A smile

A smile, such a simple gesture. We do it all the time. It’s a universal gesture that is known all over the world, in every culture on the planet. It’s something that happens on our faces that connects us with other people. It’s an indication of joy, peace, happiness, and contentment. But the great thing about a smile, is it really does light up one’s soul. Our faces, our body language give others a glimpse of what we’re experiencing on the inside.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, the joy in my job comes in those moments of simple smiles. I’m often faced with much sadness from clients when they first step into my counseling office. Their body language often says it all. I see shrunken shoulders, downward looks, distress in the forehead and an overall tone of pessimism in their voice and in the words they use to describe their suffering.

If the counseling process goes as I hope it does, an amazing thing begins to happen. It starts first when I see a twinkle in their eye; a small glimpse into their soul and what’s ahead for them. Hope begins to be renewed. And then, I start to hear a change in their overall tone. Negative words begin to be replaced with more hopeful words. But an amazing thing happens when we really start to make change in the counseling process, a simple smile. Some may call it a grin. Often it may be accompanied with a small giggle. These grins become more and more frequent. I also start to notice a change in their body language. Their shoulders are more upright, their eyes start to meet mine more regularly, and just an appearance of confidence reemerges.

My greatest joy as a counselor comes though when it becomes a full smile. You know what I’m referring to, the smile that some say is from ear-to-ear. It’s an indication that their heart has begun to heal. It is truly a sign that they are healing from the pain they felt when they came into my office for the first time. When the smile becomes more frequent then I know they are truly being set free from their suffering.

Seemingly such a simple thing, a smile. But really it’s not, it’s a very complex part of being human. A complicated process that explains our inner most workings as a human. An indication of our deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Never take a smile for granted. Embrace them, notice them on others, allow them to connect you with another soul. And most importantly, allow a smile to replenish your soul as you experience all that life has to offer.

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Let the Summer Break Begin!!

I remember as a child thinking it took for-evvvvvvvv-eeeeeee-rrrrr for school to be out and for the Summer vacation to begin. Now as an adult, it gets here too quickly. Summer is a time for family vacations, special get-aways and down-time for the kiddos. Don’t let this be a time that rules and structure go out the window. It’s important to remember that even children need structure. Some simple tips that will keep your children from possibly going bananas!

1). Give them chores to do during the day if they are of the age that they stay at home alone.

2). Give them some guidelines/boundaries for their bedtime routine. Children and teens alike still need adequate rest and sleep. Avoid the pattern of staying up half the night and sleeping half the day away. This is a recipe for grumpiness and unhappy parents.

3). PLAN some activities ahead of time if possible. Children are much like adults, in that we need fun things to look forward to. But remember, if you say it, do it! Your word is your bond with them.

4). Find a way to involve them in charity work. Volunteerism is one of the most rewarding activities for a child and the Summer vacation is a great way to introduce them to this.  There are a lot of ways for children of all ages to give back to their community. Ask area churches for some ideas or simply google for non-profits in your area. Non-profits are typically always looking for volunteers to serve in some capacity.

5). Get your kids involved in the planning process for Summer activities. If they have a part in the decision making, then they are more likely to enjoy the activities.

6). Photograph, photograph, photograph! You are making memories with your child. Such special times that definitely should be captured. Allow your older children to create on-line photo books. Most are savvy tech and can create masterpieces beyond what some adults can do.

7). Find other ways for them to be creative. Take them on a shopping trip to your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby and explore possibilities for engaging in creative projects. It will keep them busy for hours.

I hope these tips will allow you and your family to enjoy the loooooonnnnggggg awaited Summer break. Have a happy Summer and make some incredible memories!

Janice Feuerhelm, LPC
Counseling and Wellness Center

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The Quest for Perfection

Do you ever notice how “Striving for Perfection” seems to be the quest we are all on? In our media, we see one perfect body after another. Even with the new and improved Bruce Jenner, we see perfection in his/her layout on the front cover of Vanity Fair. Don’t get me wrong, I agree for a 65 year old man/woman; he/she looks pretty darn good! We may be searching for the “perfect friendship”; the “perfect car”; the “perfect spouse” and even the “perfect body”.

