Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breaking the ice speech

A life in progress

A life in progress, What does that mean?  I guess to me it encompasses not only the day to day process that is my life,  and not only the experiences of my past, which are both important in shaping who I am, But also including the word progress means that I have much more to explore about myself, and quite frankly, much more to learn in life.

I guess me standing here vulnerable, with all of your eyes transfixed upon me and the words coming out of my mouth, is some masochistic way to seek progress in my life.  

Now I believe this icebreaker speech is meant to be an easier speech, because the topic is about me.     Which sounds easy enough, but for me, I see myself as the listener,  and not so much the talker.  I would much rather hear about you, which I have had the privlidge over the last 2 months to hear some amazing and fascinating things about many of you, than have to talk about myself.  Oh well, I will now do my best to spin a fascinating tale about who I am, or at least hopefully not put you to sleep.  Slide of sleeping person.

Let’s start with what I would call my best decision in my life. My wife and I got married on August 18th, 2001, or just over 11 years.

My wife would be considered a very type A personality and I a very type B personality.  This of course can create some conflict, though more often than not, it is a nice balance and we tend to be able to learn from each others strengths.

We also have two wonderful children.  Abby 10 years old born June 19th 2002 and Andy 8 years old born June, 23rd  2004.  For anyone trying to do the math, Abby came 10 months after our wedding, 9 months of pregnancy, equals a whole 3-4 weeks to learn how to be a married couple.  Though one of those weeks was our honeymoon in Hawaii, which was pretty cool.

My children both go to L’etoile du nord French immersion school and are both becoming very fluent in French.  To answer the next question your probably thinking, my extent of the French language is Oui, Bonjour, and Google Translate.  

On this note, my daughter will be going to France in January on an exchange program, which I am mostly excited about, with the other part being nerves.

Oh yes, we also have our hamster Pebble Snitch Marek, which for those Harry Potter fans out there, if she gets out of her cage, she is just like trying to catch a snitch, though without the flying broomstick.  

Well, moving on.  My first career that I have had was as a Personal Trainer at Lifetime fitness in Highland Park St. Paul.  I did this for 7 years and loved many aspects of this job.  I often get the question of why I left this, which my typical answer is that it was 100% commission job, and not always conducive to family life after we had our second child. 

After I left training, I spent the next couple of years in what I would call the “I’m trying to find myself” stage.  This consisted of mostly sales or recruiting jobs, with one time I even tried to become a Farmers insurance Agent.  I think I will call that the “What was I thinking” moment of my life.  

 This now takes me to a couple of moments that have lead me to where I am now professionally at Capella and in my Academic pursuits.

Those moments include:

Getting laid off from my job
Losing my uncle and my wife’s Grandfather
And Crashing the car which all happened within a couple of months

Luckily enough I was able to secure a job at the Minnesota School of business shortly after, though this ended up leading to a much more depressed version of me. 

OK now that I have thoroughly depressed you, there was another moment when when I was at MN school of business  that I was reviewing their MBA program and I thought, what the heck am I doing. 

This is not  to say anything bad about the MBA, which is a fabulous degree, but more about the fact that  I was trying to live a life of what I thought I was supposed to be, and not what I really wanted. 

So after much soul searching, and Therapy I enrolled here at Capella, and yes I actually started the degree before I became employed here, which was in 2009.  I enrolled in the Mental health counseling program here, with a goal to someday become a therapist with my own private practice.  And After about 4 years I am getting close to the end of the degree. 

In preparation to my future endeavors, I currently volunteer at a crisis hotline where I work with individuals going through different situations such as suicidal thoughts, abuse, mental illness and many other situations.  I find it very satisfying being able to take someone from a crisis situation, to being able to help them see the current options that they have. 

Quick tibbits about me, I also enjoy Tennis, Basketball, Reading, working out, spending time with my family.

Last but not least, answering the question about why I joined toastmaster, which is a valid question for breaking the ice.  I could easily say this is for professional reasons and wanting to better my public speaking skills and communications.  Though that would disingenuine and only a part of what I consider progress. 

