The past 30 weeks have flown by and soon you will be here in our arms. You have been so active in my tummy the past few weeks, I can feel you getting stronger everyday. I love knowing that how I fuel my body provides you with the nutrition you need to grow. I love watching my belly stretch as I carry you to full term. You will always be a part of me and I a part of you. I anticipate your arrival with ease and gratitude. I will be mindful of your first breath, and first cry, but you will have the arms of both Dad and me to provide comfort as you embrace this new and scary world. I know you feel safe and cozy in my tummy, but there will be so much to see, hear, smell, touch, and learn. I can't wait for your first few moments. I feel so much more prepared now. We will do our best to soothe you and protect you. And the best part, you have a big sister to look up to. She will teach you how to laugh, roll, and crawl really fast. She will be your best friend, and the one you get to share your childhood with. No matter how much you both fight, annoy, and instigate each other, you will always be part of each other's story. We hope you embrace the life we want for you and that you always remember how much love we have for you! Xoxo
I want to remember the moments of the first few weeks of your life. I want to remember your wide eyed stare as they laid you bundled upon me, so calm and alert. "Welcome to the world," I said in awe and disbelief that you were finally here. I looked up toward your father, who nodded and smiled softly as we named you Isabel Shea. I want to remember our anticipation to see you just a few hours into life and how your dad cheered, "I wanna go see Isabel" with so much joy in his voice. I want to remember how nervous I was to see you in the warmer in the nicu, but how instinctually you melted in my arms and latched on to feed for the first time. With closed eyes, I felt like you knew I was yours. I couldn't believe you were mine.
That first week Daddy spoke about your sweet smell on him and hoped it would never fade away. I kept watching him watch you, so in awe, and so in love. I didn't know I could love him more than I already do until I saw the way he looked at you. I'll never forget when he started humming "Oh pretty baby" and how right that fit since we couldn't take our eyes off you.
I lay with you now and my eyes well up with tears of how much emotion my heart can hold. I love when you curl into a ball and fall asleep on my chest. I love when you dream and the expressions your face makes, all the smiles and smirks. I love kissing your head and breathing your sweet baby smell. I love your warmth and coziness as your body snuggles up to mine. I love seeing your eyes open and stare so innocently and curiously at us. I anticipate all these first moments you will have this year, that we get to witness, your father and I. I will be mindful of each first Oh how I adore our little family of three.
Thank you for your service President Obama! I appreciate the work you did to help those in poverty who struggle with addiction, mental health, cognitive limitations, etc. Those who I have personally witnessed are unable to help themselves and need assistance to obtain insurance, treatment, and other resources. Without help, they would have just given up. Thank you for reshaping the LBGTQ community, for having the American people think about being politically correct before we speak, and reminding all us of humanity so we can see everyone as our brother or sister instead of divided by race, religion, country, gender, etc. I have learned to go outside my own perspective to take a glimpse of another's perspective. I have learned to use my voice to stand for those whose voice is not heard. I have learned to listen to both sides of a debate and to empathize before taking a personal stance of either side. With that being said, I embrace what President elect Trump has to offer to the American people and will take this era to focus more on the middle class and my family to make sure we are taken care of and that our future is protected. I will continue my work on the side and address every individual's needs with empathy, yet with instilling boundaries, and address every issue with thought and patience. I will challenge myself to be a better version of me and continue to teach others to be a better version of themselves. Today as I watch the Inauguration, I feel hopeful, humble, and blessed. We all have a purpose in this life whether in our work, family, and/or community to make an impact and perpetuate change, but we have to commit to doing it together! Interdependence will make America great again!
