Re-claim- action: the fine art of WORK as Play

I don’t remember playing house with dolls; my mother assures me I did. I remember taking them with me, as an audience or a crowd, or extras in the movie of my childhood life. Me and Brother I also remember trying to ride my Barbie Van like a skateboard. My dolls and I, and later my toddler brother, dressed like (well,I don’t actually know what this is-that’s him in the basket. His instruction was to “look pitiful.”) or a pet, or a pioneer depending on what I was reading that day, would leave on unknown adventures. My dolls, both living and play, didn’t stay home, didn’t change clothes; I didn’t have that doll that ate and needed a diaper as far as I know, because I would never have changed it or fed the poor thing. She would have wound up in the wagon with Laura Ingalls and our dog Jack (my handy brother with homemade ears) heading out, across the Back Yard and into the West for fame and glory.

So it is interesting to me that I can spend a whole two hours putting reclaimed Cabbage Patch kids in the sink for a bath. This was a task I set myself, when suddenly, I was playing. I had to keep their heads up so water wouldn’t run in to the tops, and I had to sit them up. Suddenly I CKids in Sinkrealized how cute they were. I could imagine pretending they were all together in the tub, just like me and my siblings (and everyone else I know who has siblings) and I was thinking about when my sister slipped and went under and we had to fish her out, and she cried and we all got in trouble. Of course, my “tub of kids” was not like that. Found on Craig’s list, they probably had been the garage the last 10 years, maybe smoked around in the not distant past. Clearly beloved at one time, this was their chance to be therapeutic. Still, they have a little smell.

I have to tangent on the sense of smell here- it sees it may be the only sensory experience that goes straight to memory and emotion centers, passing directly through the amygdala and hippocampus. This is different than sight, touch, sound and taste. Smell just shoots on in there, a kick to the nervous system. In my line of work, smell is a big deal. You can trigger almost anything with the smell of cigarettes, whiskey, gum, foods, perfumes, coffee, and gasoline to name a few. Here’s a pretty good explanation.

Smells Ring Bells: How Smell Triggers Memories and Emotions

I just need dolls to smell clean.

First the research: I liked eBay’s article the best- although I am realizing I need to restructure my Pinterest, or as I like to call it “Kathryn’s Socially Acceptable Online Hoarding Experience.” My Pinterest should include a board on reclaiming and restoring toys and furniture for working playrooms in my practice.  I point to cost as my main motivator, but let’s be honest- I love to garage sale, I love good deals, and it’s just a bonus if I can save money, and have a Good Reason.

How to Clean a Cabbage Patch Kid

And they look super cute in the sink! You’ll note on the article, you have to soak and squeeze for hours until all the soap is out. Or if you’re me, it’s good enough after a couple of rinses. And when you wash their hair, you have to keep the water from flowing into the heads. They were drying in the sun on my back porch. I sat them all up, because no kidding, water in the heads apparently is a big deal!

What I found myself thinking about is how a simple task can be such a break from thinking. I think I think too much- sometimes it works for me. But sometimes we all need a break.

And that is fundamentally why I am a play therapist. We all play; it’s just the toys that change. #lifeofaplaytherapist Today, I am playing with dolls. Tomorrow, I can go play “grown up” again, and I like that game too. Take many breaks from playing the same thing over and over.

Quality Counselors

What I really wanted to call this was “Where Leadership Qualities and Counseling Skills Meet” but all I am really posting tonight is a great quote I found while doing some research work for March. (more on that later….maybe.) Did you know, Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he/she wants to do it.”
I wish everyone I worked with could see the potential I see for them to do amazing work, whether in the field as helping professionals, or healing, or parenting or friends working through the day.
Leaders and counselors: what else do we have in common?
Be well!

Celebration is a viable intervention!

Today, I am moved to talk about celebration! For many who question and search for overall well-being, celebration is not always recognized as a viable mental health intervention. Celebration of our well-being, our family, (both born to and chosen by) and our communities manifests in many ways over fall and winter holidays. I think perhaps, one reason could be the end of summer harvest, or the long winter shutting people in, together. I acknowledge this may not be entirely true for everyone around the world. And holidays especially are tricky, as we all wish they were always happy, idealistic (Yes, Virginia!) but sometimes exasperate those little things that make us question our overall well-being. At the heart of the holidays, is celebration. I consider celebration a viable therapeutic intervention!

Ahh, holidays. It’s the last half of the year, beginning for me on Labor Day, followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Solstice, Christmas and Kwanza and then Happy New Year. Those are the ones I am familiar with; I am sure there are many more traditions out there. Holidays are a particular challenge to me not to get caught up in the inherent sadness. I think it was always the stories around holidays that distracted from thinking too much about the world as is, vs. the world as I would have it. Stories! Holidays are about birth, harvest, death, scary things, and happy things, return of light and new chances. Great heroic stories, so deeply ingrained and believed in the world, people compare their stories with fervor and sometimes angst. That’s not really what this entry is about.

