“Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated.” Letter to the Dean.

“Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated.” Letter to the Dean.

Dear Dean of Clinical Psychology, Thank you for the thoughtful letter regarding my experience in the interview process. I am very happy to know that you and the admission committee in the Clinical Psychology Department reviewed my application and found … Continue reading

What happens when a mom has the audacity to think she can make the world a better place. An interview with a vampire…

What happens when a mom has the audacity to think she can make the world a better place. An interview with a vampire…

“Do you have any formal experience in a mental health setting that you can think of?” Judith asked as she pulled a piece of her short-gelled hair and adjusted her scarf. I am thinking about the eight-page Statement of Purpose … Continue reading

Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

I leaned hard into my career at one time. I loved working as a marketing director close enough to NYC to enjoy the skyline. I got so angry when a coworker (male) would tell me that I wouldn’t want to come back to work when my child was born. Determined to prove that I was not the ‘typical’ woman in the workforce, I doubled my efforts. My daughter was born, we moved back to the Northwest and my beloved suits got relegated to the top bar in my closet. I am reposting this Blog now that I have read Lean In and getting ready to go back to school for a PhD. in Clinical Psychology. The grit that I once had and needed to survive in the business world has been replaced by self compassion, intuition and the love I feel for my family, for my three daughters. Maybe I will Lean Into my career in psychology once my girls are on their way. For now I am learning to lean into my own voice of understanding what will work for me. I say this because of my personal journey in this world and know that all women forge their own. Love that!

Love is all we need...

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I…

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Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I had visions of having our beautiful child, spending 3-4 months at home and then returning to my career just as I had planned since I was thirteen. I would get up in the morning, dress for work just as Mary Poppins would glide in and provide my baby everything they would need and then some. My husband and I would come home from work and we would sit down for a family dinner lovingly prepared by Ms. Poppins… We would stroll around town on the weekends stopping in to get a NY bagel and a Starbucks. Ahhh life was going to be AMAZING.

Then Ground Hog Day began. My daughter cried for a year. We moved back to Washington State into Suburbia. My husband was traveling at least 60 percent of the time. Mary Poppins was nowhere to be found and my job was back in New Jersey. My suits would have to wait for a year or two. That will be okay. I was sure that I would be back in them in no time. We won’t speak of them being a size 4.

Two more children and suddenly eight years has gone by. My beloved suits and high-heels are covered in dust – actually I think it transitioned to dirt by this point. I resolved to send them to a charity for professional women and so I gathered half of them and put them in another closet for removal when I got all the information together. Two more years go by. Now it has been ten years. My rational brain is looking at the size 4. My rational brain understands that I will not be going back to work in the same capacity as I did before. My rational brain understands that these suits aren’t even close to current style. My rational brain reminds me that the hundreds of dollars that I spent on them is way past sunk cost. Why was it so hard to give them away?

Then I received an email about a women’s charity that would be collecting women’s professional clothing in my home town. I gathered every bit of resolve to finally remove my old life so that I could make room for the new. I loaded my suburban to the top and started driving downtown. My stomach seized and by the time I got there (15 min) I didn’t know if I would be able to get out of the car. I went into the store that was collecting the clothing and the woman gave me a rack to hang my clothes. I stumbled in and out of the store and literally filled the rack with all my beautiful clothes. My professional life before children. Afterwards I went back to the woman to get my receipt but she had me sit for a minute while she attended to another customer. I thought I was going to lose consciousness. I started to sweat and became clammy. I needed to just hold it together to leave the store before ‘something’ happened. By the time I left the store I thought I might need my husband to come and get me. After sitting for a few minutes, I was able to drive home. I walked in the door and went directly upstairs to lie down. Fifteen minutes later I was absolutely fine.

Letting go of my before-child life was really, really hard. So hard I believe that I felt that loss physically. I did it though and there was no going back. That day I tried to remember all the clothes that I had just donated and if I really wanted them back. I didn’t. I haven’t missed them at all. I love my new life. I love being a mom. I love the opportunity I have to figure out what I really want to do when I grown up.

Ahhh. Letting go is so liberating in so many ways.

Life on the Edge of the Curve

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My husband says that I am “an all-in or all-out” kind of person. I haven’t always known where to put this information as I ‘see’ gray, I’m not just a black and white type of person. There is always another way to look at things and I feel that I have the ability to understand both sides most of the time. However, as I was thinking about this while exercising this morning, you can be an all-in or all-out kind of person AND see gray in the world. It is more about balance and how you achieve balance in your life. Yes, balance. I have read many a book that have discussed it’s importance, offered ways to find it, gave examples of others who were off balance and after following three easy steps, they found it.

