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My Christmas List…

Michigan. Farmington Hills. Christmas wreath in a snowy fence. Wintertime scenics and holiday spirit.

Not just giving presents, but being present.
Not only grocery shopping for holiday meals, but also donating to families who do not have holiday meals.
Not just traveling for the holidays, but thinking of those who do not have family to travel to.
Not only watching the beautiful snow fall, but thinking of those who have never seen snow.
Not only giving thanks for all that we have, but giving our time to others who are not as fortunate.
Not just decorating our home for the holidays, but remembering those who do not have a home to decorate.
Not only having the Christmas spirit, but spreading the Christmas spirit and love to others.
Not just being excited to celebrate Christmas and receive gifts from Santa, but remember those who have never celebrated Christmas or ever received a gift.
Not just praying for good weather so our travels are easy, but praying for those who have nowhere warm to go when the weather is cold.
Not only listening to Christmas music, but spreading Christmas cheer.
Not only searching for great holiday deals, but being thankful for everything we already have.
Not only opening gifts from others, but opening our hearts to those who need love the most.
-keep shining


The Gift Of Giving…To Yourself.


I’ll be honest, the this time of year is really difficult for me. Along with all the parts I look forward to around the holidays such as gift-giving, parties, paid time off, traditions with family, and Christmas treats also comes a caseload of clients that doubles in size overnight. Every year I tell myself I will be stronger, I tell myself that it will get better, and remind myself that I can’t save the world; I can’t bring the world home with me for Christmas. But, every year I still break down and cry…A lot.
The holidays are usually a time that I reflect on the clients I have had the privilege to work with over the years. I recall their stories, and I remember that many of them do not have the opportunity to receive or give gifts, to go to parties, to take off work, to spend time with family, or to have a warm meal to eat….
I have mourned with kids in psychiatric facilities whose family did not visit them over Christmas. I have been a shoulder to cry on for a man who had no one to spend the holidays with, and was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. I have tried to find the silver lining for the girl who told me that she has never opened a Christmas gift in her life. And I continuously work with individuals whose behaviors escalate around the holidays due to the trauma they’ve endured, and then watching as those around them lose empathy because they do not understand it.
I can’t keep up with the demands of the job because I cannot make people’s pain disappear, and the holidays alway remind me of that. It’s hard for me to look forward to time with my own family when I spend the days leading up to the holidays in constant crisis mode with my clients who have been sexually assaulted, physically and emotionally abused, and have nowhere to go. I struggle to leave work at work and take a break because I know someone might need me, and I can’t be there for them…This is called secondary trauma, or compassion fatigue, if you will, and it can affect any one of us at any given time. We take on our clients’ problems and stress, we let their stories affect our personal lives,  we develop our own triggers, we become hyper-vigilant, and ultimately we burn out. That’s why people who work in the helping profession often have a high turnover rate…we give too much of ourselves.
I always ask myself whyWhy do I get to look forward to the holidays when it brings so much pain to some people? I get mad that the world isn’t fair and get discouraged because there is nothing I can do to change that. At the end of the day,  I always remind myself that I have done my best, but sometimes telling myself that isn’t enough to make the pain and frustrations dissipate. It isn’t enough to ‘leave it at the door’ when I get home because I am still empathizing with those less fortunate than myself. If I only had a nickel for every time someone asked me how I take care of myself with such an intense job, I think I’d have enough money to buy every client plenty of gifts to go around! That being said, the way I get by each holiday and stay sane is to take care of myself and keep my compassion fatigue in check. Regardless of your field of world and how stressful or enjoyable your job may be, we all need to take care of ourselves and be sure we put ourselves first sometimes.
Here are some quick and easy ways I do that:

1. Check In…. I check in with myself every day; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I tune into how tense I am, what is causing me stress and/or joy, how tired I am, what I am thinking about, etc… Just check in and take a pause. Know where you are at and be mindful of yourself, first and foremost. This can take no more than 5 minutes, but it ensures that each day you don’t forget about yourself and become mindful of how you feel. This helps me approach each day more thoughtfully and think about myself throughout the day, which is easy for me to forget to do.
Click here for another perspective on checking in.

