Saturday, May 4, 2013

Not Going to Lose It

Folks, this week has been complete and utter insanity. I did 8 intakes (initial assessments) on new clients this week. That is nearly as many as I did in the previous 2 weeks combined. Each assessment takes about an hour and half to 2 hours. Plus I had 7 regular client sessions to hold. Except that there is always something: testing at school, doctor visits, forgetful parents...that means that sessions get moved and my whole schedule gets rearranged. Oh, and I had to do a few emergency sessions this week as well. Needless to say by Friday night my stomach was cramping horribly from the stress and even today (Saturday) I'm battling a headache and a very pinched nerve in my left arm. There is still a lot that needs to be done, both for my full time job and for the nonprofit (which also had about 900 things that needed addressing this week), but, surprisingly, I have managed to make a HUGE dent in things. Being under so much pressure must make me super productive.

Still, I would appreciate no repeats of last week. I'm not sure my body can handle it. Unless someone is prepared to offer me free massages.

Despite there still being a few looming deadlines, a website that needs to be fixed, and several emails that need replies I'm allowing myself to forget about them for a few hours (though that is harder when you decide to blog about them). I have a somewhat sketchy plan of how I will finish tackling various to-do things this weekend and I'm taking some time to just knit and relax.

I had tons of ideas for projects I wanted to make so I checked online and found this pullover pattern. I like that the neck has buttons so it can be worn fastened in cold weather but can also be undone for pulling over big heads (if you are like me and seem to have a rather large cranium). I started a few hours ago and here is where I am now:
I'm using Cascade Eco Wool in a blue-ish tweedy type color that I picked up at Stitches East probably 5 years ago. I really like it though and I think it will be a great knit for a little boy (this is a charity knit, I'm not trying to tell anyone anything by that statement).

I hope the rest of you are relaxing a little this weekend as well!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Not About Me

This blog post isn't about me. It's not about my next trip to Romania. It's not about raising funds. It may look like those things but it's not.

Yes, I am going back to Romania. In fact, I'm going very soon. May 30th to be exact. That means I have a little over 30 days to raise the $3000+ needed to go. Daunting? A little bit. But then I remember, it's not about me.

It's about this kid:
And this letter from him:
Dear Melissa,
I love you a lot and I miss you and can't wait to see you and I want to play with you and we can play together. And I know Jesus will help you come back quickly to Romania and you will play with all the kids and they miss you and I love all the Americans.

It's about the faith of a 13 year old orphan half way around the world and God's fulfillment of a promise He gave to that orphan.

This is totally not about me.

To help me fulfill this promise you can donate through my charity at or through Heart to Heart International ( Feel free to share with friends and others through Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for your faithfulness!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Emotions, Feelings, and Being Smart About Them Both

As a therapist who works with young children one of my biggest challenges is getting kids to talk about their feelings and emotions. It's not that they don't want to talk or even that they don't know they are experiencing complex emotions. The issue is usually that they don't have the EI (emotional intelligence) to understand their own emotions much less the emotions of others. I have a client who described school as "stupid" and "boring" because they were feeling overwhelmed and frustrated at not being able to keep pace with their classmates. A pre-teen client doesn't understand the emotional impact their anger outbursts have on others because they can barely articulate what makes someone feel happy or sad. These kids lack the EI to process their emotions. Why is that important? Because when a child understands their emotions they can control them better. They can also perceive others emotions and learn to sympathize with others. I have seen it happen in a teenage client who suddenly began to view their parents' overbearing behavior as concern for their well-being and stopped bucking them on their rules. The teen stopped feeling powerless and started talking to their parents again (which improved their relationship immensely) and made life a little more bearable for everyone.

How do we develop EI? Are we born with the ability to sense others emotions or is it something we learn? I think it is something that can be developed and it starts with understanding our own emotions first. Too often I find children use anger to respond to a variety of emotions: frustration, boredom, irritation, being overwhelmed, even sadness. That's a lot of emotions for one response to cover! If I feel a child has misnamed their emotion I might say something like, "It seems like you are really frustrated with school right now" or "I wonder if you are worried about something and that is why your tummy hurts?" I may need to try and explain the emotion: "Sometimes I feel like my stomach is turning circles. That's when I know I'm nervous" or "Being excited is like being super, super happy!" I also use games. I have a feelings BINGO game that I use to help clients familiarize themselves with different feelings.
This game covers things like sad, mad, and happy as well as shy, hot, and sick. I also use this to help clients to differentiate between feelings (externally affected reactions) vs. emotions (internally controlled reactions). I can also link the two (sometimes when you get angry you actually feel hot). I also cut these pictures out and use them for a matching game.
These resources came from You can look for other ESOL resources for teaching feelings and emotions. These are usually basic and include pictures which I find to be helpful. In fact, I think I'm going to buy 1 of these:
for each of my kids so I can always know at a glance how they are feeling.