I can't wait for the 2am feedings, the hundred of diapers to change, and the painful breastfeeding. I can't wait for the uncontrollable crying and our endless attempts to figure out how to meet your needs. I can't wait for being deprived of sleep, and the overwhelming boredom that will come when we are stuck inside this winter. I can't wait to feel like I have no clue what I'm doing and the weight of knowing we are solely responsible for your life. I can't wait for the money we will spend and for the structure of our lives to be uprooted. I can't wait to be physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and anticipate pushing myself to a limit that I never have before. I welcome the interruption and embrace all the things that will come with your arrival because your presence in our lives will be worth more than any sacrifice we will have to make. So I will remind myself everyday that this too shall pass and find the special moments when you are sleeping peacefully, or hold our finger, or smile for the first time. Be prepared I'm going to be an emotional mess in the beginning, but daddy will be your rock. We will do whatever we have to do to keep you safe, loved, and protected. You are our baby girl and I want you to know that I knew I loved you before I met you. xoxo
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humanity as, "the quality or state of being human". It also defines humanity as "the quality or state of being humane". For me being humane suggests kindness, goodwill, and compassion for others. It is the feeling of warmth I feel when someone pays it forward, or shows a random act of kindness to a stranger. It is the feeling of pride I feel when a community comes together to rebuild after a storm or to honor lives lost through a candlelight vigil.
There are many moments that touch our lives, and when we allow ourselves to hold on to these moments and search for more, we radiate goodness to shadow over the fear, the anger, the hate. When we contribute to daily acts of kindness, we emit positive energy to flow through others. When we listen to needs of another human being, regardless if those needs are similar to our own, we have the ability see the world as they see it. We have the ability to understand that anger can be a mask for pain, fear, or insecurity. We have the ability to recognize that we do not have to agree, but can accept where another is coming from. We do not have to react or even respond, nor do we have to form an opinion, or place judgement. Allowing ourselves to sit with our emotions, instead of reacting to them requires observance of own thoughts, self talk, and patience. It requires self discipline especially when we feel that knot in our stomach that makes it feel personal. I say this with the hope that during tragedy and suffering, we can shift our focus from blame and judgment to find the power of goodness within our humanity. We all need to feel pain and allow it to run through us just as blood runs through our veins. When we shield the pain with anger and blame, we do not allow ourselves to grieve, we do not move forward to heal, we stay stuck, numb, and limited in our growth. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to soak in pain, acknowledge our powerlessness, and find acceptance, our strength will be limitless.
We learn about history in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of our past. This includes expanding human insight. We need to see the humanity behind every individual of every race, religion, and culture. We need to see the humanity behind every label such as a criminal, addict, mentally ill, sociopath, psychopath, homosexual, transsexual, transient, terrorist, etc. We need to do this to see the person behind the label, to de-stigmatize certain labels, to separate behavior from character, to separate illness from character, and to separate individual from the whole. When it comes to a person who initiates hostilities, we need to understand the motivation behind that person's thoughts and actions in order to de-escalate a situation, defuse plans, capture and detain, and prevent future violence and crime. In order to protect as many innocent lives as possible, I repeat, we need to understand the motivation behind the individual which means seeing them as a human being and to avoid classifying to a certain group. If we can change our perspective, we can prevent others who are vulnerable to being targeted as aggressors, we can stop alienating each other based on superficial remarks, and we can role model for our children what humanity really means.
With the opiate epidemic rapidly hijacking the lives of our twenty something year olds and parents and families seeking for strategies or solutions to help guide the next generation of youth, these are prevention strategies for all adults involved in the lives of our children, teens, and young adults. Whether a parent or guardian or another family member, teacher, or coach. We are all responsible to shape the lives of our youth.
Teaching our youth to value their lives. This could be about teaching how fragile the body and brain is and the lengths we have to go to take care of ourselves. This could be about the permanence of death and reminding that we are not invincible. They will continue to believe they are invincible, but showing them ways they are not will give them a different perspective to reflect back on.
Talking about anxiety and fears. Listening to the situations that make them feel anxious, uncomfortable, or shy, and validating those feelings. They are experiencing everything for the first time and what may seem silly to us, could be the biggest thing in the world to them. Talking out loud about our own fears and anxieties and showing them that even as adults we face them. Then showing alternative ways to handle them without having a drink or taking a pill. Remember they watch everything adults do, so role model behavior that we want instilled in them.
Increasing their self-esteem and confidence. Reflecting on things they do well, thanking them for helping out around the house or going above and beyond for someone else, reminding them of their strengths, encouraging them to state their own strengths, challenging them to do things that are scary or new, or encouraging mastery at a particular skill. This can also include teaching them to talk to adults with direct eye contact, having them ask for things directly without doing it on their behalf, and not apologizing for them or any bad behavior. Lastly, speaking to them as a person first and separating their actions from their character. We are not defined by the decisions we make.
