Codependence Camp - October, 2015
Virginia Counselors' Associations Annual Conterence - 2015

This fall has been rich in Opportunities for me, opportunities of various sorts.

Our October Codependence Camp was full of wonderful opportunities to work together on our self-growth. Studying the work of Rick Hanson, we used material in Buddha's Brain to learn more about how to cultivate our healthy self through calming and centering.

In November, I presented at the Virginia Counselors' Associations Annual  Conference. Full of opportunities for learning and networking, I also used it as an opportunity to create a new presentation working with the material in My Life as a Border Collie: "The Use of Story-Telling and Metaphor to Work with Codependent Behaviors." Metaphor and story-telling can teach us quickly and memorably, and I was delighted to share tales and lessons from that book with an informed and engaged audience. Soon my notes from that presentation will be available to you at this website under Downloads.

These have been professional and creative opportunities which I have enjoyed and been inspired by. And it is important to also note all of the Opportunities I am given daily to work my program. Just living in this world and with our self, we are moment-by-moment given opportunities to act/react in the same old ways or to do something different. We can worry and fret or we can be in the present moment. We can complain about someone taking advantage of us or we can set boundaries with them. We can keep hoping things will be different or we can choose to see what is.

As we move into the holidays with more pressures on us to get things done and more contact with family and friends, these Opportunities will surely be there for us to respond to. If I can enter this season with healthy self awareness, moment-by-moment, and with my intentions to respond not react, I believe that when the Opportunities present themselves, I will have a good chance of acting and living out of my healthy self.

And if I do not like how I handled a particular Opportunity, I know that the next one is not far behind and will once again give me the chance to work my program toward increase health and peace.

The leaves are falling here in Virginia. The season is changing. Over the past week we have been blessed with gorgeous colors of reds, oranges, and yellows against blue skies and green fields. I have been busy with many wonderful opportunities over the past couple of months, and I am glad to have time to appreciate this natural beauty and to write out some thoughts here.

Haiku continue to come to me almost everyday. It is interesting how they are clear, honest, and deep forms of self-expression - self-expression that I am not necessarily fully aware of until they come forth. I don't try to analyze them nor do I submit them to heavy editing and critique. They are my feelings, my story, my growth, my understanding of things now. I welcome them:

Oranges and reds
accent the still-green landscapes
of Shenandoah.

Wood stacked. Plants brought in.
First frost knocks at Indian
Summer's door today.

One-by-one they fall,
letting go of one life and 
starting another.

It changed in a day.
This open view could not be seen
by me yesterday.

Yes, I am seeing some open views today that I could not see yesterday. Among those views, I am preparing a presentation for the Virginia Counselors Association's Conference later this coming week at The Homestead in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. The presentation is the first I have formally prepared on My Life as a Border Collie. The presentation is entitled "The Use of Metaphor and Story-Telling in Working with Codependent Behaviors." To prepare, I have re-visited my own stories and lessons in My Life as a Border Collie, and I will be sharing some of those readings with you in blogs soon to come.

Fall and winter are good seasons to spend time with stories and see what we can learn about our self from them. So put on your slippers, fix a warm beverage, and check back with me here.

Natural Bridge Station, VA, USA
October 31, 2015

My time in Williamsburg at the Virginia Summer Institute for Addiction Studies was wonderful: excellent sessions in which I learned a great deal and inspiring colleagues and conversations. A special thank-you to all who attended my session and participated in the inauguration of Your Healthy Self, my new electronic board book available here at my website under Downloads.

Whether I am working with my clients, teaching others, or working with my self, I am over-and-over brought back to the basic importance of mindfulness in my life. More and more I understand that the work I am doing is about this development of a healthy self, and without the awareness and ability to quiet my self and come to the present moment, I am not able to connect with my self in the ways that help my growth.

Haiku continue to come to me these days. They are such a magical delight - their presence in my life - and they often express succinctly my experiences. Here are several I choose to share with you now.

Always moving on
with so much goodness waiting
to be noticed now.

Life gives me the chance
to catch up with my sweet self
and still I push on.

Summer's orchestra
is all coming together
with rich sights and sounds

Each of us have a present moment right now.

I have a moment.
Here and now invites me to 
notice and attend. 
Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook
Camille Pissarro
The Art Institute of Chicago

The time has come for me to return to my blog and to return to the Virginia Summer Institute for Addiction Studies in Williamsburg this coming week - July 13-15, 2015 - I am very fond of this conference. I have learned a great deal there and have been invited to present several times. I will be presenting at VSIAS this Tuesday, July 14th.

