In Self Reflections and Refinements

Talk Therapy

I want to tell you that I see a counselor. 

This is something that is taking a slight bit of courage to write about. That is due to the fact that we still live in a time where there is a negative stigma attached to the fact that sometimes we just need someone to talk to. We still stigmatize mental illness and in turn mental health. But, the reason I'm writing this post is because I don't believe it should be stigmatized and it should be much more out in the open. 

I began seeing Kelly last October when I was looking for an person who could be an unbiased third-party in my life. I was looking for a sounding board, someone to bounce my feelings off, to help me make sense of them. Someone who wouldn't judge me because they had no skin in the game of my life. Someone who wouldn't take offence to the things I thought or felt. A person who's job it is to validate me. A lot like a journal, but would talk back. 

Throughout the winter, a time that can get rough for me, I talked to Kelly about a lot of my feelings. Thinking that winter helps accentuate any negative feeling I have, having her by my side through this season was exceptionally helpful. She's been there to listen to my ever running journey and was someone I enjoyed very much bearing my deepest thoughts to. She had an incredible way of understanding me even when I didn't think I articulated myself well. She always seemed to get what I was trying to say. 

I talk about her in the past tense, because very recently she informed me she would be moving to Canada. Our last session together was this week. I have found another counselor in the same practice and am looking forward to hopefully a similar relationship. However, I will miss Kelly and the comfort we built with each other. 

When I first began seeing her I had Meridian Health Insurance through Medicaid. They paid for unlimited visits. For the first time in my life I could see a therapist weekly if I wanted. The bouts of therapy that I have had before were short lived due to limitations of my insurance. About seven months into our sessions I was dropped by Medicaid, but upon hearing of this Kelly offered to take me on pro bono so we could continue seeing each other. 

I don't have a mental illness, I have a generic diagnosis (for insurance purposes), but I truly believe that we don't have to be mentally ill to need talk therapy. We don't even need to be going through anything particularly difficult. Life is difficult enough and I believe talking to a good therapist makes it much easier to bear sometimes. I know we have friends and family for that, but at times it helps to have a truly unbiased person to allow you to talk while they just listen. Even though I don't feel sick I still want to have a relationship like this in my life as preventative maintenance. It helps keep my mind well. 

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In Little Adventures

Balloon Chasing

Getting hooked on balloons was something I had heard a lot about from the people around me that also know about hot air balloons' pull. After I got my balloon ride at this year's media flight night I witnessed how cool it was to work as crew for the balloon. I realized it was something I wanted to try. I'm get excited by thing that require amounts of functional strength, something that I strive to earn in my workouts. 

I built a relationship with my balloon pilot, Al Smith, who flies Northern Lights out of Grass Lake, MI. After the Hot Air Jubilee was over I let Al know that I would like to offer myself as a volunteer crew member, should he ever need me. Turned out he needed me pretty quickly and the very following weekend I got to try my hands at balloon chasing. 

I joined the rest of the crew at 6:20 a.m. at Ella Sharp Park. Three balloons would be going up, taking up a few sponsors from the Hot Air Jubilee. For about an hour we waited out rain and poor weather conditions before it was decided that we were going to launch from a more southern location. Once we finally got in position to launch the balloon was rolled out onto the grass. Myself and another newbie crew member stood on either side holding the massive balloon open as the large fan inflated it with ambient air. I think we both were just as giddy to be there and though we couldn't talk, we kept smiling at each other from across the balloon. When the balloon is almost fully inflated with air the burner is turned on to heat the air up. At this point the balloon was becoming harder and harder to hold onto so I was glad when Al let me know I could go ahead and let it go. Before we knew it the balloon was standing fully upright on its own.

We held down the basket as the two passengers climbed in. Once the final tether was released we waived goodbye and we calmly but some of the supplies back in the van, hopped in, and started on the next phase of our journey-chasing.

The pilot uses an app called Glympse on his phone and he is able to share with us a GPS signal of where he is going. We spent the better part of an hour keeping an eye on him in the sky, watching him move across a small cell phone screen, and determining where he was headed and what roads would lead us to him. It was a fun  and exciting morning with three other women.

