Dec 30th, 2011 by Tia

Holidays are stressful!!! Whether your family celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or just enjoys getting together, holiday times are joyful, stressful and at times, even extra-pounds producing. We work for weeks, even months to prepare an enjoyable time for our family. Whether we like it or not, that work comes with a set of expectations for how the get-together should unfold. Likely as not, we may all have a different set of expectations for the same event. Sharing our expectations with each other ahead of the event can often help de-escalate situations where someone is disappointed. Keeping our expectations in proportion with our family history, the time we have to spend together and everyone else’s schedules, etc. can also help us to be more realistic. If your family has had big disagreements over politics, religion, etc., in the past, then getting everyone to agree not to discuss these issues might help prevent a holiday meltdown.

Most of the time, there are no major meltdowns to contend with (unless you count the preschoolers who are up way past their bedtimes and excited for gift openings). Most of the time, we all get together to share whatever time our schedules allow, to enjoy some good food and maybe to share some gifts, that hopefully we have planned ahead to be able to afford. And, it really is true, no matter what your teenager says, that the best gift of all is just to be able to spend some quality time together.

So, let your holiday expectations be reasonable, your outlook be positive and your schedule light enough to be able to really talk to those that you love. Here’s looking forward to a Happy Healthy and Fun New Year for 2012!

Not So Brief Pause
Nov 29th, 2011 by Tia

Hello Readers. I apologize for being away from my posts for so long. I have been down and out with a lung infection that, thankfully, seems to have finally resolved. Thank you to all our patient readers and those who have inquired about wanting new posts. I will be resuming topic postings within a couple of days. Thanks for reading and thanks for the inquiries.

In the Pink! Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Oct 18th, 2011 by Tia

Pink! It’s everywhere this month to remind us of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. From the pink of the NFL players’ shoes and the proliferation of pink products in the stores to the Awareness walks all over the country, it is hard not to realize that this month is a special one in the lives of those affected by breast cancer.

Today’s topic will be a little bit different than usual, but it will still be an important part of “Awareness” ! One area of early detection that is essential for women is breast self exam.   (And also for men — it’s not often talked about, but men can develop breast cancer too. My neighbor’s husband died from male breast cancer that was detected too late for successful treatment.)  I cannot stress the importance of this enough, because my own breast cancer was not detected by mammogram. I found the lump myself during my own monthly self exam. Because I had previously been diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease early in my 20’s, it became essential for me to be able to recognize the changes from month to month in order to know what might need a biopsy.After years of self exams, I knew immediately that this lump was different. Unfortunately, I was right, and it turned out to be cancer. But my self screening allowed me to find it in the early stages, which turned out to be a real blessing because it was a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer and a delay in diagnosis could have made for a much poorer prognosis and outcome. And, here I am today, more than 10 years later, well and cancer free.

After I was diagnosed and was in treatment, I started a support group for younger women coping with breast cancer while raising families. I was surprised how many younger women found their cancer through their regular breast exams, not traditional mammogram screening, because many had not yet reached the age that mammograms were suggested. These self exams saved all of their lives. When we consider that 1 in every 8 women will have breast cancer in their lifetime, it really brings home the necessity to become familiar with our own bodies and to take note of any changes and bring these up to our doctors for further testing. Early detection saves lives!

If you do not know how to do a breast self exam, go to the website of the American Cancer Society and follow the simple instructions. And then, do it the same part of the month every month after that! With knowledge, we become stronger, and when we are strong, we can fight anything. Tell your sisters, your friends, your mother, your daughters. Know your own body. Save your own life.

RSS Feed
Oct 18th, 2011 by Tia

Hello to all my fellow Blog followers! We finally got our RSS feed set up so you can follow any new posts that may come up without first having to check daily at our website. Just click on the “RSS Feed” button to subscribe to the Blog! Thanks to all of you who are sending in your comments and questions.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Oct 14th, 2011 by Tia

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  As an 11 year breast cancer survivor, I wanted to post some of my own thoughts regarding this important topic.