My session is entitled, "Your Healthy Self: Skills for Working with Codependent Behaviors." The presentation is a new one, and the theme of the conference invited us to use technology in our work.

This invitation prompted me to create a power point book on this topic of codependency. It reminds me of the board books we enjoyed as children. The exciting news for me is that it is available to you and anyone here on my website. It takes about 30 minutes to read, and as I add, years to work. It is under the Downloads tab which is a new feature on my website. I want to be able to share more of my presentations with you.

So check out my downloads. There are four of them now. I will be adding more from work I have done over the past 10 years. I am glad to pass them out into the world and stimulate conversation and growth on this important topic: Your Healthy Self.

Mama and me on a girls' trip to Williamsburg, VA


I see your wool coat
reminding me of young you
fresh and beautiful.


I opened a book.
There was a card from Mama.
For You. Love, Mama.


Her sentiments live.
She speaks through her written words
supporting me now. 


I feel like crying.
I live in beauty and good
yet dark pulls at me.

April 18, 2015

The polish expression “Not my circus, not my monkeys” has finally made it to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where I live and work. I have a client who has been telling me about their use of it in her home. This week another client brought me a copy of the expression off of the internet.

The reason these clients are showing me this expression is because this is very much what Disentangle, When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else is all about! They know that we talk about and work on boundaries often. We work on letting go of things and people not in our control. We work on learning to develop and manage our own circus.

I am glad that this old expression has made it to our popular culture. I am glad people are noticing that sometimes we are trying to manage someone else’s monkeys, that we are in the arena of a circus that is not ours to be in. And behind the fondness for this expression I believe is the realization of the craziness that can come from chasing someone else’s monkeys.

This is what can happen when we lose our self in someone else, when we are over-functioning in someone else’s life and under-functioning in our own. These are the ways I describe codependent behaviors. I still find that people are reluctant to look at their codependent behaviors. They steer away from the codependent word; they have reasons to justify their involvement in the lives of others. So I am very happy that a colloquial expression helps people to identify the importance of noticing if they are dealing with someone else’s circus and monkeys, and I am glad we can all laugh at this image.

Disentangle, When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else offers four areas of skill development to help with learning to work with the monkeys in your own circus and to really practice “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Welcome to my new BlogSpot!

Thank you, Grace (, for making this possible for me and all who visit.

This photo was recently taken by me on my front porch here at our old clapboard home on the James River. It is time to plant, time to plant lots of new things, including thoughts and words. 

And that's what has happened for me since mid-February. I have fallen into haiku. Yes, that's how I am expressing it. Many of my thoughts and feelings are in that form which I am now calling In the Wake of Grief: Haiku of Mind, Mood, and Mindfulness. No, I am not making an official book out of this writing, but it is quite a little volume that I will be sharing some with you here.  I believe that many of the haiku reflect, hopefully, mental health and recovery which I work with and write about.

Both my dear Mother and Daisy, the border collie, died last September, 2014. In the months that preceded their deaths,  I was beyond busy, torn by where to be and with who, low in sleep, and really on auto-pilot. I must have started to wake this past February as these words and feelings began to come to me. I welcome them. I trust them. They are part of my grief process. And I want to share some of them with you, hoping they may offer their own form of mediation and meaning for you.

Mixed with these haiku will be my comments, essays, and thoughts.

I thank you for taking the time to spend time with me.


She was in my dream,
running, bouncing, full of life,
still very alive.


Thinking of the road
to my piano lessons,
I thank you extra.


It's time to let go. 
The mullein's tall, dead remains
are begging for rest. 

Another Lesson from Daisy for which I am grateful:

Sugar cookie dough and vanilla ice cream really do help the medicine to go down: Why force a solution when I can notice and follow a sweeter, easier, and effective path that is there all along if I will get out of my own way full of fears and control and allow life to flow.

On April 15, 2014 Daisy turned 18 years old. We were blessed with another full year with Daisy and a birthday celebration on the 15th with treats and a gold ribbon tied to her collar.

Later that month I wrote an essay entitled "Another Year of Lessons." Here at this Thanksgiving time of the year - yes, I have not yet rushed to Christmas - I want to share a few of the lessons I included in that essay:

Every day is a gift: Yes, every day is a gift and not to be taken for granted. Life is precious here and now. Each morning when I wake I want to remember this. And each day that Daisy wakes, I want to remember this. As Daisy’s veterinarian has repeatedly suggested, “Enjoy her.”

