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Sacrifice and Service

Sacrifice and Service

Sacrifice and Service of US Military Men and Women

With today being Memorial Day, I am not only thinking of the sacrifices of so many men and women who have served in our military, I am also thinking of one particular person’s willingness to serve her country – my daughter. The point of this holiday is to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and died serving in the military. My daughter will be coming home soon, and there are too many who will never get to do that. I have a tremendous amount of respect, sorrow, and gratitude for this. I also have seen many smaller sacrifices our military service men and women make. I know I couldn’t possibly capture all of what this means here in a blog post, but read on for a tiny glimpse into what life is like for our military and their families, from the perspective of one sailor’s mom.

I think we are all aware of these things on some level, but now that I’ve been closer to the experience, I have a whole new appreciation for the details of what each of these means:

They leave their home and loved ones.

Almost four years ago, I attended her Navy basic training graduation. We didn’t have a clear idea of what was in store for the next four years – for her or for us back home. We were not thinking about sacrifices – we were excited and hopeful.

There are no words to describe how fantastic it was to see that door opening, knowing that in seconds I was going to see her march in, and be able to give her a big hug very soon. For her, she had not only been away from home, friends, family and all that was familiar – she had been immersed in a whole new life full of hard work, no privacy, some sailor puking at any given time, pain, and lack of sleep.

Over the next four years she would go on two deployments and have countless additional days at sea for training and testing exercises. In port, days are long and the work is tedious. At sea, days are long, busy, and aircraft are launching off and landing back on the carrier at all hours. All through this – she missed a lot of special events like graduations, weddings, birthdays, and holidays. And constantly missed everyone back home. Yes, there are bright moments too like receiving a care package, or getting a day of liberty in a foreign port. But none of this takes away from being homesick and being away from people you love.

Difficult living conditions.

I had the great fortune to do what’s called a Tiger Cruise, which is when family members can live on the ship with their sailors for the last leg of a deployment, usually for a week or two. Mine was from Hawaii to San Diego a few years ago. It is a fantastic experience and also is an in-your-face look at how they live on deployments. I absolutely know there are worse conditions for soldiers and marines. But sailors don’t have it easy at all.

How in the world do the big guys fit in the racks to sleep? There wasn’t enough room for me to turn over easily and I nearly fell out of mine in the middle of the night the first night. The rack I slept in was about three and a half feet above the floor, and it was comedy in action watching me get in or out. The pallet can barely be called that at about four inches thick. I have no idea how those sailors do it on seven to eight month deployments.

It is amazing to see how well space is utilized on a Navy ship, but this also means that there is very little room for a sailor’s personal space–either for your stuff or your body. Tight quarters mean that tempers can flare pretty easily, especially near the end of a deployment. I have gained a whole new respect for how being in the military means you must be able to organize your self and your stuff and be able to function with the absolute minimum. The limited space also means there is simply very little room for comfort.

In port, the barracks are not much better!

On top of having to live like this, every sailor I’ve talked to simply took these things in stride. Yes, they complain sometimes and yes, they can get irritated with the conditions. But they also accept them and deal with it, and often they laugh about it. When asked about the living conditions, the response I heard most often was something like, “Hey, it is what it is.”

Not-so-great food.

This probably falls under “difficult living conditions” but I felt it deserved its own separate place in this list. I can’t imagine the level of effort that goes into keeping enough food on a carrier to feed 5,000 sailors, or what goes into getting it prepared three times a day. I never thought about this before I saw it in action. And as you might expect, the quality suffers a bit. When I was on the ship for a week, neither I nor any of the visiting family members I spent time with expected great food, and it wasn’t. We knew this was a working Navy ship, not Carnival Cruise Lines. But apparently they brought better food on board for the Tiger Cruise, and you would have thought we were having the best food in all our lives to hear the sailors talk about how great it was.

They are in harm’s way.

Every single person in the military knows that he or she may be called on to make that ultimate sacrifice. They know it every day, and willingly put themselves in harm’s way. I have to say that it has astonished me when I’ve asked any soldier, sailor, marine or airman about this. Without exception, every single one I have asked has brushed it off as if they are embarrassed to acknowledge how important this is. It isn’t living in denial, and it doesn’t seem like fear either. It is humility. And acceptance that this is what they committed to. This is part of why we call them heroes.

Sailors manning the rails, USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), entering Pearl Harbor. February, 2012.