I was watching a news program this morning and heard Martina McBride sing a song from her new album entitled “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”. It is the tender story of a 38 year old mother of 3 who discovers she has breast cancer.  The song tells of the difficulties that she faced during her battle with cancer and how her husband was there every step of the way to “Love Her Through It”. It is a tender and beautiful song and if you haven’t yet heard it, I would definitely suggest it as an inspiring song to download.

The song reminded me so much of my own personal battle with the disease of breast cancer.   The ups and downs of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and 5 more years of daily medication to try to prevent a re-occurrence.  I was so lucky to have a partner and friends to be there every day to help “Love Me Through It”.  Without their help, I would not have been able to work full time during my recovery and treatment process.  Because I had very little paid medical leave left and couldn’t afford to take unpaid leave, it was necessary for me to work throughout my recovery. Because I was too weak to drive, my partner drove me to and from work every day for over two months.  My partner did all of the household chores, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. during this time.  I was “Loved Through It”.

My employer let me work a flexible schedule to arrange my chemotherapy.   Every three weeks I spent Thursday afternoons in the chemo unit of the hospital so that I could spend Friday through Sunday staying in bed to recover from the side effects that make you feel so sick. My boss also allowed me to stay later at night so that I could nap during an extended lunch hour in order to to be physically able to work a full day. One of my co-workers arranged to have a recliner delivered to my office so that I would have a convenient place to take those necessary naps.  After chemo was finished, daily radiation treatments started.  For many months, I was allowed to come in a half hour late so I could have the first appointment of the day on my way to work and then work a half hour late so that I wouldn’t have to leave work to make the extra trip across town to get radiation.  I was “Loved Through It”.

One of my co-workers, who was a close friend, helped me every single day by making sure that I didn’t book too heavy a schedule at work, by fielding calls that she could handle when I had to nap, by bringing lunch to my office so I didn’t have to expend energy walking to the next building for the cafeteria, bringing me flowers from her garden from time to time, and so much more. Other friends brought meals to our home so I wouldn’t have to cook, did grocery shopping, stopped to visit for short periods of time, or just prayed for me.  Friends and family from afar sent cards and care packages and phoned in their good wishes for my recovery. These and all the other kind things that people did for me while I was battling a life-threatening illness made all the difference in the world to me.  They gave me HOPE for a brighter future — free of pain, free of fear, free of cancer.  They “Loved Me Through It”.

I am happy to report that more than 10 years after that experience, I am still free of pain, free of fear, and free of cancer.  I believe with all my heart that my positive outlook helped me deal with all of those things during treatment and contributed to my recovery.  And my positive outlook was made possible through the love and support of my friends and family.  Almost all of us have been touched by breast cancer in some way — ourselves, our mother, sister, aunt, friends.  This month, for Breast Cancer Awareness and for breast cancer survivors everywhere, reach out yourself to help just one person that you know is going through their own battle.  There is probably someone you know right now who is fighting this disease or perhaps you know their family or friends.  Reach out to support those who support the person battling cancer. They need your time, energy and support too.  Thank you from me, from all those who are dealing with this deadly disease, and from their friends and family who love them. Thank you for HOPE!  Thank you for “Loving Them Through It”.

Making a Change, Starting Over, Moving On
Oct 10th, 2011 by Tia

Making a change, starting over, moving on.  No matter what you call it, a physical move to a new place to live is exciting, exhausting, scary, and filled with possibilities. Sometimes we look at it with trepidation and sometimes with enthusiasm and anticipation.  But there is one factor that we always have when we physically pack up all our belongings and transport them and ourselves into our new surroundings — HOPE.  We are hopeful that we will be happy in our new place. We are hopeful that our kids will like their new school and find friends, that we will find neighbors that we could count on in an emergency, that all our “stuff” will fit into the new place in a cozy manner. We have HOPE that everything will be better — or at least that we will be all right.

In the past, when a move was anticipated, it was often that we felt like we were moving “up” in the world.  Up — to a nicer apartment, a bigger house, a better neighborhood.  Today, we find that many of us are making more lateral moves — moving to a “different” apartment, perhaps downsizing to a smaller house, perhaps even moving because a home has been foreclosed or is being sold in a “short sale”.  And yet, we still find the same component: HOPE.  Hope that this apartment will have a better landlord, that this house will be affordable for us and reduce our monthly expenses, hope that we will be able to make our housing dreams come true sometime in the future.

