved one is gone years after, until someone posts a memorial or a remembrance picture on Facebook in which case you find yourself in your car on the way to work or at lunch crying as if you just lost them yesterday.

All of that is well within the realm of natural human feelings. We’re meant to feel all confused and twisted up inside when we grieve.

Reach Out
If you find yourself in such a hole that everything about you has changed, and you don’t even know who you are or want to exist on the planet anymore, please, I would urge you to reach out. Reach out to family. Reach out to friends. Reach out counselors or spiritual leaders. Reach out to anybody that you can, even if it’s just going to the grocery store so you can have an interaction with the person you’re buying tissues from. You matter, and the people that are gone would not want you to suffer or worse.

Laughter is a part of love and the process
Finally, the one part about grief that I don’t ever hear enough about is how, for all the years if you had a great relationship with the person that has died, there can be laughter again in your life in remembering their spirit. You are not dishonoring your loved one if you laugh, if you enjoy, if you see moments that you wish you could’ve shared with them. I know this is confusing that there is nothing funny or fun about death, but you weren’t necessarily living as if this person was dying while they were alive. And, even if you were there may have been moments while this person was dying that had joy, hugs, humor, and even belly laughs involved. It’s OK to gain those moments back. My hope for you with your journey of loss would be that you learn how to heal, though I completely understand that you will never forget. You will become a new you and you will be able to have the hope and reality of a full set of emotions as all humans deserve to have. Be kind and loving towards yourself as you continue to live on after death.

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Thank-you For Being the Best Of Suburbia

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Thank-you to the team of Windward Optimal Health Counseling, the group at PoshSEVEN Magazine, and our clients. You have enabled Windward to win the best of Suburbia in two categories this year.

PoshSEVEN Best of Suburbia Mental Wellness

Each person on the team at Windward has contributed to the creation of this awesome place to work. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone!

  • Bridget –  your behind the scenes operations lets us run as if its Disney.
  • Julie – you show me that work/life balance can be achieved with grace and humour.  Everyone gets the best care possible in all quadrants.
  • Katrina –  you continue to teach me about the wonder of groups and the wonderouse overlay of religion with counseling. You know how to meet the needs of the public both in the office and beyond.
  • Kellie you remind me that fortitude and persistence to follow your dreams can be lived and loved both at work and at home.
  • Krista –  you bring nothing but smiles and a calmness to our group that I deeply appreciate. Your passion for making a person feel important cannot be matched by anyone.
  • Ruth –  you help me to grow in thinking about the dynamics of family and how this is so critical in the counseling setting.
  • Sarah – you have made us feel supported at night with your pleasurable personality.

I also want to mention that Windward Optimal Health in the past four years has grown with care from Matt, Mark, Anthea, Jackie, Jessica, Annie, Reka, Samira, Shafinah, Deeba and Kwame who have all brought life lessons to this team leader at the timings I needed them. Without your employment, internships, volunteerism, support and overall patience this place would not have blossomed as it has.

My skill set from learning about drywall and sink installation to becoming a ceo and a person that can understand a business meeting has really been because of all of you. I was a good counselor before this center opened and continue to love my counseling job, but I am a much better person overall from having been taught by all of you.

I am glad the public gets to see more about you, as you have worked very hard to deserve these accolades.

Congratulations!

May you have many more moments of helping others to grow, discover and recover from life’s challenges.

Dr. Robin Norris

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Try to Be an Orange Rhino and Not Yell So Much

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One of my favorite books for real life parenting was written by Shelia McCraith entitled, Yell Less, Love More. Sheila is a mom of four boys that from time to time in order to corral her gaggle would resort to yelling. I was never fully a yeller until I started to hear, “But mom, she’s not…..” After enough rounds in the car or in the house of hearing this and I turn into Grumpy Cat. While it is not at all my children’s responsibility to begin or end my own action of my yelling moments, the concepts of the Orange Rhino mom really come into play.

Sheila mentions that you should not yell at your kids, but occasionally and rarely for your kids. So yelling at my daughters to “Stop Arguing,” in a loud guttural tone is not best but if one were about to be in real danger like the tree branch they are swinging on is about to crack, then yelling is permissible.

The reason I wanted to write about this is because I hear from moms that they are tired of the kids arguing, and that yelling is the only thing that gets them to stop.   It for sure isn’t the only thing, but after enough rounds of your head ringing it’s an innate action that comes to mind and mouth. Even with decades of child development training under my belt and a round working at a preschool at Yale, I too am working on not being as my kids have called me, A Grumpy Cat.

For me it’s trying as best as I can to prepare for the moment. Have I had enough to eat or have I drunk enough water that day? Did I need a 10-minute break somewhere in my day that I never built in because I would just do 1 more thing? Did I encourage the family to stay up later last night because we were all having fun, not reminding myself that when the kids get the sleep they need they are happier in general? These are some of the questions I am in the process of answering at my own home. I would encourage you to create your own list. If you find that you are yelling more than you would like, pick up a copy of Sheila’s book and find some moments to laugh and cry with another mom who has been there.

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Hopefest: Suicide Awareness Panel

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HopeFest 2016

–  by Anthea Isaacs  Marymount University Forensic Psychology Intern

Within smaller communities it is harder to receive information on mental health resources.  That is why in Loudoun County, VA, the first annual Hopefest: Health and Wellness Fair 2016 was held.  The fair included various mental health organizations within the are so the community could learn more about them.  A few centers that took part included Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS), Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice, Windward Optimal Health, and Boulder Crests Retreat for Military & Veteran Wellness.  These organizations and 37 others set up exhibits with information and fun activities for children.  There were also panels, which consisted of mental health professionals, law enforcement, and political influences that provided information on why there is an increased need for mental health awareness.