I think what we as a society need to be really careful about, is when our search for perfection continues to make us feel less than or not good enough.  There’s a difference between trying to improve our lives and obsessing about being perfect or having the perfect life!

Our imperfection reminds us of several important facts about being human:

1) We aren’t supposed to be perfect! We have a creator though who is!

2) We can be loved by others even in the midst of our imperfections. There’s no better friendship/relationship than that of total and complete acceptance!

3) We can love others that are imperfect! In order to do this, there are things that we need to work on accepting about others. Maybe they are too loud, too bossy, too lazy, too critical….I could go on and on. The point is they are on their own personal journey just as we are. Our goal is not to have perfect people in our lives but to walk along side them on their life journey.

3) We as humans are learning and developing all the time! Imperfections takes us to a place of learning and growing.  When you see or feel imperfect, ask yourself: “What is this imperfection teaching me about myself?” Sometimes it may be self-acceptance and other times, it may be a internal guide to move in a different direction.

As I continue to work on my own desire for perfection, I will work on being authentic around others, even if it brings out imperfections :). I will also reflect on the times that the imperfection jumps out at me so I can learn and grow as I am meant to do. Most importantly, when I struggle with “Dang it! I’m not perfect.” I will look to my creator at His perfection.

Janice Feuerhelm, LPC

www.counselingandwellness.org

A great book on this topic is Brene Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”. 

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Enjoying your Summer!

We are in full swing of our Summer months. What is it about Summer that causes us to get excited? Is it vacation? Kid’s out of school? The warmer weather? Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things. I can’t but think about past Summer Vacations and the memories that were created that lasts a lifetime. When I was a single parent, I planned a vacation that included myself and my two boys. They were ages 12 and 9 at the time. We headed down to South Texas area and had plenty of outdoor excursions. I still remember my oldest son being our navigator during the trip. At age 12, he really was good at navigating – even annoying at times. My younger son was the comedian of the trip, providing us with one liners throughout the entire trip.

So my question to you, what will you do to make memories that will last a lifetime? It doesn’t have to be a trip that involves flying to the Caribbean or to Disney World. It can be simple, just getting away with your family. Maybe your vacation will be a Stay-cation; that is perfectly okay! There are plenty of things you can do in the area.

Will you allow your children to be an integral part of the vacation or will you simply be the dictator of your family. If you will give them some say they are able to take ownership of their vacation. Remember the goal: Relax, Let Go, and Enjoy your time together as a family.

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Marriage Overhaul

I think about the Fall season approaching, I think about Spring cleaning. I know this may sound weird or abnormal but I typically do an overhaul on my closets, drawers, cabinets during the Fall. Something about finishing up the year with organization; really excites me :). When you think about an overhaul, it’s about reshaping, redoing, simply putting an abundant amount of energy toward something to come out with something new and improved.

Your marriage relationship deserves the same attention. Just because you’ve been married for many years doesn’t mean that your marriage can’t handle or need an overhaul. I encourage you and your spouse to find time to have an “Overhaul Weekend” during the Fall Season. Shed the old and bring on the new. Is it negative talk toward each other that you may need to shed; what about bossing one another, or simply putting others things first? Whatever it may be, you both know that it’s not serving your marriage well.

The most difficult part of the marriage overhaul is both admitting and owning responsibility for your own destructive behaviors. So begin there: Make a list of things you know YOU need to change. Secondly, talk to your spouse about it in a loving way without accusing him/her for the behaviors. Apologize for your own behavior and renew your commitment to treat him or her differently. Your marriage deserves an Overhaul – it’s better to do it sooner than later! So go and schedule your Overhaul Weekend :).

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Tips for Parents for Back to School Routines

It’s such an exciting time for families with their bundle of joys returning to school or starting school for the first time. It’s important to establish a back-to-school routine as soon as possible. What does your routine look like in your home? More importantly, what is the overall tone of your home? Is it one of stress, tension and chaos? Or is it one of calmness, fun, structure, and laughter? The differences in the tone of your home may make a huge difference in how well your children function at school. Just remember, as you become stressed, so will they. And for many children, they may already be experiencing fear and anxiety with their new routine so they need YOU to be as calm as possible.  Be sure and talk to you children about their feelings and encourage them to express them fully. No matter what age, they are still developing their self-confidence so it is normal for them to feel uncertain about interacting with their teacher or peers. Create a time (hopefully over dinner as a family) that you can talk about their day, give them ample time to talk and share. Ask open-ended questions – instead of “Did you have a good day?” (which inevitably will lead to “yes”); ask, “What did you enjoy about the day or not enjoy?” You are more likely to get a good conversation started if you are asking open-ended questions. Be patient with your child, encourage, make time to listen, and keep structure and routine in your home and I’m certain they will have an exceptional year!