Somehow the illusive three easy steps were never enough for me. No, I must start on one side of the curve until it is fully explored in it’s extreme until I figure out that this will just not work for me. After said exploration, I sprint to the other side of the extreme only to find that this extreme doesn’t work either. Only THEN can I find the balanced perspective that I had sought all along.

I am turning forty-three in a few days which is always a good time to reflect on where I am and where I am going. Over the past twenty years I have lived and embodied two extremes: career driven, take no prisoners, keep going at all cost versus mother, wife, a little granola and all are welcome. I went to the University of Washington as the first person in my family to go to college. I graduated in 1992 which was a year when the newspapers warned that college students wouldn’t be finding jobs. I was on a mission to get a job and start my career in the business world and that I did. I worked for a large computer firm right out of college and then switched to the pharmaceutical industry where I was in sales, sales training and marketing. I moved to New Jersey and worked ten miles from Manhattan. While working 60 hours a week, I went to graduate school at night to earn an MBA, got married, traveled for work and pleasure, went to grand events in Manhattan and did not stop even as pregnancy had me sick (really sick, sick) and oh so tired. M-U-S-T  K-E-E-P  G-O-I-N-G. Where I was going, I have no idea. I was on the extreme side of that bell-shaped curve. Balance? Nope.

Over the next ten years I fully explored the other side of life on the edge: motherhood. After experiencing the effects of living in the Northeast after 9/11 my husband and I started getting Montana Living Magazine. It was time to head back to the Northwest and move along that path called life. My husband was able to get a transfer back to Seattle six weeks after Daughter #1 arrived. Suddenly, I am in suburbia central, my best friend (husband) was traveling all the time, no job, no school, no friends, and caring for my screaming baby who did not sleep. WOW! Talk about wanting to get back to the other side. I may have been numb but at least I was dressed up, solving problems and had a sense of accomplishment. I did interview with a few companies but I couldn’t get my heart into it. I started to read brain development and parenting books and suddenly I could not do it and luckily we had set our life up so that I didn’t have to go back to work since my husband was traveling so much. The all-in and all-out thinking was front and center. I knew nothing about raising a child or about being a mom. I didn’t have a mom and the various step-mothers I had did not do anything to help my confidence. I had no gage for how to balance my career and being a mother. I was so afraid that I might mess this up that all I could do was hold my oh-so-colicky baby and love her. I held tight to the edge I was on and fully embraced that time to learn about myself, my girls, our family’s health, psychology and most of all, what my life passion might be.

Over the course of that ten years we had two more beautiful girls and I jumped fully into the soccer/dance mom life – it took about three years to stop fretting that I would never get a job again and to trust that it would all work out. It has all worked out as now I can rest. I have explored a life in the corporate world, dressed in suits and meeting with the movers and shakers. And I have explored the stay-at-home mom side of life without showers, screaming babies, mind-numbing repetition, big hugs, snuggles and more love than I ever imagined.

In the next decade I am free to explore the middle, to be balanced. Maybe now I don’t have to be all-in or all-out, I can just BE.

Have you lived on the edge of that bell-shaped curve? How do you achieve balance? Is it possible to live in the middle?

I am grateful to be a MOTHER in America

As a mother in America I get to choose how to raise my children. When I say ‘choose’, I don’t mean whether or not to breastfeed, work or stay home, etc. The choice that I am grateful for is that I get to choose how to love my children and there isn’t a person in the world (except my husband) who is capable of understanding how much I communicate my love to them.

The TIME Magazine article was written to sell magazines, to go viral and the way to do that in America is take the topic to the extreme. The woman and her son on the Today Show did not seem any different than any American mother trying to do the best she can. She was not extreme. Dr. Sears, whom I have met and read about half his books) is not an extreme parenting guru on Attachment Parenting. There is no “Mother of the Year” award people. There is NO SUCH THING. We need to stop trying to compare ourselves to each other and drawing conclusions based on each others choices and appearances!

While running today, I started thinking about all types of mothers that I know and the choices that they make. It is a very long list. Who is the better mother? Which one loves her children more? Whose children are more attached? There is no way or need for any of us to judge each other or to know whether we are a good mother or not by looking to external cues. At the end of the day a relationship is between two people. Each child is the only one who REALLY knows at the end of the day, right?