Autonomy and independence. Letting them make more decisions on their own even if we disagree. Openly talking about the outcome of those decisions whether or not it was a positive or negative outcome. There will be social consequences they have to experience on their own to learn from their decision making. Saying no or what not to do, does not teach them the skill to learn for themselves.
Passion driven activities, goals, and values. Encouraging our youth to be involved in various activities including sports, art, music, and volunteer work gives them purpose. Helping them to find something to become passionate about or to work towards keeps them driven. This way if any person or substance is interfering with their goals, they have a better chance of seeing how their goal is being jeopardized. Too much down time keeps us complacent. Meanwhile, paying attention to their competitiveness, how they cope with losses, and the level of expectations they place on themselves to succeed could be a strength or a risk factor. Open communication about how they handle life on life’s terms is important.
Boundaries and effective communication. Setting consistent boundaries with realistic consequences. It is not the severity of the consequences, it’s the immediacy and ability to follow through with it. Holding them accountable until they are able to hold themselves accountable. This does not mean being strict, it mean enforcing the boundaries that are set which are two different things. Also, discussing poor decision making is much more effective instead of immediately punishing. Finding out what is driving the decisions and what they need to make better decisions will go a long way with building character.
Refusal skills and extraditing from risky situations. Teaching them skills to feel comfortable to say no with confidence. Understanding the social pressures and wanting to fit in and teaching them other ways to fit in besides drinking, smoking, using drugs or engaging in sexual activity. Talking with them about these things at an early age so they feel comfortable talking to any adult about a decision that might be risky. Teaching them to think through their decisions before acting on them. Finding alternative ways to remove themselves from situations without embarrassment.
Avoid minimizing or justifying. There is a misconception among many adults that because we drank or experimented with drugs when we were young, we are hypocrites if we tell our children not to. This thinking promotes minimizing and justifying on our part. We learn from our life experiences and share those experiences with others. The adult brain is not fully developed until 25 years old, so anything that teens or young adults learn from others has to be repeated and consistently enforced. If they are caught drinking, smoking marijuana, or using any drugs at our homes, in our cars, or at school there has to be some consequences so they do not learn to minimize or justify the use. The consequence has to be immediate and every time so they associate the use with something negative. While it may be a less harmful substance, the thought process carries over when they use other drugs. They see their friends they trust sniffing cocaine or taking a Percocet to get high with no consequences and they want to experience the same positive effect. They will minimize and justify it because they trust their friend or it’s a manufactured pill, but there will always be “a because” if we do not interrupt the thought process.
Taking action when there are concerns. If substance use is suspected in the home, we should not be tiptoeing around hoping the concern will go away. If we suspect something, we should take action by searching through the child’s room or car even if they are over 18 years old. They do not own the home and privacy is earned. So if they are going to use substances and risk their lives and the lives of their family members, then they lost the privilege to privacy. Meanwhile, do not assume because children were raised well, are smart, or educated that they will always make the right decisions. If we intervene at the right time we might be able to influence their thought process before the drugs hijack their brain. Remember that all children value the approval and acceptance of their role models. If the drug use has progressed to addiction and they need formal treatment and recovery support, we will also take any necessary actions to connect them with services. It is never a bad idea at any point to take a teen or young adult to an open 12 step meeting so they can hear the stories of others who started using at the age they are now. We can maintain our love and support for our child during their struggle, but we can’t overcome this for them. It is also encouraged to explore al-anon, nar-anon, or families anonymous for ourselves. Meanwhile, as our child learns and grows, we have to learn and grow independently to improve our boundaries and communication with them moving forward. Reminding them of our unconditional love and support is essential to motivating them make any necessary changes to improve their lives.
When someone shares with us their fears and struggles are we really listening? When children talk to us about what is important to them, are we trying to see the world from their eyes? Are we giving our undivided attention, by making eye contact and hearing the words someone is expressing or are we in our own head preoccupied about how this relates to us or wondering what advice we be giving back?