I love to listen, (Which I state before and is probably good for a future therapist).  I have been fascinated with the courage and the passion of people sharing a little bit about who they are in their speeches, Which I believe not only allows me the courage to share a little bit about myself, but also to be able to further explore the question to myself of who I am, and continue my life in progress.

Thank you,

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why I will vote NO

In light of the big election coming up, one of the big votes is determining if Minnesota should put in the constitution that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.  This has me very perplexed, as I believe I learned in grade school the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  This would logically tell me that if I believe that I should be allowed to marry the one person I love the most (of course I mean my wife Renee), Shouldn’t I follow the rule that would have me thinking that others should be able to do the same as I can do?  And of course, my answer is Yes, I mean I plan to vote No, but yes to believing that they should be able to do the same. 

To be more honest with you, I find homosexuals* to be extremely fascinating, not necessarily as individuals, but more so in the courage it must take to be yourself, especially when being yourself is something that is looked at so poorly among society, and in many ways can be very dangerous.  I say this with the utmost respect, as being yourself, from my experience is difficult, even for this White/heterosexual/middle class/educated/extremely handsome guy.** 

There are different kinds of courage.  We all know of the courage of the brave woman and men*** soldiers, police officers, firefighters and other service positions in our society.  But I wonder why do we not look at individuals who are able to be themselves, in spite of the numerous challenges they posses as having a similar courage?  I am not implying that it is the same courage, as there are different types of courage, I just wonder what our world would be like if we consistently sent a message that it is OK to just be who you really are, and not try to fit people into the boxes.  Not structure them into personal belief systems of what life should be, and more appropriately how people should act, should behave and who people should love and marry. 

I also often feel ashamed of hearing stories when homosexuals are not able to come out, or feel that they are wrong, or just different.  It hurts me to hear of parents disowning their children just because of something as silly as sexual preference.  It also breaks my heart to ever hear of a GLBT individual making the unfortunate and ultimate decision to end their own life, because of the amount of grief they have for simply not feeling understood by their family, peers, or just society in general.  I guess part of this is because I recently am labeling myself as a sensitive introvert, and am very emotionally and empathetically attached to the struggles of others. ****   Though each of these situations are things that really do not need to be a part of our society, and we could make a huge impact by just accepting people, and not judging them.

So yes I believe that homosexuals should marry.  Yes I believe in equal rights and that this is an equal rights issue.  I believe you should be able to marry the person you love, no matter their gender.   I believe if Jesus were alive today, he would not worry about this issue, vote no, and go and try to help people in need.  And Yes I believe that Hurricane Sandy was a scientific and meteorological phenomenon, and having nothing to do with God’s revenge on homosexuals.

But more importantly I believe that we should celebrate the courage of these brave individuals, not just homosexuals, but also anybody brave enough to have the courage to “just be you.” 

My little celebration will be in the voter booth when I get to fill in the little circle next to the NO box, and pause and think about a world for my children that will be, just a little bit better, and just a little bit more tolerant.

 Thank You!

*Believe it our not, the word homosexual is not meant to be a derogatory term.  It’s really just putting the word homo (meaning same) and sexual (which has to do with our gender) together.  I of course did know this, but unfortunately, the term is so ingrained in my head from as early as grade school to mean something derogatory from boys using it to slam others, that I still often feel awkward using the term in it’s proper form. 

**Feel free to just nod your head yes and agree to the extremely handsome guy comment.  Why are you not nodding your head? 

***Yes I did put woman in front of men in this sentence.  I have a strong Feminist wife and believe that women are typically better than men.  I also know that she will probably be reading this.

****I am working on my master’s degree to become a therapist you know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sometimes it is life or death

Death is a topic that is often on my mind.  I am faced with having to think about death at least once a week.  We spend most of our lives trying to ignore that thought of death, where I willingly volunteer my time once a week to put myself right smack dab in the middle of the conversation.  The funny thing is that I never feel more alive in my life than when I spend those four hours a week volunteering at the crisis hotline.  Maybe it’s not really even about death, but a pure joy towards the other extreme, which is Life.  Maybe it’s about a fear of death that keeps me coming back.  By constantly facing the fear, maybe it changes my fear around the topic of death.  Maybe it helps me face my own mortality, as well as the mortality of those I love.  An existential psychologist would say that much of the dysfunction in our lives can be traced back to our fear of death.  So maybe I keep coming back to minimize my own dysfunction. 