Here is a start to my list: works or stays home, breastfeeds or formula, gay or straight, single or married, homemade baby food or jars, cloth or Pampers, Ferber or Attachment, runs marathons or barely climbs the stairs, organic or canned, private or public school, one child or nineteen, minivan or SUV, prefers outdoors or indoors, country club or city park, PTA or non-PTA, church or no church, big family or small, well-mothered or undermothered, surgically enhanced or au-natural, family vacations or not, nanny or daycare, went to college or not, graduate school or not, had a career or planned to be a mom, designer jeans or Target knock-offs, reads books or People magazine, kids in activities or come home to play, traditional school or home schooled, likes gardening or horrified by dirt, kids watch TV or no TV, and the list goes on and on and on.

The human brain is designed to differentiate and therefore we immediately come to conclusions about what kind a mother someone is by all these differences (and a whole lot more) but these decisions or life circumstances do not define how we love our children. If we all spent less time wondering what everyone else is doing and whether we measure up and more time focusing on our own children and what their needs are, this world would be a much happier place.

I am grateful to be a mother in America where am free to make my own choices but should not be free to judge others.

I am grateful for the little people in my life

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I am grateful for the little people in my life.

Their sense of adventure, curiosity, exuberance, innocence, happiness, creativity, emotion, tenacity, sensitivity, empathy, strength, vulnerability, presence, joy, delight, their love. Really, I love it all.

Please add your words to my list of reasons that you love children.

I am grateful for all the children in my life, but especially my three beautiful girls.

I am grateful for my family

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I am grateful for my family.

Everything that is good in my life has it’s origins in my husband and our three sweet girls. I am a mom. Being a mom and raising our girls with my husband is living my best life. How did I get so lucky? I don’t know but sometimes I need to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. Really when I stop to think about it, I don’t feel lucky at all. Really, I feel God’s grace on a daily basis.

I feel God’s grace because I didn’t grow up with a mom. I did have three step-mothers but they certainly were not mothers to me. I was raised with my younger brother by my dad who was raised by a motherless mother (my nana was raised by her Norwegian grandmother in North Dakota). My dad’s family was ‘motherhood-and-apple pie’. He was the oldest with a dad that worked, a mom who stayed home, one brother and one sister. They went camping every weekend and are still close but my dad struggled with relationships. They were a family though through thick and thin.

There was always strife in our house. My childhood is marked by which stepmother was in our lives at the time. I didn’t like them and they didn’t like me. “How long will you stay,” I would think.  I never felt the solidarity of my immediate family. I did have an extended family that we spent all our holidays and birthday with and that was a blessing because I had the construct of belonging to a community. This was extremely important but I didn’t have that daily reminder of who I was. To whom did I belong? Where would my loyalties be directed? Who had my back? Who could I trust? These were all impossible questions but as a young person you just adapt and keep going. These are core needs. We are human therefore we are social.

I became really good at whatever I did whether it was at school or my job and identified myself by the company and title of my job. My community was the people I worked with and I had the illusion that they had my back. Then BAM! we had our first child, moved from Metro NY area and landed in Suburbia Pacific NW (where we are from). Suddenly there was nothing to stand on. Suddenly there was no easy community or a job to feel proud of. It was just me doing rasberries and Ellie during the day. My husband was the one I trusted, he had my back and my love so that was covered but there was no community anymore.

It was hard. I made friends and tried to create a community but I think my expectations were a little tweaked. Was I looking for friends to be my family? I chose a friend or two that weren’t the best choices for bringing into the family. Finally (after 8 years) I started seeing a therapist to help me identify patterns that I didn’t even know were there. I learned that I don’t have to ‘create’ a community. I am in communities just by being. My sun was not circling my own family because I was too busy looking outside for that group that I felt so secure in as a child – my extended family. Wow. It is amazing how just a small insight into your own psyche can change your whole perspective. I don’t ‘do’ anything different but I do care a lot more about what my little family is doing and a lot less about what other people are doing – or not doing.

My stars have been aligned and the sun now rotates around my world, my family. We have an amazing life together and I cherish every moment. My life has become my dream.

I am so grateful for my family. For Bob, Ellie, Abbie and Lexie through thick and thin.

I am grateful for choices

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I am grateful for choices.

As adults, we all get to make choices everyday from how to spend the next 30 minutes to what to where we want to live. We aren’t always cognizant of our choices but they are there and sometimes, as Americans, choice becomes overwhelming. Sometimes it would be easier if someone else could make choices for us once in awhile.