Have you ever felt that you weren't being heard by someone? Have you ever felt dismissed by someone or underappreciated? Did you ever find the conversation switched to being about them?
For a long time, I thought that in order to build a rapport with someone or validate what they are going through, I had to devote an extended period of time to help them. I'm learning now to start with 10 minutes. Within those 10 minutes I can give my attention to what the person is thinking and feeling then validate them. I just have to be present in their world and disregard any thoughts that might relate to my own personal experience. It isn't about me, it's about them. It shouldn't matter if I have been through something similar or not, we all handle life differently. Whether they are handling the situation right or wrong, reacting with or without emotion is not the issue, it's acknowledging the fact that this situation is having an effect on them and they need help navigating their own thoughts and feelings in order to move through their initial reaction to it. If we dismiss someone because we perceive them as overreacting (especially with children), then they never learn the skills to change their reaction, self sooth, or brainstorm potential solutions. This can lead to someone accepting they just do not have a voice, feeling inadequate, or undermining their own ability to be resilient. All it takes is 10 minutes to let someone feel they are being heard.
Anyone can become a active listener, you do not need a degree in counseling or psychology to implement effective communication skills. The most basic piece is to be 100% present in the conversation and listen to the words of the person who is speaking. If your thoughts start to wander about anything other than the conversation then you are allowing yourself to become distracted and invalidating what the person is going through. They might assume, "What I am saying is not important" which becomes a fact in their mind. To get involved in the conversation you can reflect back to them statements they said such as "Your coworkers ignored you all day, that must have been difficult" or "It sounds like you handled a lot today" or "I can not imagine how you were able to accomplish what you did despite...". If you reflect back a piece of what someone is saying they know you are listening and if you empathize with how they might be feeling because of what they went through then their feelings are validated. You can identify how a person might have been feeling by the tone in their voice, or pace of their speech. "It sounds frustrating..." or "It must have been really overwhelming" or "The pressure you are under seems exhausting". These assumptions do not have to be exact and the if the person was experiencing a different emotion they will let you know. "Overwhelming, are you kidding, I was beyond overwhelmed, felt like a full on panic attack!" Then letting them know that they handled the difficult situation as best as they could have given the circumstances will be enough to know they are being heard.
Keep in mind most times people are not looking for opinions, suggestions or answers, they just want someone to validate what they are going through. If they ask for help, it is then okay to offer them a few suggestions or ask them how they usually handle a situation like this one. Many times we encounter similar reactions to intense situations and might feel anxiety, stress, irritation or sadness and because our emotions are so present, we forget how we were able to handle a situation that made us feel the same way in the past. Reminding people of their strengths or resiliencies will help them independently solve or get through whatever the situation is. This is great building skills for children, helping them to problem solve their own frustrations will teach them skills that many adults have yet to figure out how to manage. Lastly, pointing out someone's ability to handle a situation even when they are not upset is validating and rewarding as well. It is encouraging to hear once in a while that someone has noticed how well we are managing our jobs, or taking care of things around the house. It keeps us motivated, brightens are day, and many times we pay the compliment forward to someone else who deserves to hear words of encouragement!
Keep in mind, it only takes 10 seconds to pay someone a compliment and all we need is 10 minutes to listen and let someone know that what they are saying is important and heard!
Recovery is anything that we do to help improve our physical, mental, or emotional health. This could include but is not limited to walking, maintaining a healthy diet, taking vitamins, getting more sleep, social interactions, group counseling, cardio, yoga, taking breaks, reading, volunteering, community involvement, yard work, individual counseling, medication, self-help meetings, 12 step meetings, daily meditations, church or religious involvement, self-awareness, stretching, laughing, making new friends, self-talk, positive affirmations, sponsorship, speaking commitments, cooking, playing with kids, coaching, talking, smiling, hiking, biking, etc.
When we think about trying something new, it's exciting and scary at the same time, but if we feel that it will add value to our lives we embrace it. Engaging in activities that improve our sense of well being, our mood, our outlook on life, and our relationships leads to hope, optimism, and empowerment. We can make changes in our lives in order to live healthier, balance our lives more productively, and to live more mindfully. We can also make changes in order to heal or gain strength from an illness, loss, or disability.