2. Be Kind… Not only to others, but to yourself. Be easy on yourself. Know that you are working hard. We get ridiculed enough in this society as it is, the least you can do is be nice to yourself and give yourself a compliment now and again. You  can always find something positive to say about yourself, and make it a daily habit. It’s easier to be kind on the outside when we are first kind on the inside. And I find myself more kind to others when I am first kind to myself. By being more kind to myself, I have actually found that mean/rude people don’t bother me as much; I am nice to people even when they aren’t nice to me. And sometimes that is just what they need because clearly they’re having a worse day than I am.

3. Focus on what is in your control… As you could have guessed, I can’t bring all of my past and current clients home with me for the holidays. Clearly, that is out of my control. I need to remind myself of the actions I have taken to try and produce the best outcome, but the outcome itself isn’t something I can predict. The holidays may bring extra frustrations or unpredictability, but it does no good to be upset over something I cannot do anything about.
When things arise that cause anxiety and frustration, just check in and ask yourself what about that situation you’re able to change, do it, and leave the rest behind.

4. Take Breaks… Let me spell it out for you, PTO…P-A-I-D   T-I-M-E   O-F-F. I know it’s hard to imagine, but the world will still revolve in your absence. People will get by if you’re not there. You earned time off, take it. We all need breaks. If we don’t take breaks we are burning ourselves out and that only affects the people around us, and the clients we are trying to serve. We cannot be our best selves in the work place if we are not taking breaks. Life is more than just working all the time. Try to rid yourself of the guilt because if you aren’t your best self for you, you sure as heck can’t be for anyone else. Breaks help give us some clarity and relief. Enjoy that vacation in Hawaii!

5. Cry… I hate crying. I hate it. And I do not do if often, so when I do I know that it’s needed. And every time I break down I feel better. We have emotions, people! We always get mad and embarrassed with ourselves for feeling the way we feel rather than just accepting it and letting it flow. You can’t control your emotions, but you can control how you react to them.
We have to get our feelings out and be honest with ourselves. Not only does it feel better and help us come to terms with things, but it brings a sense of relief. And it ensures you that you won’t go and unexpectedly word vomit your emotions onto someone else.
Click here to read another one of my blogs on this topic.

6. Decide what self care means to you…. In my trainings, when I ask people what self care means to them, often they say things like taking a bath, going on vacation, getting their nails done, going hunting, etc.. But self care is SO much more than that. Really ask yourself what self care means to you, it’s more than just this surface-level stuff. Dig deeper, there’s always more we can be doing for ourselves to ensure our happiness and health is where it needs to be. My self care absolutely includes vacations, getting my nails done, playing basketball, etc.. But it also includes all of the helpful tips above plus many more.
One of my favorite self care exercises is what I simply refer to as happy thoughts. Sometimes it is easy to let negativity sink in without even recognizing it. It’s these times when we don’t give ourselves enough credit and say something hurtful about our character or our physical appearance. So, when that happens I practice what it referred to as ‘thought stopping’ in the social work world, and replace those icky thoughts with one of my handy dandy happy thoughts I keep stored away.

We all have tough days, and we need to be easier on ourselves in order to get through them. A little gratitude, kindness, and self love can go a long way.

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete ~

-keep shining

For additional holiday blog posts, click here and keep scrolling.

Happy Things Thursday


  1. Having autostart for your vehicle
  2. Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  3. Candlelit showers
  4. Unexpected inspiration
  5. Fresh donuts
  6. Work Christmas parties
  7. A good slice of pizza
  8. Netflix binge sessions
  9. Heated seats
  10. Being told by your supervisor to leave work early


Happy Holidays To Me


When I began to write my holiday blog this year, I was really struggling. I was struggling because I didn’t want to write the same old stuff we always read; be thankful, be grateful, get in the holiday spirit, do for others, etc… I agree that all of this is great and wonderful, as I wrote about it last year (, but what else can we focus on this time of year that is equally as important but less talked about? I had to sit with this thought for a few days until I really started to notice one key part of this time of year we are missing the boat on….

OURSELVES! Yes, you! This time of year is typically focused on doing good for others, fundraising, donating our time and money, buying Christmas gifts, getting good discounts, feeling the holiday cheer, and being grateful for all we have in this life….But what about YOU? None of these things can happen without you.