If you are having trouble with a child who is responding in anger or sadness to everything and seems to have a hard time feeling "heard" try some of the emotional vocabulary building games and suggestions above. A quick search of Google reveals hundreds of links to worksheets and games. By providing children with the words for their feelings and emotions we are empowering them to understand and take control over these emotions before the emotion overpowers them.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shut it Down

"Shut it down" is a popular phrase I often use with my therapy clients when discussing negative thought stopping.

Just shut it down.

I wish I'd take my own advice sometimes.

Yesterday I got a bit of discouraging news. It wasn't anything earth shattering, just something I knew would be problematic for the non profit. Immediately I began the "Prayer Scramble": frantically uttered prayers as I dash around trying to figure out ways to circumvent the impending setbacks.

"Lord, I don't know what to do..."(as I clicked open files)
"Lord, does this mean we need to abandon this project?" (as I shifted through emails
"Lord, what are you trying to teach me?!?" (as I angrily shove the cat off my notebook of scribbles messages)
Not my cat. But pretty close. (Source)
Finally, I admit a level of defeat: there are too many emails and none with the info I need, none of my notes seem to have been penned in this century, and the cat is dead asleep on my computer keyboard.
Why do cats sleep on warm electronics? #1stworldproblems (Source)
Then Jesus lays something on my heart.

"Ask for my will to be done and love those in front of you."

Ok! Wait, um...what???

I've been reading The Relationship Principles of Jesus and these are the 2 most recent chapters: seeking God's will and loving your neighbor (those in front of you now). But how was this going to apply to my situation? This was a problem that spanned continents, governing systems, and people groups. But I stopped. And I *really* prayed, "Lord YOUR will be done in this situation, no matter what." Then I began to mentally review the organizations that the non profit currently has contact with. A list that had been right in front of me a few minutes earlier (literally "those right in front of you").

And then it hit me. The thing I was worried about didn't apply to the organization/situation I was thinking of. It's a long story but I had literally missed the mark by several hundred miles.
Ah ha! (Source)
I had nothing to worry about.


Jesus often tells us to shut it down. Shut down the worry. Shut down the negative talk. Shut down completely and stop trying to "fix it" (::cough, cough:: me) because the answer is already there.

Maybe next time I'll actually remember that before I irritate the cat.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why Am I Surprised When God Shows Up?

About 2 weeks ago I sent out a request for help. I needed to get some funds for shipping a metric ton of clothing out of my room so that 1. Hundreds of orphans can have new clothes, shoes, and games and 2. I can actually use my bedroom for things like getting dressed and walking around and sleeping. The response was instant and BIG. Within 48 hours over $2000 had been collected. As of right now over $2600 has been donated. I'm stunned. For some reason I doubt that this is real. I always feel like someone made a mistake. In short, I'm surprised when God shows up.
Yo! What's up? Surprised to see me? How do like this shirt I just picked up at the church rummage sale? (Source)
I'm the best at putting Jesus in a box. Like, trying to define what He can do by what my feeble human mind can think up. For example, if I pray for donations of shoes then I'm thinking a couple of pairs of ratty sneakers. And then someone gives me 100 pairs of Air Jordans and I'm like, what?!?! Because in my mind I really want the Air Jordans but for some reason I think God's only going to come through with the ratty sneakers. The worst part is I DON'T SHOT HIGHER THAN RATTY SNEAKERS. If wishing for ratty sneakers gets me Air Jordans then what would asking for Air Jordans get me???
Ratty sneakers (Source)
Air Jordans (Source)

I'm working on the not being surprised by Jesus thing. I'm also working on not limiting Him. I'm trying to aim higher and higher each day. I pray that my asking is closely in tune with what He wants to give me. Because I'm pretty sure He has bigger and better things still to come.

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"-Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I need help. And I don't mean the psychiatric kind. I need financial help. Well, specifically, EEROP/Walking with Orphans needs financial help. I just want my bedroom back.

See, all the donations that come in to Walking with Orphans get placed in my bedroom. Why? Because I'm the president and we don't have office space (yet). Extra large packages get put in the basement. Once the boxes are all unpacked the donations get logged, sorted, and stored. In my bedroom closet. When I get enough ready for a shipment or someone contacts me about a need then I repack everything. In my bedroom. Then I either send it with my operations manager to be shipped or I wait. Why do I wait? Usually because we don't have enough funds to cover the shipping at the moment. Which means that the huge boxes of donated items sit. In my bedroom.