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I have been so amazed at the number of people that have chosen to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge! I just completed my challenge today and donated also. The contagiousness of the challenge is a reminder of the human spirit and what we are truly capable of. It’s touching to see that goodness exists in so many people! Not only do we care about others and finding a cure for such a debilitating disease; we also love to have fun! Who doesn’t like getting ice cold water poured on them? As I watch the countless number of videos on Facebook, I can’t help but laugh out loud at each and every one! Something about the surprise element of the icy water that gets me every time. I know at some point the challenge will begin to dissipate, but I hope that we can all remember the generosity of so many and that the human spirit is capable of great things! And for all those that suffer from ALS, I pray this campaign will lead to finding a cure and end this terrible debilitating disease! #icebucketchallenge. To donate, visit www.alsa.org.

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Depression – The Silent Suffering

So saddened by the loss of such a creative genius. Robin Williams will always be remembered for his comedic talent and his ability to bring life to the amazing characters we’ve been privileged to know. So many do suffer in silence. Depression robs individuals of their ability to be around others. It brings about a sense of shame and self-doubt. It removes joy and laughter and replaces it with a heavy burden from everyday life. The dark cloud of depression CAN be lifted with help. We as a society must reach out and help those suffering. If you know someone who suffered from depression, there’s a good chance that it may return. Be aware of those people; if you haven’t heard from them for awhile, good chance they’ve isolated themselves. Call them! Lovingly persuade them to get help from their doctor and a therapist. If you are currently suffering from depression-there is hope! The negative messages in your head are a lie! You are valuable and worthy! You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our amazing Father! May God rest the soul of Robin Williams and may we pray for the souls of others who suffer in silence.

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Spend Quality Time with your Spouse

What a nice surprise I received tonight! First just let me say I’m not always overly excited by cancellations. I know that they happen and often for good reasons. I try and look at them as a gift that come when it’s needed. So instead of leaving work at my usual 7 or 8p, I leave at 5:00pm! I had planned to do my own thing, going to the gym, cooking and relaxing at home by myself. You see, my husband enjoys riding his bicycle when I work late. However, he tells me today that he wants to spend the evening with me! He wants us to exercise together and be together. I realized that even after 15 years, it’s nice to know that HE desires quality time together!

So how do you show your spouse that he/she is wanted? And what are you willing to sacrifice so you can spend time with him or her? It’s important to continue to find ways to nurture your relationship. Each person in the marriage needs to know that they are wanted and not only wanted but enjoyed! Surprises still can be a vital part of your relationship and oh how sweet they can be!

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Reflection on Changing Your Self-Talk

As I reflect back on the hours upon hours of time I have spent redeveloping my Website, I am truly reminded of three things:

1. The patience that is required and;

2. Changing your self-talk can change how you feel about something; and

3. How much the details matter when building a website.

Often times, I’m faced with just simply needing more patience. It may be patience with myself or others. I do know that Patience is a Virtue! It doesn’t come easy and it takes continued practice. I’ve also discovered that patience starts in the mind first. As I was struggling to figure out “how to” with my website details, I found that it was the times I was being self-critical that was the hardest. What were the things I was saying to myself? “I just can’t do this.” “I’m simply not smart enough” and I could go on about the self-critical statements that really just led to more frustration. So I had to change my self-talk before I could go on any further – really made a difference!

To my second point: Details matter! One wrong code, one wrong step made a huge difference with the development of my website. Just as it is so in our personal lives, one wrong choice does make a difference in the details and the quality of our lives. Be careful, tread slowly when making decisions. Think through the possible outcomes of the details you are choosing!

My website may never be perfect but lessons were learned and I’ve decided it’s simply a work in progress. My life is the same – “A work in progress”.

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