This time of year is hectic, and by the time Thanksgiving gets here I can already tell I need a break, and I bet you all do too. And once Thanksgiving is over, you realize that life is not slowing down anytime soon. Now it becomes the time to give back, put up the holiday lights, make Christmas plans, start planning and prepping our meals and houses for  guests, and start putting holiday work parties on the calendar. Can a get a ‘yikes’ one time?! Let’s all pump the breaks, people! Take time to and focus on you, your needs, and what you want to do during this hectic time of year. Pull back on your crazy schedule and the need to focus on others, because if we aren’t mentally healthy and personally ‘up to par’ then everything else in our lives will suffer a little bit. Everything else in our lives will feel a little more exhausting, stressful, and frustrating because we are forgetting to put ourselves first.

Be selfish. Be about  you. This society focuses so much on doing good for others in order to live a fulfilling life. That is so true, but don’t we need to do good for ourselves and treat ourselves well before we can focus on those around us and their needs? I will give you a hint…..The answer to this question is YES.

I know you all can agree with me on this, but the bigger question is the how? How do we take time for ourselves without feeling guilty, without feeling like other things are not going to get done, and without creating that little anxiety in our bodies if we do not get every ‘t’ crossed and every ‘i’ dotted? Let me give you a few tips and tricks to get you started on your more beautifully selfish life.

  • First and foremost…. It is okay to say no. We do not constantly owe our time and energy to others, and we struggle to say no without coming up with a lie or excuse. But the unfortunate alternative is we say yes, roll our eyes, and start stressing about the things that will be put on hold because we said yes to someone else other than ourselves. Practice saying no. Challenge yourself. You can even practice now. Say it with me… NO NO NO.
    Didn’t that feel good?
  • Plan activities to do alone, and put them in your calendar. Yes, do it….Let me challenge you with this question: Realistically, if you could do anything by yourself right now or this week what would it be? What is the first thing that comes to mind for you? Okay, great. Now write that down, plan it, and put it in your schedule. I can already hear the excuses because I make them all the time (I don’t have time, I have to clean my house, I already have a full week…The list goes on and on). But, I will politely remind you to put that ‘thing’ you thought of in your schedule…..
    Didn’t that feel good? And doesn’t it make you smile?
  • It’s not always better to give than receive. We give so much of ourselves around the holidays, but at what point do we give to ourselves? At what point do we treat ourselves? At what point to we throw our hands in the air and surrender to everything that adds up on the never-ending-to-do list? Yes, it feels good to give to others whether through volunteering, our cooking/baking, or our gift giving. But the most important relationship you will have throughout life is with yourself, and you need to nurture it. Do not always feel that in order to be a good member of society means we have to take time to give back, spend all our hard earned money on food and gifts, and not take a minute of time to ourselves between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This holiday can be about you too, if you let it.
  • If you want to get take-out instead, then do it. If you don’t want to put lights up on your house or decorate head to toe, then don’t. If you don’t want to go caroling with your church group, then don’t. If you don’t want to participate in your work party’s Secret Santa exchange, that is okay….Whether or not you believe me, you have a choice, and you don’t have to do all of these things. And if you’re catching my drift, then you’ll realize that it goes back to saying no. There is too much to do this time of year, and it is up to you to recognize that and then prioritize. For example, this year I was to make the pie for Thanksgiving but I bought one instead. This year my husband and I decided not to buy Christmas lights for the house or buy each other gifts. And you know what? It felt good! Don’t be a superhero this holiday season, just do what it is that you want. After all, this is your holiday season too, not just everyone else’s. Take a breath and prioritize. Your holiday will be much more enjoyable if you’re relaxed.

During these special times of year, take advantage of the opportunity you have to spend time with loved ones, have real conversations, and enjoy authentic moments. 

-Happy Holidays and keep shining

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Happy Things Thursday


  1. Long phone calls with an old friend
  2. When holiday music starts playing in stores and restaurants
  3. Being thankful for all we are fortunate to have
  4. The smell of Thanksgiving meal
  5. Bringing out holiday decor
  6. The first peaceful snowfall
  7. The smell and crackle of a fire place
  8. The kind of good night’s sleep when you feel like you went into a coma
  9. Road trips
  10. Buying Christmas gifts for friends and family
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