I hope that my own gratitude for our military members’ sacrifices comes across here. If you are feeling this, too, you might be wondering what you can do to show it.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Send a care package – many military support organizations have occasional “packing parties,” especially as it gets close to the holiday season. If you are interested in learning more about this, give me a call and I’m happy to talk about it! Getting a package means a lot, especially on long deployments.
  • Say thank you – to any military service person you meet. They appreciate hearing it.
  • Contribute to an organization that serves the military community such as Give An Hour, or Wounded Warrior Project.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any comments, noticed I missed something important, or have a question.

Thank you to each and every one of you who have served, or are serving now.

Sailors manning the rails, USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), entering Pearl Harbor. February, 2012.

What we can learn from Taylor Swift about self esteem and living life for all it’s worth.

What we can learn from Taylor Swift about self esteem and living life for all it’s worth.

Taylor Swift is definitely known for writing songs with a message. Her latest, “Shake It Off,” immediately struck me – it has a powerful message that goes right along with a lot of things I talk about with clients who are dealing with self esteem and self worth issues.

Did you hear the same messages I did?

When your self esteem is low, it is hard to be yourself. You might worry about what other people think, partly because you don’t think much of yourself to begin with. So why would anyone else?

Working on self esteem (and self worth) usually involves changing beliefs you have about yourself and about life itself. Through this you begin to appreciate and accept both positive and negative qualities you have.

To start with, here is a link to the video for Shake It Off in case you haven’t already seen it:



I love her spirit! And I think these lyrics carry some important messages:

Don’t worry so much about what other people think or say, be yourself. If you think about the people in your life that are important to you, are there one or two that you can really be yourself with? Doesn’t this feel great? What if you could do that all the time or at least most of the time anywhere you are? Taylor says, “haters gonna hate…” and this says to me that people will think what they will and that is THEIR problem, and you don’t have to make it yours.

There are lots of things about ourselves people don’t know. Sure, you don’t share everything about yourself with others. Why should you? You get to decide what people are allowed to know when it comes to who you are. So, if others don’t understand and then criticize you, does their opinion matter? No way. Because you know the whole truth about yourself, and you are the only one that really matters.

Things happen in life, keep on going. Sometimes life doesn’t exactly go the way you want. You make mistakes sometimes. And even when you don’t, sometimes events or situations in life aren’t very happy. Just shake it off! You don’t have to let this stop you from being who you are or appreciating who you are.

Try different things and you don’t have to be perfect! In her video, she’s trying several different types of dancing. Sometimes she’s doing it well, sometimes not so much! Through it all though her unique spirit and personality shine through. Does it matter whether she does it perfectly? No! She is having a great time, no matter what she does. She is making the most out of life. If you can find ways to do this for yourself it brings joy, and contentment, and well-being. And, people are drawn to you when you can really be yourself and enjoy life – this let’s your unique gifts shine through.

Enjoy life – we only get one shot at this. Why waste time getting down on ourselves when we could be enjoying life? If you are getting down about what others are saying, you are missing out on enjoying life when you do that, too.

I saw her in concert last year during her Red Tour. I loved it that she spent a few minutes in between songs to talk to her fans about being yourself, shaking off the things people say, and shaking off your mistakes. One unspoken message in those moments (and through her writing and interviews) is “I have to figure out how to deal with this stuff just like you do.”

If she can shake it off, you can too.

What do you think?

by Catherine Wilson LPC

Self Esteem

Self Esteem

The subject of self esteem comes up fairly often in counseling sessions, but lately it has come up a lot more than usual.

It is one of the best topics to discuss… there are so many things that influence self esteem, and so many components to consider. And simply having a discussion about self esteem brings it to our awareness, which often leaves a person with a sense of improvement (or at least a little more positive view) than before.

It can be a daunting task to “improve low self esteem” and many people struggle with where to start. I thought it may be helpful to talk here about the most common topics that come up and how those relate to feeling more positive about one’s sense of self.

Be Yourself – This is one of those ideas that is extremely easy to say, and not always so easy to do. How many reasons do you think people can come up with to avoid revealing their true thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, personality, etc. etc.?? Yes, there are a LOT. But if you can be at peace with who you are and be able to share that uniqueness with others, it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our experience here in this life. This idea always brings Brené Brown to mind, and her most recent book titled Daring Greatly. In her light-hearted yet direct style, she encourages each of us to take that risk to show our true selves and see how much more rich and beautiful the relationship in our lives can be.