Last week I was unable to post anything new to the Blog because I was actually away from work to help my daughter move to a new apartment.  W cleaned and packed up her belongings and scrubbed and packed my 5 year old grandchild’s roomful of toys and books.  As we sorted and packed, I noticed what a wonderful time moving is to get rid of what is broken, what has outlived its usefulness, or what no longer fits in our current stage of life.  Sometimes that’s an easy thing to do — no one minds packing up things for Goodwill that are too big after a successful weight loss program or recycling outgrown toys.  Other times, it can bring up emotional memories of happy days long gone by, such as photos from a marriage when the whole family was all together in one house.  We sorted through the accumulation of her worldly goods and made choices about what to let go of and what to keep to bring to the new home where she and my grandson would start the next phase of their lives together.  A new start for both of them as they explore a new neighborhood, a new school and new friends waiting to be met.

As we sorted things into boxes to keep, donate or trash, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much this reminds me of our “emotional belongings” that we need to sort through when we are making an emotional “new start”.  Whether it’s moving on after a relationship break-up, beginning a new career, or even just starting a healthier lifestyle, we go through somewhat the same process.  We take with us the feelings, habits, or even relationships with people that help us grow and thrive and we let go of the ones that bring us down or hold us back.  We “trash” the activities and toxic situations that keep us from being our true happy selves and we take with us those activities and people that support us, that keep us going when times get tough, that allow us to be our best.

Fall is a great time to sort out our “stuff” — both literally and figuratively.  Cleaning the closets of our life brings us to a place where we feel lighter, less dragged down by the possessions, activities and feelings that we don’t need.  It’s a great time to weed out those things that clutter our lives with bad feelings and to replace them what helps us reach our true potential for contentment and happiness. Write in and share with us some of your sorting/keeping strategies as you make new beginnings of your own.

A Change of Habit
Sep 19th, 2011 by Tia

For many years,  I have been trying to break the bad habit of biting my fingernails.  Imagining how nice they would look if they were long and polished didn’t help.  Obsessing about all the germs that are on things that your hands touch didn’t help.  I even tried putting awful tasting stuff on my fingernails.  But the strong compulsion to pick at raggedy cuticles or bite off rough or torn nails when I felt anxious or bored was just too strong.  Until recently!

One day, a few months ago, I just decided that I was no longer a nail biter.  It was a time when some negative things in my own life were beyond my control.  I needed to remember that even when there are things happening in our lives that we cannot change, there are always others that are within our control.  For me, it was time to stop being a nail-biter!  So, I did.  I quit strategizing, quit wishing, quit trying to change my thinking, quit grossing myself out. I also quit biting my nails.

I have no idea, really, why it worked this time, but I think it all started with getting my first pedicure.  Things had been so hectic lately, it was summer sandals time and EVERYBODY knows that you can’t wear sandals without polishing your toenails (Ladies — you know I speak the truth!).  So, I decided to treat myself to my first pedicure because I had heard that it was a delightfully relaxing experience.  And, it WAS!  I was so happy with my time at the nail salon and how nice my feet looked, that I decided right then and there that I wanted my fingernails to look that great, too. And since that day, I am no longer a nail biter.

Why did it work this time when I had failed so many times before? Who knows? Maybe I was finally ready.  Maybe it was the issue of needing some semblance of control in my life.  Or maybe it was just the realization that I am worth spending the small amount of money on myself for an occasional manicure.  Whatever it was, it has inspired me to try to accomplish other things that I thought were not possible for me to do.  Like starting this blog.

What changes have YOU been putting off because you felt like they were impossible for you?  Bad habits that you have wanted to reduce or eliminate?  Quitting smoking?  Eating healthier?  Stop being late?  Not every habit is easy to “just decide” to stop doing.  However, making that decision IS integral to change. At some point, we have to decide that we are WORTH the change, no matter how hard.  Then and only then, can we make plans to help reduce our barriers to success.  We can decide what will work for us, enlist the support of our friends, and come up with some small ongoing rewards for our changed behaviors.  If we slip, we get back on our plan the very next minute — we don’t wait for the next day.   And……. most important of all…… we just keep at it.  Change doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, effort and ongoing commitment.  Write in and tell us about YOUR OWN successful changes and what was helpful to you — we all need all the support we can get!