I currently volunteer for one four-hour shift every week at the crisis hotline, which does take calls from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.  Why do I do this?  The answer I typically tell people is that I am doing this because I am working on my masters in mental health counseling and this gets me some really good experience with individuals in crisis and gets me a chance to practice my craft, which is true.  It also gets me in front of some people that can lead me in the right direction towards future professional goals, which is good.  Though that would ignore the bigger question of why I would pursue something that can be filled with such horrible things and people going through such tragic things in their lives. 

The reality of the situation is that I don’t really have conversations about suicide with people every time I go in.  Most of the time it is regular callers with different mental illness’s or just individuals who are going through some really challenging times and just need someone who will listen to them.  I love these moments.  One of the greatest things in life for me is just listening to them, and the less talking I have to do, the better.  Even though I really love those moments, that doesn’t change the reality that every time the phone rings, my heart skips a beat, my stomach gets a knot, and I think to myself, is this the person that I am not going to be able to help?

This past Monday was one of those days when I got one of those calls.  The woman was at the end of her rope, in a bad relationship, and had just purchased a gun two weeks ago, with an intent to use in on herself.  She had told her boyfriend that she was feeling this way and his response was “Are you going to leave a note”.  Now what can you really say to this?  My goal was of course to empower her,  to help her to see the strengths that she has, and open herself up to the possibility that she does have a bright future, all in a span of about a half an hour.  Oh yes, to also make sure that she never touches that gun again and gets rid of it.  Fortunately, I believe I was able to accomplish all of those goals, though I do not get to know the real outcome, though the outcome in my mind is that this woman will have a bright future.  It’s the only thing I can really think about, well if I want to maintain my sanity.  She made a plan to have her Mother come and get the gun and dispose of it and she ensured me that she would make an appointment to meet with a therapist the next morning.  And you know what she said to me at the end of the call?  “Thanks.”  It wasn’t even about the words, more about the way she said it.  The feeling I got then cannot be put into words, as I do not have the vocabulary to really do justice to that feeling. 

There are moments in your life that are much bigger than yourself, and cannot be defined in monetary value.  Its just moments where you know you are alive, when your adrenaline is pumping, and you meet a goal that is purely self-sacrificing that are moments that move you.  So I guess my answer to the why questions I was asking lies somewhere in there, I suppose. 

A couple things you can do if you are local to the Twin Cities area is the Stomp out Suicide 5k run/walk for awareness (in honor of Alissa M. Haines) on August 25th and the Hustle for Hope 5k, which proceeds go to the crisis connection, which is the organization I volunteer for on September 29th.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Abby's 10 today! Happy Birthday!


One of the greatest things that have happened to me in my lifetime happened to me on June 19th 2002.  I was 26 years old at the time and just after 2 in the morning that day, my wife delivered a beautiful baby girl that we named Abigail Margaret Marek.  I would love to say that this moment was a pure moment of joy, which joy was a huge part of it, however there were many other emotions that went along with it, mainly fear.  

At that time in my life, I was still a Newlywed, as Renee and I were married August 18th, 2001.  (Yes the math works out for anyone asking) :)  So being a Dad was a little bit scary, since I really didn't know how to be a husband yet, how was I going to be a Father.  Though being a Father was something that I always wanted, and now all of a sudden it happened.  Though when I envisioned being a Father as a kid, I thought I would be confident, know everything, make lot's of money, coach everything under the son, etc..  Though the reality of being a Father is that none of that happened, which in the end, I believe makes me a better Father and keeps me humbled.  Which being humble helps me to always understand just how important of a undertaking this is.  I do however know that I am extremely lucky, as I believe Renee is a great mother, and made my job as a Father much easier, which I hope that most of the time, that I make her job as a mother easier as well.  