Guest lecturers discussed drug use within the community, eating disorders, and helping veterans after they returned home.  The suicide awareness and prevention panel which included Suzie Bartel, Dr. Sherry Molock, and Susan McCormick was of most interest to me. Suzie Bartel is the president of the Ryan Bartel foundation created in honor of her 17 year old son that committed suicide two years ago.  Dr. Molock is the director of clinical training in the department of psychology at George Washington University and works with churches to increase the awareness of suicide among teens. A short video that displayed several teens who shared how suicidal thoughts can affect an individual was shown.  Being supportive and listening to people may be way to help prevent a suicide attempt.

Ms. Bartel explained that she started the organization to prevent other parents from going through what she went through.  She explains there may be signs, especially with teens, that adults must pay attention and not dismiss as a phase.  Dr. Molock explained the importance of the church in being more accepting and less condemning of those with suicidal thoughts.  She explained how she works with churches to incorporate more open talks among teens about how they may be feeling.

The group spoke candidly about how parents and others adults could speak to those they believe are considering suicide.  They explained that many who want to talk to those they believe are suicidal, think asking them if they are suicidal will put the thought in their head. It would not. Many do not ask their friends or love ones if they are suicidal because they are afraid they will make them think they are.  Asking an individual if they are suicidal can be helpful to the individual.  It can give them an outlet to express their feelings and not feel alone.  It can be easy it is to hide from family and friends when you don’t feel good.  I have seen how damaging the shock can be to family and loved ones when the choice of suicide has become final.

Teens can take breakups with friends or relationships very hard. Listening to them and being aware of changes in behavior can be helpful in noticing when something is wrong.  Like teens, adults can display a change in behavior when depressed or contemplating suicide.  A common behavior that can be noticed is the giving away of sentimental objects and being withdrawn.  An individual may find a sense of peace when they have decided to commit suicide, which can be confusing for loved ones.  The acceptance of the act seems to create a sense of calm for the individual.  Those who were once irritable can all of a sudden be easygoing once they have decided to commit suicide.

I have seen how depression and the lack of communication can lead to losing someone unexpectedly.  Some conversations can be very hard and sad, but showing a little support can be the difference between someone believing they shouldn’t live or they should receive help.  Losing someone very close to you can be very hard to move on from.  Many do not know how to ask for help and support.  Being aware and there for that individual even if they may not want it could make the difference.  I enjoyed how honest and up front the panelists were about a topic that many are uncomfortable to talk about.  They created an awareness in me that no one should be ignored or left to go through something alone because you never know how hard it is for them.

 

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Back to School

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Well it’s that time of year again. The weather in the morning is starting to be cooler kids are all starting to rustle about school supplies and new to them clothes. As a mom I’m excited and sad all at once. I’m excited because it’s a new opportunity for my daughter to make new friends and to have her try out the skills that she’s been working this summer. I am excited for her and her new venture of first grade but I must say I’m a little sad because I enjoy being with my daughter. She’s a cool kid. I like the way she interacts with her younger sister. Like just last night she dressed her up as a ladybug and then as a butterfly, and then as a baby all the things a toddler likes to be.

My first grader will be gone about 40 hours a week between the buses and the classes. 40 hours is a lot of time.

40 hours to socialize, to sit, to run, to play, to do some more sitting. I can only hope as her mom that the things that she continues to learn from my husband and I are the things that transfer over to school such as, being the kind kid, not the bully. Being the person to reach out to the new person when they may not have any new friends. Being the person to share her things as she has plenty of things. I hope she has challenges and that she learns to fail gracefully and success happily. 40 hours – I will miss her and think about her for most of it.

This summer was a different kind of summer for her. While some of her friends may have been going off to far off places and seeing Disney World, my daughter got to learn what a Staycation looked like. She got to use local pools, go to local parks, learn to cook more, learn to negotiate with her sister, learn to take walks in nature. My student loans for my doctorate are absolutely daunting, so my daughter got the opportunity to learn what it was like to have to make choices and to continue to save up for the things that she thinks someday she might really want.

If I had it to do over again I’m still very glad I have my doctorate. A part of me wishes that the timing didn’t collide while I had my children. That’s the part I can’t do over. The nights that I studied that I can’t get back, the weekends that I wrote, the time I now need to work to pay it all off. I value education very much and am thankful that my first grader has access to a safe, wonderful, fair environment to launch her education with as well. I can’t begin to instill in a first grade girl how neat it is that she has the opportunity to discover whom she is becoming in as much of an equal environment as humanly possible to provide to her.

So that’s how I feel about first grade starting next week. I already know she will not be on the same bus as her best friend. She will not be in the same classroom as the other three kids she knows from last year. I’m going to let that unfold and for her to discover on Friday so that she can see who she can become without me influencing everything. The hardest part is the letting go as our kids grow. I watch and listen to parents sending their students off to college. It is about really remembering we are there for their guidance, we are there for mentoring, we are there to give them boundaries, but really the rest is all theirs not ours. I’m so lucky to be a parent and so lucky to be a parent of two very cool kids.

Happy School Year!

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