Fall Changes
Sep 13th, 2011 by Tia

The leaves may not be changing colors yet, but there is no mistaking that this week we all realized that Fall is once again upon us!  School is in full swing, the football season has officially started (NFL Opener held in our own Green Bay, WI last week), and the stores are already stocked with Halloween items!

The beginning of Fall always signals changes for our families.  For some, it is their little ones going off to Kindergarten for the first time.  For others, it’s their teen or tween starting high school or middle school and all the challenges that this can bring.  For those of us with older children, it can mean sending our nearly-grown children off on their own to college, to study overseas, or even to start a new job in another city or state.

Change.  While it can be exciting at times, it can also be very frightening.  With our younger ones, we can start the day off  for them with words and hugs of encouragement and be there to hear all about their day when we/they get home.  Even when they get older and respond “Nothing” to the question of “what did you do at school today?”, it is still somehow reassuring to us just to be there to ask.  When they are away at college, there are many days when we wish that we could be there to ask the same old questions and to offer those encouraging words.  No matter how much we might wish it, they aren’t our little kids any more — they belong a little more to the world out there — and it is scary and lonely for us at times.  We miss the sound of their too-loud laugh, their feet tromping up the stairs, waiting for our turn in the bathroom in the morning, even the seemingly constant sounds of video games from a room or two away.

As parents, we are most comfortable when we have our children near to us.  Our protective instincts were  kicked into high gear as we helped them shop for what to take with them, get their cars serviced, set up checking accounts and credit cards, and helped with moving.  But we wonder, “have I prepared them enough for life outside the safety of my home? Will they be OK?  What if they can’t keep up with their school work or study in the dorm?  What if they run into situations they can’t handle or make bad decisions?”

If you or your family are coping with children who have gone off into the world — even on a temporary basis — here are some words of comfort, encouragement and maybe even a little wisdom from some of us who have gone down this road before:

  1. Give yourself a pat on the back!  You have spent 18 or more years modeling for them the kind of person you want them to become!  They pretty much know what you expect of them and you have given them a firm foundation for making decisions in this next phase of their life.
  2. Know that they will make some mistakes.  But, like most young people, they will be small ones and they will learn something from them.  And, just like always, let them  know that you will be there to help them pick themselves up if they stumble.
  3. Give them some space!  We want them to know that we miss them, but we don’t want them to feel responsible for our sadness when they are gone. As they make friends,  have to spend more time on studies and get involved in campus activities or work, they will have less time to talk by phone or email us.  Encourage them to stay in touch by text every few days when they get busy.  Even a  short text message of  “studying for my Intro to Psych exam” gives us a mental picture of their day and helps us to connect.
  4. Don’t expect that your child who left in August will be the same one who comes home for Thanksgiving.  Your college student will have  been making his/her own decisions and setting their own schedules for 3 months before they spend that long week end at home.  So, talk with him/her about what activities the family has planned  that you want them to attend and when they are free to make plans with their friends, so that everyone knows what to expect.  He/she may express new ideas or interests  that you have not heard them talk about before (and some of which may concern you a bit) but remember that they are “trying on” new ideas and viewpoints and that  these may change again even before they come back for semester break.
  5.  Have faith in your child and love them.  Just like that first day of Kindergarten, when you realized for the first time that they were not just “yours” anymore, this part of  their lives will bring great growth and experiences for them.  Share them with the world and encourage them to share their world with you.
  6. Don’t forget to embrace your own new journey.  There is a definite void when our young adults leave home, even if we still have other children at home negotiating for their spots as “oldest” and perhaps even for those newly vacated rooms.  When the dust settles on the changes that result from a child moving on to the  next phase of their lives, we can explore our own next phases as parents of young adults.  For some of us, this may mean starting a new career, having more time to  split between remaining children’s activities, taking up a new interest or just finding more time to enjoy our friends and family.

Changes.  The beginning of a new season.  The beginning of new growth opportunities.  The continuance of a full and meaningful life.