Though of course this blog is meant for Abigail.  I am often amazed at how much I love her.  There is some truth to the saying that you don't really know what love is, until you become a parent.  I truly embrace that I get to learn from you everyday as it is such a wonderful journey and privilege to be here with you as you grow up.  Of course, I don't want you to grow up faster than you are know, but I am very excited for your future and for the person you are and are becoming.  You are the sweetest person that I have ever met and you fill me with so much joy everyday.  You make everyday for me just a little bit brighter!  



Back again

I know it has been a year since I made my last post, but I have found some motivation to get started again.  Maybe this will be my only post for the next year, or maybe I will be posting regularly.  Recently I have been motivated by an individual who began their own blog that I have as a Facebook friend, though have not seen in person in many many years.  Though I began to think that I should at least give this another shot, and not think of myself as having somewhat failed by not living up to my expectations of myself.

You see, I believe I had the right intentions, to possibly help others out with my own ramblings about the things I know.  Most likely a part of me felt like I should share some of my insights through my life, career and schooling.  This was a very good thought, though I missed the point of this, which really should be about helping myself.  I'm sure most people know the analogy, when you are on the airplane, and the oxygen masks come down, that you are supposed to put the mask on yourself first, and then help your child get theirs own first.  This is what I was missing.  It is so easy for me to put the mask on someone else first, as it does make me feel much better about my existence.  Though if I am able to put the mask on myself, and then put the mask on the child, am I not accomplishing much more?  Am I not making two lives just a little bit better by this act and providing more overall?  

So I have probably exhausted that analogy, but back to the individual I was referencing in the blog and why I decided to write again.  I was amazed by his courage to be able to say who he is, what he believes, and why it's important to him.  I say courage because one of my biggest challenges in my life is allowing people in to my world.  Their world is easy for me.  I can peel back the onion on somebody else's life pretty deep, and frankly I can do this in many ways better than others.  This is why I decided to go back to school for my masters in counseling, because I love doing this, and I do believe that in some ways that I was meant to do that.  The onion that I often leave alone is my own.  Why do I pause with my own onion and avoid letting many people get to know who I am.  I have not had it back fire on me when I do let people in.  I have a beautiful relationship with my wife, mostly because I allow her in and mainly because I know that I love her and want her to know the real me.  

So like I began, maybe I'll post a lot, maybe I'll post a little.  Though my posting will be with in intent to put the mask on myself, and maybe putting the mask on someone else who reads this.  Maybe I'll talk about politics, religion, family, daily thoughts, what excites me, what bothers me, sports, general life, and yes probably a little Psychology action cause that's just who I am.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Need vs. Want

Need vs. Want

To start this blog, let’s take a look at Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs.  His theory identified five area’s of need that individuals look for and the order hierarchy for them.  The first four components of the heiracrhy are described as deficiency needs (areas arise due to deprivation), while the highest level or 5th level are growth needs, (a desire to grow as a person). 

Physiological Needs are the basic survival needs such as water, air, food and sleep.  Without these obviously, we would not survive.

Security Needs include needs such as the desire for shelter, safe neighborhoods, steady employment, health insurance, etc..

Social Needs include needs for belonging, love and affection.

Esteem Needs include things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.

Self-actualizing Needs are individuals that are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opions of others and interested in fulfilling their potential. 

If we take a look at each of the five heirarchy of needs, each of these five areas derive from a desire, or a want by the individual to move up the heirarchy and fulfill those needs.  Even the Physiological needs are derived from a desire to survive, which intail means that individuals with suicidal ideations may not identify that as a need.  So in other words, each of the five stages are not actually needs, unless the individuals seeks a desire to attain them.

Now obviously, each individual has a different ability to reach the different level as a baby born into poverty may struggle to reach the first stage throughout their childhood, while another baby born to a loving upper middle class family starts off life already at the third stage and may find it relitively easy to advance to stage five.  Though this is a different discussion for another day. 
What I really want to discuss is the interchanging of the words want and need in our vocabulary and how this is sending mixed messages to ourselfs.  I often times hear people using the term need in replace of a want, and often times they use need in replace of a want, which goes against something that is there ultimate desires.