Right now we have SEVERAL boxes that are ready to ship but not enough funds to cover them all. So they are waiting. In my bedroom.

Exhibit A:
A stack of girl's clothes just waiting to sent off. I have at least 3 places these could go.

Exhibit B:
More girl's clothes waiting to be packed up.

Exhibit C:
A packed box for children in Russia. I have the address and everything ready to go. Winter and summer clothes plus games for the kids all packed up.

Exhibit D:
Underwear. Yes, underwear. A whole box of brand new underwear. Specifically designated for an orphanage in Ukraine. Just waiting...

Exhibit E:
3 boxes of hats and scarves ready to go to a new orphanage (1st time contact). There will be 1 more box going to this same location.

Exhibit F:

A box of baby clothes to go to a friend in Romania who works with abandoned infants and gypsy children. There is enough clothes in stock to send probably 3 boxes to her. But, for now, it sits.

As much as I like using boxes as a bedside table it's not really the look I was going for. What can you do to help? Click on the link below and donate. Then share with your friends and get them to donate too. I have at least 4 more bags of donations coming in and I need to make room for everything. The longer these sit the longer the kids go without. Just remember...

$20 will get a small box to Romania
$50 will get a small box to Russia or Ukraine
$100 will get a large box to Romania
$150 will get a large box to Russia or Ukraine
$500 will get 3-4 boxes to Russia or Ukraine
$1000 will get a box to Bulgaria
$2000 will cover shipping for 2-3 months
$3000 will get a round trip ticket, 2 weeks in country, and HAND DELIVERY of 2 suitcases worth of items (plus the opportunity for that person to love on some kids and develop a personal bond with them)
$10,000 will get us office space and cover shipping, operating costs, and even travel for approximately 6 months. Yes, 6 months. $10,000. Over 1,500 children impacted. And I get my bedroom back.

Just to sweeten the deal...if you are a playboy millionaire who needs to be persuaded, here is a picture of me in a bathing suit in a pool...

playing with a little girl from a Romanian orphanage last summer.

Give away:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I feel like everything is a waiting game right now...

Waiting on the 501(c)3 approval for the nonprofit...

Waiting on the new logo and website design so I can launch Walking with Orphans...

Waiting on my first paycheck from my new job...

Waiting to see if I will be going back to Romania this summer...

Waiting, waiting, waiting on so much more...

I think I'll eat this brownie while I wait...

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Is it really Thursday already? This week has flown by! Yesterday was a full but great day which may explain why I can't believe the week is already half way over.

It started out with letters and drawings from one of my sweet boys in Romania.
Pic of us this winter.
He is truly precious and his kind words started my day off right.

Next I got to meet with my new Russian friend Natalia and her husband, Terry.
I think I have found my kindred Russian spirit. Or my long lost Russian sister. This was the first time we had ever met and yet I felt like I've known her forever. It was such a blessing to get to meet someone who shares my passion for the orphans of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Finally, I got a late afternoon surprise: a picture of my sponsor child from Ukraine with a picture of my first letter I had sent him!
Needless to say this helped me push on through the rest of a long work day.

I even allowed myself extra time to knit and relax last night. I'll be back at it today but it's officially the downward slide to the weekend!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In Like a Lion

Happy March everyone! Last month my Totally Do-Able 12 Month Plan went out the window almost totally. It's nothing I'm upset over though. Most of the reason why I wasn't able to stick to my plan was because, even though I now have a paying job, I won't get my first paycheck until the middle of this month. Which meant another month pinching pennies and buying/doing only what was necessary to get by. I'll get back on track this month though.

That doesn't mean that I was idle all month. I finished the Wurm hat (which I already blogged about) and a Tweed Watch Cap.
Tweed Watch Cap
The Tweed Watch Cap is a pattern from 60 Quick Knits put out by Cascade. this is actually one of the hats I have enjoyed the most. The fit is absolutely perfect, not too tight and not too loose. I used a different yarn than Cascade 220 (as suggested) but, of course, any worsted weight yarn works with this pattern.

Speaking of yarn...I ordered some Knit Picks yarn using my Christmas gift certificate. It's been *a long time* since I've bought yarn from myself so this was a nice treat.
Stroll Sock Yarn

More Stroll

Swish Worsted, a washable wool
 I'm thinking about holding the sock yarn doubled and making some socks for charity since we're really in need of some warm, but thin-ish, winter socks for some of the kids. I don't have definitive plans for the worsted yarn but I'm thinking mittens (another need for the charity) or maybe a sweater (again, for charity, not for me).