Lentils and the Dalai Lama
Sep 7th, 2011 by Tia

Lighthouse near Sturgeon BayToday we have a guest blogger, Ellen Larson, Human Resources Director for Innovative Counseling.  Ellen writes:

“It was Labor Day weekend and I had the great pleasure of attending a baby shower given for a former employee of Innovative Counseling. The day was lovely and I was delighted that the shower activity was actually a cruise on the Bay!!  We boarded the Harbor Lady for a high noon launch. Lots of chatter, pizza, cake and a mountain of gifts. I could hardly hear the cruise captain announcing the sites over the chatter,  but I did see a very interesting old light house.

The father-to-be grew up in Nepal —  I have heard stories of his childhood and seen photos.   I am again reminded as I recall his story that many of us live in great abundance compared to other parts of the world.  He was absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity of the guests and it was quite amazing to him that the hostess planned the party from out of state and flew in to attend.

A highlight of the day turned out to be the party favors — the little gift each guest takes home to remember the fun times.  The party favors… a baby food jar filled with lentils to honor the family’s vegetarian lifestyle. Attached to each jar with a colorful ribbon was a note labeled ‘Dalai Lama’s Instructions for Life’… I hadn’t read them before and I really like them. For instance: “Open your arms to change,  but don’t let go of your values.“

Go ahead—Google it. Worth reading even though SNOPES website says the Dalai Lama was not the author! Ha Ha.”

As we cope with the many changes in our lives that the month of September brings, let’s try to listen to the wisdom of that phase, no matter to whom it is attributed — keep our  arms open to change but not let go of our values!


Talking to Your Child’s Teacher about his/her Special Needs
Aug 31st, 2011 by Tia

Last night was “meet your new teacher” night at school. I arrived after work so I was afraid that the teacher would be swamped with parents and new students, but to my surprise, we were the only ones there. After filling out forms and the New Student picking out a desk, there was still time to talk one-to-one with the teacher while New Student played with all the exciting new toys in the room. As every parent knows, 1:1 time with your child’s teacher is precious, so I took the opportunity to ask her “What information about New Student would be helpful to you for the coming year?” Teachers are pleasantly surprised when you come prepared, so I took out my handy dandy list of Tips for Helping My Child Achieve at School, which I had previously compiled during one of the few quiet moments of the past busy month. Since I am a veteran parent, I know that when a teacher has met with 25 new students and their parents and heard all about each of them, they understandably have a hard time sorting it all out  to put that info to use when a difficult situation arises. As parents, we can partner with our child’s teachers to give them useful information before this happens, so they can be better prepared. Some important areas you might want to list are your child’s strengths, special situations of difficulty for him/her, some good motivators that have worked in the past, along with any coping skills you or your child uses to soothe themselves when frustrated or upset. If your child has full-scale “melt-downs” due to problems with ADHD or mood disorders, inform the teacher how to “read the signs” that one may be coming and give him/her some tips of how to intervene BEFORE things get out of control.

You may be wondering, “How MUCH should I tell my child’s teacher, especially if he/she has a mental health diagnosis. Am I turning him/her into a label, instead of my wonderful individual special child?” If you are uncomfortable talking about your child in terms of a diagnosis, then simply address the child’s behaviors that make things difficult for him/her in a school setting. After all, the teacher could care less what label another professional uses to address your child’s behaviors. It’s the actual behaviors and what to do about them that the teacher cares about — how can they help your child achieve the most while they are in the classroom.

So, armed with your lists of helpful hints, go out there and schedule some 1:1 time with your child’s teacher early in the school year — don’t wait for a negative situation to arise. Oh, and by the way, my teacher friends told me to pass another tip along to everyone. Don’t try to catch the teacher just before school begins or just after it ends because they are busy with the day to day work of getting all the children settled for the day or off out the door. Call to schedule an appointment time for a short after school meeting. The word “short” is important here — plan no more than 15-20 minutes because teachers have many after-school tasks they need to do and their day is long. You will keep their attention and get the best results for a partnership if you respect that by coming prepared, bringing a written list, if possible, and keeping the meeting brief. Partnering with your child’s teacher is your child’s best chance for a happy productive school year.

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