I just read The Hunger Games Trilogy. It is not an easy story to forget. Katniss Everdeen has been in my head for the past several weeks. I even read several books of essays so I could keep thinking about why I can’t get her out of my thoughts… The people from the Capital had traded their ability to make important choices in their lives for a life of plenty; plenty of food and plenty of entertainment. Katniss and the people of Panem, however, did not have the luxury of not choosing. They had to choose every single day to keep going or stop, to put one foot in front of the other or not, to live or to die.

Katniss’ only real choice was to keep going regardless of what other people’s agendas might be. I don’t believe that she was a puppet for the Capital, Snow or Coin. She was in charge of her choices, it was just that she didn’t have many. Katniss simply continued to do what she had been doing in the Seam which was to choose to keep going, to survive. Before Mockingjay was written, there was a lot of publicity on whether she would ‘choose’ Gale or Peeta. However it was never really a choice. Katniss chose to keep going, to survive and after everything she had been through she needed to choose a life of peace represented by Peeta. She had to choose to heal after the lifetime of trauma that she experienced in 6 years. Katniss couldn’t make any more choices and instead let the universe allow her to rest. It was the best ending possible.

When I was a child and then a teenager, I did not have many choices either. My family was always in the midst of caous. I could choose to wallow in misery or not, to keep going or not, to thrive in spite of it all or not. I went on to college despite being told in would be a waste of time, had a career in sales and marketing, went to graduate school and now have a wonderful family and friends to boot. All of which required a million choices every single day. It is funny though because I never had the perception of choice but instead a very clear path from here (not so great) to there (the promised land). I kept walking, running and sometimes crawling through every open door. Maybe the choices were so far apart that it made it no choice at all.

Today, I know that I have lots of choices and I am so, so thankful. I get to choose what I want to learn (or write) about, how I want to raise my children (along with my husband of course), where they will go to school, where we want to go on vacation or live, who my friends are, how I respond to others and on and on. What a blessing life is. We must be careful, however, to never stop making the tough choices. In America, like the Capital, it would be easy to narrow those choices down to meaninglessness without even realizing it. Choices can be a blessing and a curse depending on how we look at it. We need to choose wisely everyday as even the smallest choices today can become the roads we travel upon tomorrow.

I am thankful for my choices in life.

I am grateful for my dad

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I am grateful for my dad.

This weekend my girls and I saw the Disneynature movie Chimpanzee. It is a documentary on the beginnings of a baby chimpanzee named Oscar, deep in the tropical rain forests of Africa. The story starts out as Oscar begins chimpanzee “preschool” with his mom learning how to find food, use tools and bond with other chimpanzees through grooming. Towards the middle of the movie Oscar’s mother is killed and he is left bewildered on what happened to her. He searches for her, tries to find food, tries to remember what she has taught him but he begins to lose weight and lose grasp of his happy life that he once had among his tribe of chimpanzees. The other mothers and young were hostile towards him now that he didn’t have a mother to protect him. It looked bleak for Oscar. There was one last chimpazee that Oscar hadn’t asked for help and that was the alpha male and head of the tribe. The most unlikely chimpanzee as he had never paid any attention to the young, his job was to protect the territory and his members. He was good at it. Oscar started to follow him around and copy everything he did from opening nuts to scanning his fur for bugs. The alpha male took notice and started to give him food and allow him to snuggle close. By the end of the movie little Oscar rode atop of this giant alpha male’s back just as he had with his mother. Oscar was going to be fine.

My mother left us when I was four and my brother just one year old. There were several stepmothers who should have taken me under their wing to show me how the world worked, how to make friends, bond with others and how to be in a family but somehow couldn’t. I can remember following my dad everywhere, watching his every move. He was very young himself, only 25 years old at the time but seemed to be far more adept at caring and bonding with his children than our mother ever could have.

My dad was dependable, consistent, and resourceful. He was not perfect but he showed up. Everyday. Like Oscar, I didn’t get the millions of moments of love that only a mother can fulfill BUT I did fully experience all the millions of moments that only dads can give. Luckily, I have a very keen ability to watch and learn as well as an innate curiosity of life. I have filled many of those cracks that were started when my mother left by watching others, reading, experiencing life, relationships with family and friends and most importantly by being a mom to my three girls. God has filled my life with a wonderful husband, three beautiful girls and a dad. I am going to be fine.

I am very grateful for my dad.