In the world of my nonprofit (Eastern European and Russian Orphanages Project) things are busy as always. I made contact with a woman from Russia (through a friend of a friend) who is working with two small villages in need of some tangible support (see my last post for more information). I've begun hitting kids consignment sales and Goodwill looking for deals on like new kids clothes. I would say I've had pretty good success...
This is just one box of clothes that is almost full to the brim for one of the villages. Another box has already been sent and this:
Is the $10 (!) suitcase I picked up at Goodwill yesterday that is getting stuffed with more clothes and being sent this week with yet another friend of a friend who will actually be visiting the kids this summer! Despite all I've managed to get together (including 3 sets of sheets) there is a still a lot that they need. Shoes, bathing suits, and sports equipment are now becoming a priority. As always you can check out the EEROP website for info on shipping and needed items. EEROP will also be undergoing some changes this month. We are planning on rebranding under the name Walking with Orphans. While EEROP has accurately described our purpose for years it's not as memorable as Walking with Orphans (which, coincidentally also describes what we are doing really well). Be sure to check the website and Facebook page for more information as we make the switch.

It's only the 3rd and March is already shaping up to be a whirlwind of a month!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quick Turn Around

I'm reaching out to the online community because I have a special request...

I recently made contact with a new connection in Russia. This contact works in two villages that are too small to have orphanages but have a fairly sizable populations of orphans and vulnerable children (20-30 children in each village). Each village has a family who has stepped forward to look after and minister to these children. It is an incredible sacrifice and these families have great needs, everything from clothes and shoes to bedding to cots and cooking tools. There is another connection I have made who is going to work with these children over the summer and will be passing through Atlanta in a week and a half. I have already begun to gather supplies for her but there is more that is needed. If you can help with any of the following, please let me know:

a large duffle bag-Needs to be able to hold about 40#s of stuff. This is how we're transporting the clothes
shoes in various sizes
card and board games that require no English skills (ex. chess, checkers, Go Fish, etc.)
sheets for twin or full sized beds
sports equipment

The kids are aged 5-16 so a variety of sizes and styles will work. The most pressing needs are the duffle bag and clothes. I'm hitting some consignment stores and Goodwill to see what I can find but I thought someone might have some things they had put away for garage sales later this year. You will receive a receipt for your donation that will be tax deductible when we get our 501(c)3 approval (hopefully within the next month or so). If you are in the Atlanta area I can arrange to meet up with you to pick up items. Or, if you just want to donate money so I can go buy these items you can use PayPal.

Thank you so much for helping!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Fake Nail Saga

For some time now I have been under the delusion that I would like to have fake nails. I've tried to grow my nails out a few times (and by growing them out I mean you can actually see white nail) but I always get tired of them and cut them. Despite my inability to maintain a long natural nail for some reason I see fake nails as different. They make that cool clicky sound when you touch something and they're like heels for nails. My mom mother always advised me against acrylics saying they will destroy your nails so I decided to get some press-ons at the local Wal-Mart to try. I put them on using the little sticky tabs and they all fell off in under 30 minutes. Then I decided to take the plunge and glue them on.

Bad idea.

Almost as soon as I had them on, I wanted them off. I mean, they looked cute but the minute I tried to actually *do* something in them I was totally incapacitated. Putting on clothes, opening a bottle, typing on the computer, USING MY IPHONE...but the real kicker came when I realized I was going to have to take my contacts out with an extra quarter of an inch of nail. Needless to say I knew they would have to come off.

I managed to sleep through the night with the nails on but I woke up ready to gnaw them off my hand. I'd done a little research on how to remove fake nails the night before. Most had said to use acetone...which I didn't have. Another site (including the official Super Glue website) suggested trying warm, soapy water. I figured I'd start with that and then try rubbing alcohol (also a suggestion) and regular nail polish if all else failed.

So, after breakfast, I began...
Here's my nails before hand:

Cute? Right?

Notice on the left hand that the pinkie nail had already come off in less than 12 hours. I was washing my hands and I heard this little "pop!" I was secretly glad because I was more reassured than ever that these babies would come off with a little soap and water.
Pinkie nail says, "I'm free! I'm free!"
I soaked each hand for 5 minutes in some soapy water (for the record I used dish washing soap which I thought might help due to its ability to cut through oil and grease) and then used the little cuticle pusher that came with the kit to begin prying them up from the back. In just 5 minutes 2 popped right off on the right hand and all but 1 came off on the left hand. 5 more minutes and they were all off.
My natural nails are a little worse for wear but, man, do I feel better!