Walking an old dog promotes mindful walking: Practically speaking, Daisy’s slow moving style has helped me greatly to practice my mindful walking and to learn how to shed hurry and busyness and replace it with presence and peace.

It is fun to sit together in the shade and feel the breeze on our faces.

It is fun to walk together in the dark with me noticing the stars and lightening bugs while Daisy enjoys some night sniffing.

Thank you, Daisy, for this abundance of lessons that just keep coming.

Helping and fixing come so naturally to me. I readily extend my self to others. Nothing’s wrong with this until it goes too far. As I told you, I so want to fix Daisy’s aged body. I so want to remove every drop of pain and, quite honestly, create her youthfulness again. Daisy and I are both servers. She is a greeter, a protector, and a herder. I am a helper and fixer, even professionally. A “Lesson Learned” for me about these helping behaviors is:

How can I serve my self?

If I am not mindful as I give and help and serve, this is the question that I forget to ask and answer. In the midst of our important work of helping others, it is very important to remember our self. In fact, important is an understatement. It is imperative to remember our self. It is our very self that is doing this serving, and without the health of that self, no serving can be done. So how can I serve my self? I believe that in order to answer this question, we must check in with the thinking, feeling, physical, and spiritual aspects of our self. I believe we want to give equal consideration to each of these important parts of who we are and ultimately integrate them into a healthy self.

In being loyal and committed, it is important for me to consider my self as well. This does not mean that I must always have my way or attend to my needs without consideration of others. It does mean that as I deeply attend to someone else, or for that matter, some cause or activity, that I also connect with me. Is what I am about to choose good for me? Will I feel okay about me and my choices if I am acting out of my devotion? Am I starting to feel compelled to say or do things that may be driven by my devotion? Has my devotion blurred into an obsessive watching and checking to protect my self from abandonment by this object of my devotion?

My dominant codependent behaviors include being devoted, helping/fixing, people-pleasing, over-reacting, and controlling. I prefer to think of codependency from a behavioral perspective, because this gives me the opportunity to become aware of my behaviors and to moderate them according to what is healthy for me and my relationships. If I simply think of my self as a codependent, then I may get attached to that label and not as readily see the avenues for change.

Daisy’s devotion to me is what helped me to start looking at my devotion to others. Devotion is one thing; unhealthy, obsessive attachment is another. I could not write these things without knowing them my self. I can be obsessively preoccupied with someone else. Over the many years of my recovery and life with Daisy, I have learned many lessons that move me toward a healthy self. There are over 140 of these “Lessons Learned” in My Life as a Border Collie for twelve examined traits. In my next several posts, I will be sharing some of these lessons about devotion, pleasing, and letting go. And then I will move on to additional lessons from this last year of Daisy’s life.

As I begin to write about my recent lessons learned from my life with Daisy, I am first going back one year to share some writing I did last November about me and Daisy's declining health. These writings will freshen us all up on the ways I think about codependency/loss of self in someone else, and I will be offering them in small pieces in the spirit of the 19th century serialized novels: 

Give me the least bit of stress and my character defects start showing up. Even after 25 years in my recovery program, my “weak links” present themselves and can take over if I am not working my program. Today I am aware of my impatience. I can be so stubborn and self-willed that I completely forget the spirituality that I love and value. My controllingness and desire to have the outcomes I want come fully into play as my stress increases and I lose my self in that stress.

The stress I speak of now is the declining health of Daisy, my Border Collie mix, who is 17 ½ years old. I am not good at letting go of most anything. I can hold on too long to too many things. So when I bring the letting go of an important being in my life into play, I can be sorely challenged. And I am being challenged.

I want to fix this situation. I want Daisy to be well. I want her to live forever. I worry, fret, and obsess. I try to feed Daisy this. I try to make her feel better by doing that. I call home from work to get reports from my husband about what Daisy is doing right now, about how many times she has gotten up, and how she acted when she got up. I could drive us all crazy with my obsessive thinking and efforts to manage and control what I can’t.
Daisy, the Border Collie heroine of My Life as a Border Collie, passed away on September 12, 2014. She was 18 and 1/2 years old. As you know from our book, Daisy taught me many lessons about life and love. During this last year of her life, I wrote a few essays about the lessons that continued to emerge after the publication of our book and as we traveled this ending-of-life path together. Soon I will offer those writings here.