We as a society need to start embracing recovery regardless of the cause that led the person to seek a change. We are uncomfortable with suffering, pain, illness, death and we avoid sitting with these feelings and try to start the healing process too soon. We also begin to associate disease, loss, limitations with negative connotations and judgment including weakness, disgust, superiority. This stigma prevents people from reaching out for help, seeking treatment, and taking care of themselves. This happens when a person does not want to perceive themselves as weak, helpless, or inferior and they suffer in silence instead of giving themselves the opportunity to experience the positivity that will eventually come with recovery.
Our perspective of this person also begins to change and we end up defining them based on their illness instead of the person they are. When a person is struggling with or recovering from cancer, psychiatric illness, obesity, addiction, postpartum, grief and loss, trauma, a separation or divorce, job loss, or any infliction, there can be feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, shame, disgust, fear, grief all intertwined to cause crippling pain for the person and their loved ones. Empathizing with what the person might be going through is much more supportive and validating than offering your sympathy. Noticing and reminding the person of their strengths and resiliencies will not only give them hope, but will also remind us that they are a person first. This person is suffering from.....This person is struggling with.....This person is affected by.... Lastly, learning to sit with one's pain, although uncomfortable is a teaching moment. It teaches us to accept the realistic fate that life is unfair and that we will all encounter pain throughout our lives, but by enduring it, by allowing it to soak in and consume us momentarily, it will allow us to heal naturally. We will be able to see with physical illness comes emotional strength, from emotional suffering comes hope, from mental exhaustion comes peace. Through acceptance and surrendering to life as it is, it will free us from negativity and allow us to let go of the judgment of others which in turn will permit us to stop judging ourselves. When we feel most comfortable with ourselves regardless of the situation, that defines character worth building upon and there is no weakness in that.
Recovery is embracing pain so that the healing process can begin.
Recovery is a new beginning.
Recovery is a promise to one's self that it's never too late to take a different path.
Recovery is empowerment.
Recovery is light in a world of darkness.
I spend a lot of time and energy as an addiction counselor trying to empower others to change the direction of their lives, but rarely do I get the opportunity to feel empowered by the actions of others.
Although the USWNT was ranked #2 and there was talk about them having the potential to make it to the finals and win the world cup, they were the underdog in so many ways. Soccer has never been a marketable sport in the US, however in many countries around the world it is the only sport that matters. Meanwhile, women’s soccer has been undervalued for years with minimal televised broadcasting, limited athletic endorsements, and no financial profit for the players. Prior to flying out for the World Cup finals, I went to 6 different stores around New Jersey for USWNT apparel and was dismayed to find nothing. I had to order shirts online which luckily arrived the day before we left for Vancouver. We all know that if your favorite team made it to the Superbowl or World Series, the stores would be flooding with merchandise, but why not soccer; especially considering the fact that this is our national team representing our country!
Well with all the drawbacks these women were faced with they identified their barriers and challenged themselves to run right through them. They worked as a team throughout the entire world cup to achieve something that others doubted they could, then dominated in the final game and showed the world what they were really capable of. Not only did they have to condition themselves physically, but mentally they had to be tough and not only visualize their objective, but not allow any distracting negativity to derail them from their goal which in their case was 5 goals. This is something that we should all learn from them because we allow external negative stressors to dictate our lives in so many ways. It doesn’t matter if I am working with a client, speaking to a friend, visiting a family member, or working with a colleague our biggest challenge in life is when we stand in front of ourselves. We believe that the actions of others cause our reactions or give us stress, but it’s the thoughts in our head that direct us, control us, derail us. We have the opportunity to change the direction of our lives at anytime, we may need a little help from others, but we have to stop being so independent and learn to ask for help. We have to surrender ourselves to the power of interdependence which is collaboration multiple individuals relying on each other. This team represents interdependence and it is something that we should all strive for because with it we have the opportunity to feel more relaxed while being more productive, to live optimistically and with positive energy, and to empower others to live that way to. So thank you to the 23 members of the US women’s national team for being the inspiration that we as Americans need to change the course of our lives. I believe this victory can be the turning point for women’s soccer because the value behind what you women do every day is priceless and should be noticed, and broadcasted nationally.