Examples:  I often hear individuals who identify with an addiction, (smoking, drinking, etc..) who identify a desire of cessation of the behavior, say that they need a cigarette, or that they need a drink.  The realization is that they want the cigarette or they want the drink, even though it goes against the overall desire that they have.  If the desire is to maintain the addiction, than yes you would need the cigarette or drink, or a desire to remain overweight would need to eat that extra doughnut.

My thoughts on this is that this is a form of rationalization, justification or simply a form of self-protection.  When individuals identify something as a need, it takes them out of the decision to perform the behavior as “if I need to do it, then there is nothing I can do.”  It also takes away selfish behavior, as wanting something is something that we look at or are conditioned to look at as being selfish, while needing something can be easy to justify the behavior.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Joseph Chilton Pearce
Seeing within changes one's outer vision.

Now that you have had a chance to identify your thought processes towards your goals, it’s time for the next step.  The next step is probably the most difficult stage and the stage that keeps even the most intentioned of individuals from reaching their goals.  This is the stage of self-reflection.  This is the most difficult because it is bound to bring up painful emotions and a level of having to take responsibility for your current state. 

The important thing to know with this stage is not to expect your self to be able to identify everything right away, in many cases it can take months and even years to work through.  Often times individuals will need to improve or make progress towards their goal to identify some of the issues that they have been blocking.  So the main point here is that this stage is not a stage that really has an ending, and needs to be continued through even after the goal has been met.  This is important  because it is the time that we tend to stop working on them, which often times we go back to the same issues we had before and lose the progress that we made. 

Let’s look at what I mean by self-reflection.  What I am looking for is working on identifying the real reasons that you are where you are today.  If you are overweight, you are not overweight because you eat too much and don’t work out enough.  There is always something much deeper than that.  You overeat and don’t work out enough for specific reasons that can be a multitude of things that have been both in your control and out of your control.  Just be careful when identifying something that is out of your control is really something out of your control. 

So as you see, self-reflection is not so much just looking at the behaviors that have lead to your current situation, self-reflection is most beneficial when looking at the “Why” behind those behaviors.  So of course you will have to identify the behaviors first, but I challenge you to look beyond that.

Now when you start self-reflecting, a couple of different outcomes can start to happen which are blaming (either self, others and circumstances) and self-loathing thoughts.  These are the area’s where it becomes difficult which causes people to stop and decide that the goal is out of reach. 

Let’s first look at blaming.  Most people would expect me to say that you should never put blame outside of yourself.  That would be wrong, as it would be irrational to think that blame should never be put outside of the self.  There is often time very good reason to blame. (i.e. an abusive relationship,  neglectful parents, or not enough resources).  Also to deny yourself your thoughts of blame are unproductive.  Instead, take a look at those feelings of blame and start to identify your part to that, and to what level can you control the outcome.  Also, take a look at how these feelings of blame have held you back?   You may have a situation where an outside force was to blame, and you let that blame keep you stagnate.  An example would be an individual who is overweight blaming their parents for their lifestyle and diet as a child that led them to be overweight.  The parent’s have part of the blame for creating the problem, though the maintaining the problem lies within the control of the individual.

Another important example of this has to do with addiction.  People with an addiction often times blame their addiction as a justification of their behavior.   This is not to say that addiction is not real, it is very real.  What I am saying is that the addiction should never be the full reason or blame for  the behavior.  There is always another reason that causes the addiction, which is often times a masking agent, (avoiding pain), or something that the individuals gets (benefit) that they receive from the addiction/behavior.  Finding out what this  is and then working to work through that pain or replace the negative benefit with a meaningful positive outcome is key to overall success.

I fear there may be some misinterpretation of this posting as it relates to blame.  Quite simply what I am saying is identify your blaming, identify that you have some limitations as a human being, and then do not let the blaming and limitations be the reason that you do not reach your success and stated goal.

The second outcome of self-loathing usually generates from thoughts about “I haven’t done enough,” or “I should have done this.”  There always needs to be an understanding of everything that lead to the position or where you are today and find a level of acceptance for  your current situation.  Also remember “Don’t should on yourself,” as this can lead down a path towards depression, and further irrational thoughts.