The thing I notice about all the holidays I know of the best is the community building that inherently seems to happen on holidays, and I like community building. , Labor Day (and here I am going to use my Wikipedia, so grain of salt as you read!)” … a celebration of the American labor movement, and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers.” Makes me think of unions, (I’m sorry- politics really are everywhere.) Love unions or leave them, there is an impact in our society when a group of like-minded people, a community, striving for change, celebrating their work have a day to celebrate. Halloween- my personal favorite. What a wonderful day, when everyone takes off the mask they wear all year long, and indulge for a moment in an inner face. Even if you don’t “dress up” or to my way of thinking, “undress the soul,” almost everyone knows what they “would be for Halloween this year.” How do we always know that? I will tell you, I am usually a witch of some kind, although one year I was an alien, that everyone thought was a futuristic witch costume. Thanksgiving; a reflection on harvest, family, manifest destiny, divine intervention- arguably the best and worst of being human. Which brings me to the Holidays, with a capital H. I was talking to a colleague, and she said, “I don’t know what you celebrate, but Happy Holidays!” And I replied without thinking about it, “I celebrate everything.” Which is to say, I grew up with Christmas, but I love to celebrate in general, and the holidays from Hanukah to Kwanza have some commonalities I can get on board with. This is what I see: celebrate family and each other and how lucky we are to be together. Celebrate community, people being nice to each other, and the things we like to do together. Celebrate by giving gifts. Celebrate by reflection and dress, with song and feasting. Celebrate. Celebrate with volunteering; celebrate your life as it is. Celebrate if you are sad that your life isn’t quite what you thought. If life was perfect, the celebration might not be as great anyway. Practice Celebration, even if you don’t really think you have a reason. You are the reason. You are part of this community.
What about the New Year Kathryn? A whole ‘nother story and celebration for another day!

Be well.

Welcome Back

Welcome back to the site! It is definitely a labor of love and sometimes needs more than I can give! Luckily, I have an amazing support crew in the form of family, pets, and the web lady who keeps me going! She knows who she is!

People often ask me why counseling? I mean, I had really good teaching career going- awesome students, material I love, people I enjoyed working with. But I knew I was going to be a counselor someday. First, I enjoy the work of problem solving, and it can be how to teach Shakespeare, plant a garden, or help shake a bad mood that goes on and on. I find that problem solving is only a small piece of counseling.

To me, counseling is first having the courage to admit to less than perfection, and then having the courage to seek help in facing that. No one likes to be depressed, sad, overwhelmed, or anxious. But we would not be human without these things in our day to day. Counseling is like going to the dentist. While many of us can wait until we have a cavity, how many of us actively practice good prevention by brushing our teeth? Emotions are like that. You have to brush a bit every day, or before you know it…. Root canal! And even the cleanest teeth in the world need a checkup once or twice a year! That is the kind of counselor I can be!

Many of the people asking me about my work- well they wonder; how do counselors deal in pain, trauma and crisis? It’s a fair question, and I had my fears at the beginning of this career. No more. To sit with extreme emotional duress, to bring comfort and stability with simple presence, and most of all to witness courage and the true desire for a better life in others- these things challenge me to be a better person! These things bring counseling the world into focus and purpose.

And working with emotions doesn’t always mean working with the ones we don’t readily enjoy. There are some great days too!

I do have to give a shout out to my teaching peeps! It really was a great experience and aa new class of my previous seventh graders is graduating now from high school. So congrats and thanks to them!

Hello and Welcome

Hello and welcome to the 2nd Star Counseling Website and blog! On this site, I have tried to include a working philosophy, forms and rates, and some place where you might find me such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. We even attached Pinterest and that is a pretty fun scrap book tool. I have a vision for this site to be available to the many people that make life worth living: family, friends, clients, and my special Tuesday morning group. I hope you all feel good about sending comments my way whether in the conversation or a “hey Kat! What about….?” The main focus of the blog is called “Everyday Therapies.” Topics include the Joys of Dogs, Tea Zen, inspired quotes, Angry Animus, Technical Terms, Radical Readings, TV and Movie Bumps, and anything else I can think of that might be interesting in the day to day pursuit of wellness. I believe the overall health and well-being of us all benefits when we seek and find these everyday therapies for maintenance and check in. Mental health is like anything else in that we all face grief, anxiety, sadness and even the good stuff can take a toll. But the way we cope and deal on a daily basis can make the difference between crisis and faceable days. I am not saying we can plan for unexpected tragedy. I am saying that the day to day living builds up an emotional toll. I was driving down 36th on my way to somewhere and I was going a little fast and a little too close to the car in front of me. I noticed the guy to my left was yelling and hitting his steering wheel. He was shaking his fist and waving his arms (car must have had automatic steering?) and just really, really mad. There was no one in the car with him. He may have just wanted to pass and couldn’t. I don’t know. But what an outpouring of emotion! I didn’t know to be worried or jealous. I mean, at least he was getting it all out in a relatively harmless way. He wasn’t driving too crazy, just mad- faced and maybe steering with his knees the better to gesture. Well, I was so engaged with watching him; I hit this massive pothole I usually dodge right before I pull on to Federal. The jolt went through my whole car, and I thought, “This is it; I surely have a flat tire there now.” It turned out my car was fine, but probably because I take care of it (prevention) and I don’t hit potholes (maintenance) if I can help it. But this guy: who else know about his road rage? Are they suggesting some preventive, professional mental health checkup? Or are they waiting for the crisis of something terrible happening? If his teeth were falling out, someone would suggest their favorite dentist. If he had a giant tumor on his face, someone would ask him when he was going to check that out. Everyday therapies. It is important and necessary to pay attention to what makes your day better. Or sadder. Or fun. Or restful. My everyday therapy today was a long walk and new sheets on the bed. Simple I know, but clean sheet night is a big deal and not because I wait so long between changes. It’s just a nice way to fall asleep. If you have an everyday therapy to share, please feel free! I would love to hear about it! Thank you for visiting the site, and I hope to hear from you soon!