In a recent YouTube exploration of this topic, I came across the music video for Sara Bareilles’ song, Brave. The lyrics in this song emphasize this exact same thing, and what a beautiful way to demonstrate it.

You might enjoy this Sara Bareilles too:


Live Your Values – Each of us has this unique set of values, of varying importance, that is a part of the person as an individual. One of the things that makes my work as a counselor so meaningful and important to me is the honor I feel when people allow me into their world, to share in their own unique individuality.

The values I’m talking about can vary a lot but the most common ones I talk with people about are honesty, self control, optimism, kindness, courage, integrity, and open-mindedness.

We run into problems though as human beings when we make choices that do NOT coincide with our values. None of us are perfect, right? But we try. And when we feel like we are falling short, our self esteem can take a hit, we feel shame or guilt, we fall into depression or anxiety, and more.

When I say “live your values,” what I’m getting at is if you are not happy with choices you’ve made, simply start now to make choices that you are happy with. One moment and one choice at a time, start to move closer to living your values, whatever those are. Each choice may feel small but each one brings you closer to showing with your actions who you really are.

Understand the Influences in Your Life – The most important areas of influence on self esteem come from family, friends, and society. When we are children, our family has the most influence. A child who is given unconditional love learns to love himself or herself unconditionally as well. As we mature, our friends begin to have more influence and peer pressure, bullying, social media, school performance, how we dress, and so much more begin to become a significant part of how we define the thing we all “me.”

And then there is society. I equate this to some extent with our media, and I could go on and on about the effect our media has on a person’s sense of self, body image, how we should act as a man or as a woman, and so much more. But that is probably a blog post all by itself! My point in this is that if we can understand the multiple influences on self esteem and how this relates to how I define “me,” we can overcome negative influences and strengthen the positive ones. We can decide what is true and what is not true for…”me.”

Acceptance – each of us has aspects of our self that we like and some we don’t like. If you can get to a place where you accept ALL of who you are, there is peace and well-being and a sense of self-worth.

I hope these ideas have given you some things to think about. I’d love to hear thoughts on how this relates to you, or thoughts you have that expand on self esteem.

Trauma In Female Veterans

Trauma In Female Veterans

PsychCentral posts a number of great articles but this one, see link below, about female veterans abuse caught my eye.


Blog post photo credit from source link above.

The article cites some startling statistics on sexual assault against women in the military. What really got me though is that the young woman portrayed in the article saw horrific things while deployed in Afghanistan, was in a vehicle that was struck by an IED, but the trauma that was most difficult for her was the sexual assault by her commanding officer that she couldn’t talk about. She felt she couldn’t talk about this because of an enduring atmosphere in the military that blames the victim and discourages reporting.

This is sad of course, and I know officially the military is trying to change this. A social problem as big as this often feels hopeless and it leaves you wishing you could do something while you also believe that nothing you do will make a difference.

I’m really going to ask the question though anyway. What could you do? I’m interested in your thoughts on this but I’m also going to add a few ideas as well.

If you are a counselor like me, you could sign up to provide pro bono therapy at http://www.giveanhour.org. Check them out, they are a great organization. As a counselor, this may give you an opportunity to make a difference, one person at a time. It may be someone who was the victim of a sexual assault. It may even be a perpetrator, consumed by guilt or shame.

Any of us could make a difference – one person at a time.

One “thank you” to a veteran or person active in the military.

One moment when you can vocalize support in some way for victims of sexual assault in the military to speak out.

One offer of support to someone you know who is or has been in the military, whatever that support may be…a listening ear, an acknowledgment of a job well done, or ??

by Catherine Wilson MA LPC NCC

Building Self Confidence

Building Self Confidence

Building Self-Confidence Skills

I recently ran across a YouTube video the other day about building self-confidence.

I love TED talks – they are usually about 15-20 minutes and are delivered by speakers who are considered an authority on the topic they are discussing. Dr. Ivan Joseph makes a couple of great points in this talk.

One of these is that repetition is necessary to build self-confidence.

No one just decides one day to have it, you have to practice and take steps to create it. It is a skill!

The second is that self-talk is extremely important.

You need to make a conscious effort to eliminate negative self-talk and create more positive self-talk for yourself.

I hope you enjoy it too!