We had eyes on the other two balloons that were flying and from time to time would cross paths with the other chase crews. Having the app was very helpful, but I can't imagine the days when that was not available. We had radio communication with the balloon too, but hardly used it.

Once we finally determined Al was ready to land we sat and waited in the van just ahead of him to anticipate his arrival. Once we saw him coming down quick three of us jumped out of the van and sprinted about the length of a football field to be there the moment he touched down. He landed in a field so we ran through rows of cut down straw. It was a pretty gentle landing and we got hold of the basket right away. The basket was laid down and the passengers hadn't gotten out yet, so it was a hilarious sight seeing them curled up in the fetal position and we tried giving them a hand to climb out.

Once squeezing out all of the air from the balloon it's stuffed into a large circular bag. It feels a lot like stuffing a sleeping bag for a giant. After everything was loaded we all rode in the van to the launch point for us to get our vehicles.

Ballooning can have a lot of waiting involved, but when its "go" time it can be one of the most exciting things ever! 

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Women, Bikes, and Wine

I love cycling and I love female empowerment. Marry the two and you have a super excited Alex. 

I got the idea for a women's workshop when I helped with another maintenance workshop with my male boss. I noticed that some of the women in the room were quiet and I sensed that they were agreeing to knowing more than they really did. It made me want to offer a workshop for just women, in a safe setting, taught by a fellow woman who could present the information in a non-intimidating way. 

What resulted was my Ladies Only Bike Maintenance and Safety Workshop. When I made the flier and posted it on our P&T Fitness Facebook page it got a ton of response. In the three weeks it was posted, it got shared 45-50 times and was seen by 4,500 to 5,000 people. I had 19 people sign-up to come to it. The women of Jackson had spoken; they wanted to know more about bikes. Being the only female working in a bike shop in the whole town it was great to know that there were other women out there at least interested in getting more comfortable with the mechanics of their bike and how everything works. 

Now, this started from a feminist point-of-view. I wanted women who usually say, "when I need my seat raised I ask my husband", to be able to raise that seat themselves. I don't have a husband, so I do things myself. I wanted to empower women to be able to do things on their own too. 

When the time came to have the workshop I set up the refreshments and snacks; a cheese and cracker tray, lemonaid, water, and of course WINE! Hey gotta give the ladies what they like, right? I gave each person a booklet of safety information as well as a diagram of the components of a bike. I started out by sharing by background, my street cred to be talking about this subject, my potential shortfalls/limitations, and how I wanted to help empower them to understand bikes better. 

I went through cleaning of your bike, components and how they work, how to ride safely including accessories needed, and finished with the crown jewel, changing a bike tire. I ran low on time, so my bike changing demo was rushed. I wanted it to be a bit more interactive rather they lecture-y, but my 90 minutes flew by. 

It flew by, because in between topics the women were able to talk about their own biking experience and learn from one another, in addition to me. I liked this the most. The atmosphere seemed to be a round table of women talking to women and the company was great. I could really sense the appreciation that we were all women, together and safe, and we could say what we wanted without sounding dumb. I told many embarrassing stories about how I did something wrong with a bike, and learned, and didn't want the others to make the same mistakes. I had hoped to sound relate-able  and hoped maybe I'd mentioned some silly thoughts that had crossed their minds too. 

The ladies were very thankful and smiley when they said goodbye. It filled me with joy to have my goal met; empower more women to understand something that they thought maybe was beyond them. Giving them the attitude that they can try something that they couldn't before. Before, some of them were just riding their bikes, now they understand what is actually going on with their components. I am fairly sure I was speaking to a mixed audience when it came to levels of knowledge, but they all agreed to come to a "beginner" class. I could sense that even the women who already knew the information I was presenting enjoyed having that knowledge reinforced and just enjoyed talking about bikes period. 

Maybe it's the love of women, or maybe it's the leftover WINE that I'm celebrating with, but I'm on Cloud Nine tonight. I got to educate, I got to empower, and I got help people be more active, not sure what more I needed to make me happy. 

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In Life List Travel

Life List # 86: Go to Savannah, Georgia

When I first started working for Girl Scouts, I began learning about its founder Juliette Gordon Low. Being from Savannah, Juliette's historic home had become a museum. Known as the birthplace, this is a place that Girl Scouts from all over the world like visiting, to see where the original Girl Scout herself, once lived. 