I don't think I'll be getting any more fake nails. Ever. Lesson learned.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


I mentioned in my last post that one of the things I had hoped to accomplish by the end of January was to knit a hat. That was definitely a goal that can be crossed off the list!

This is the Wurm hat in Malabrigo worsted (color: Snow Bird). I've had this hat in my queue for quite some time so I figured now was the time to make it. I knit the small size because I'm donating this to charity and was thinking this would go to a child or pre-teen.
It fits my head but doesn't look (to me at least) as slouchy as the larger sizes. The only thing I don't like about the hat is that I used double pointed needles to make this and you can see the "seams" where I changed between needles. It still needs to be washed so maybe the seams won't be as evident. Also when I was working on it, the yarn kept wanting to slide off the ends of the needles. I think it should really be worked magic loop style but apparently by circulars were already in use because I couldn't find the right size.

All in all I think it's a good pattern but I don't think I'd make it again. First finished object of the year! Let's see if I can keep up the trend in February!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January Wrap

I decided that this year I would do Crazy Aunt Purl's Total Do-Able 12 Month Plan. I like to make lists and mark things off and I felt like her strategy was practical. With January ended and February beginning I thought I would do a little check in.

First up, my "Looming Life Must Haves":
New tires
Oil change
501(c)3 application

These are all things that require budgeting money. Honestly, budgeting is not my strong suit. I know about how much I have to spend in a month and then I try and stock away a little of what's left over. With my long term unemployment while I finished grad school the theme was "Spend as Little as Humanly Possible." Interesting results but not how I want to live my life. I'm hoping that by thinking ahead this year as to how I have to spend money each month I will end up spending in a more conscious way. Back to The Plan...the tires were actually free because they were a birthday gift from last year. The oil change ended up being more expensive than I originally planned because I also needed to get an alignment but my medication was totally paid for my my insurance so it evened out in the wash. And the 501(c)3 application is sent!

Next up, "Happy Wants":

I guess we can mark this as "done" because I didn't actually have any "Happy Wants" this month! "Happy Wants" to me mean things that make me happy (and sane) but cost money. Instead of spending more money this month I figured saving would be a better idea. Onward!

And finally, "Personal Desires":
Knit daily
Knit a hat
Work out for 1 hr/day
Write letters to 5 kids in Romania

These are my personal wish list items. Things that will make me feel better about myself (and, for my purposes, don't cost a dime). I was able to work out for at least an hour just about every day and I knit a good deal more than I have in the past several months (though not *every* night). I managed to knit a hat as well! The letters to the kids in Romania never got finished though. Which actually makes me feel like a tiny failure because for some reason I equate not writing with not loving my kids. Which is totally not true. I have to remind myself that these are goals and not meant to make me feel like a terrible person. It's a new month so I can always improve.
Firefighters of New York calendar and my 12 month plan.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Can it be spring yet?

I think everyone reaches a point where they say, "Enough winter already, can't it just be spring?" I've gotten to that point. Unfortunately, it's January.

But really, can you blame me? Look what I found in my back yard the other day:

And this was the weather for the weekend:
Does that look like winter to you? I think not.

Sadly, the weather has tricked me and I now believe that it should be getting warmer. I fear that somehow over the next couple of weeks though I will suffer from a dramatic turn of weather events. In the meantime I'm going to open a window and put on a short sleeve shirt.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chill Out

I have to say that I was a little worried about the transition back to life in the States after nearly 2 weeks in Romania. There is always the threat of reverse culture shock when you go between such diverse communities. In all honesty, I was dreading going back to the daily grind of paperwork and authorizations and commuting to work. That's why I've been so surprised at what actually happened. It seems that Romania was the giant chill pill I've been needing.
My dear friend Ciara (left) with Toader (a transition graduate) and Florin (from the transition program) and myself on New Year's Eve.
I haven't laughed so much or so hard in the past 6 months as I have in the last 2 weeks.
Getting new gloves for Christmas!
The boys were tickled over some of the gifts they got.
I've also been reminded to keep things in perspective. There are so many bigger issues in the world than late paperwork, denied insurance claims, and traffic. Keeping that in mind has allowed me to be sane during an insurance audit and functional while jumping back into seeing a full load of clients.
My teammate Lexi and Costica.
I'm so thankful that the transition back has been smooth. Even though I miss the kids and my friends on staff terribly I've been able to daily identify things I'm learning that will help me down the road. While I may not always be able to do that I'm trying to treasure those moments now to help me through the times when I wonder what in the world I'm doing with my life.
Daniel being sneaky. Or getting into trouble. Or both.
So, yeah, it's good to be home. For now...