This was one of the main things that led me to adding this item to my life list. The second thing that called me to Savannah was the Spanish moss hanging from the oaks.

I got to experience both of these things on this trip. 

A couple things I learned at the Juliette Gordon Low house:
1. Juliette (Daisy) had an unhappy marriage to William Low, and they never had children. But, when her husband died when Daisy was just 45 she was searching for purpose in her life. This led her to the founding of the Girl Scouts. Had she been a wife longer and a mother, she may not have had the time and drive to create something that would effect girls and women for 100 + years.

2. In 1953 Daisy's home was saved from the threat of destruction when it was purchased by Girl Scouts of the USA. True to Girl Scout ways there was massive fundraising to restore the house. Now it is said that the house is owned by all Girl Scouts everywhere.

When I first got a glimpse of Spanish moss while driving into Savannah,  I started to get that excited feeling when you start to see the tops of roller coasters in the distance when driving into an amusement park. Once I parked my car, the very first place I walked was to Forsyth Park, just two short blocks from my hostel. It's a beautiful and bustling 30-acre park which acts as one of the most beautiful backdrops for Savannah photos. Dozens of oaks hold seemingly perfectly placed Spanish moss draped from its branches. It was every bit as lovely as I hoped it would be. I spent as much time as I could in that park admiring and sitting below the trees.

I also visited Wormsloe Historic Site, where I got to travel down a long drive covered in a canopy of hanging oaks.

My final destination was Bonaventure Cemetery where I had a wonderful time walking the historic grounds, observing the beautiful monuments and graves of people long since past. There was plenty to photograph there and the calm and serene atmosphere soothed me.

Check out my YouTube channel to see videos of my trip! 

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In Self Reflections and Refinements

Journals Revisited

One of the more consistent habits of my life is keeping a hand written journal. I couldn't stop now if I tried. For 15 solid years I have filled books with my frustrations, my annoyances, my hopes, joys, sadness, and inner most feelings. I've filled 35 unique books with the story me, and the script keeps on being added to. 

I keep all my journals in a plastic tote in my basement. A very heavy piece of my life that would be a high priority to save in a fire. I've gone back and read about different parts of my life by picking out a specific book before, however now I'm starting the project of reading them all. 

I don't believe I've ever written my journal with the priority of documenting my life for memory's sake. I journal because it's therapy. With thoughts, feelings, and experiences bouncing around in chaos in my head, they seem to drive my a little nuts from time to time. But in writing them down they become more clear and I'm able to quiet my mind from all the thoughts that build up. What's left as a byproduct of this therapy is documentation of time when I was upset, happy, hopeful, hopeless, and all those times I wouldn't get around to remembering. 

Going back to the journals of my late teens and early twenties is a bit of an embarrassing experience for me. If 31-year-old Alex met 17-year-old Alex, she might give her a good slap across the face for some of the things she thought about relationships. It's refreshing to know I don't believe some of the same things anymore that I did then, but it's a bit hard to believe some of the ways I felt then. 

I always say "you never know how you are going to feel tomorrow" so I can't fault myself for feeling the way I did in the past. This experience is showing me that there are many things about me that are very different, and for that I am thankful. But, interestingly enough I'm finding so many things to be the same. Documenting things from that far back shows me a foundation for what I am now. Some things make a lot of sense now. 

One thing I will never fault myself for are the countless entries about me and my friends having good fun. Some of my earliest entries are filled with stories of nights going to movies, playing games at someone's house, and me being fully aware that I was a young woman appreciating a carefree life of living in the moment. 

Sunday, November, 23rd, 2003 (Age 17)
Last night was so amazing. Just like Friday, except maybe better. The first hockey game was a blast. I totally let go and screamed my lungs out for the team. I made a sign for my friend L.T. After the hockey game all of us went to Kahley's for a little bit and ate. After that we played this really fun game that the boys made up. It was hide-n-seek in cars in the dark. We went to this neighborhood by Allie's house and played. It was so much fun and very funny. Our team; Matt, Colby, Kahley, and I were really bad! LOL. But after about two hours of that we all went to Rock-n-Bowl from midnight to two a.m. We had fun there too. After that we were all burned out, but it was such an awesome weekend with so much fun. 

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