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It's First Friday Raleigh!

First Friday is something I love about Raleigh. It gets us out and about, shows us great local art and lets us enjoy some amazing local venues in a unique way! Grab a friend and make it a girl's night out. Grab your significant other and tell them it's "Date Night"! Grab the family and tell them it's time for a new family experience together. Head out to First Friday. This can be a cheap idea too if you are on a budget. Spend some time intentionally pouring into your friendships, relationships, family with a new experience!

Southwest Raleigh / Raleigh's Creative District

I'm proud to live, work and play in Southwest Raleigh, also known as Raleigh's Creative District. My husband and I have been following this blog for a while; my husband followed one of the bloggers before in another blog about our neighborhood. Keeping up with this blog is a great way to learn about things going on in the area, find new restaurants to try and keep up with super-local news. I am honored to be featured on the blog today! Check it out then stay and peruse the blog to see why I love Raleigh's Creative District and have chosen to live, work and play in Southwest Raleigh! Being a part of a community is important. I often talk to clients I'm counseling about social support, community and friendships. It's important to have healthy people around you that you can be honest with and derive support. This helps keeps us healthy and stable; it acts as a buffer between us and stress, crisis and trauma. I hope you have a solid community around you and if not, look around and see what steps you can take to become an active part of a healthy community. 

Easy to Forget

Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle at this time of year, it can be easy to forget what this season is really all about. We get "wrapped" up with so much else going on: shopping, trying to find all the right gifts, decorating, Christmas party-ing, cooking, traveling, and don't forget all the wrapping, etc. So much is out there to distract us, from the sales to the new tech-y toys. I found myself getting wrapped up with my Christmas shopping list and then stopped and realized how much I was in the rush of the season. I'd forgotten to acknowledge the whole meaning behind it during my shopping fury. In the Church calendar, Advent falls before Christmas. It's a time to prepare, anticipate, and get ready for the birth of Jesus. When I was a kid we had chocolate Advent calendars. Each day we'd open a little door, read a Scripture from the Bible about the coming of Christ or prophesies about His coming, and then my sister and I would get to split a piece of chocolate in half and eat! We loved those calendars. I think likely at the time we looked much more forward to eating the chocolate than the birth of Christ. But I think it still taught us about the season of Advent, about being excited about something, anticipating someONE. This time of year has such excitement associated with it. We have Christmas carols whose lyrics get us excited about the season and there are radio stations devoted to only playing said Christmas carols 247 so we can really get excited. There are Christmas tree lots everywhere, the stores and malls are all decorated for Christmas. Why even last year in Raleigh we got snow for Christmas and had a real "white Christmas". It's fun to be excited and enjoy the season, but it's so easy to forget Who is at the center. Have you gotten too hurried this season? Is your focus on gifts and Santa and the things of Christmas rather than the Who of Christmas? When I see couples or families for counseling we spend time talking about their family traditions, their rituals. Traditions and rituals bond families together in unique ways. I talk a little about this concept in a blog post here and here, if you'd like to read more. What traditions does your family have this time of year? Are there any you might want to add?

Winter Raleigh Family Fun - Great Date Idea!

So much to do in Raleigh this time of year. Winterfest downtown is one of those things! There is ice skating and other fun things to explore and experience. Bundle up and head downtown to City Plaza. This would be a great outing for families to do together. It would also be a great date idea. At just $8.00 per person, it's not too expensive either! Ice skating can be a fun activity and perhaps quite humorous even! Make a day of it or an evening of it. Wander around downtown and try some of the great local restaurants. You might find a few great shops to do some Christmas shopping as well! Stitch is a really great store with fun things to buy! Take advantage of your area Raleigh. There's so much to discover. Spend time playing together as a family or as a couple. Then spend some time reflecting on your relationships. I encourage couples and families I'm seeing for counseling to spend time both in "shoulder" time (doing the same things together) and "face" time (intentional conversations about your relationships). These combined help relationships grow and maintain their closeness. What fun holiday traditions do you have? Are there ones you want to implement? What are your favorite holiday memories? If holidays are a difficult time of year for you, share that with each other too. Be intentional about your family outings and your date nights. Intend to grow your relationships, nurture them and watch how spending time together draws you closer together. Have fun this Winter Raleigh!

Fun Raleigh Idea

This is a great time of year in Raleigh and there is so much going on in our area! One fun thing to get into this weekend is the Boylan Heights Art Walk on Sunday afternoon. Check out the website for a map and some sneak peaks of what art will be featured. This is a great experience (and great day-date idea!) for friends, families and couples! There will be lots to see (even if you don't want to buy anything) and it's a gorgeous neighborhood to explore. It looks like it's going to be a goodweekend weather-wise, so get outside. Move about! Do something fun in Raleigh. The Boylan Heights Art Walk is just one of many fun ideas!

Holiday Family Fun!

I love posting things about Raleigh goings-on because I love downtown Raleigh and there is so much to do! The holidays are here and that means there is even more going on in Downtown Raleigh. This weekend is the Christmas Parade. What a great time to pile on warm clothes, pack up blankets and chairs and head downtown to watch the parade. So much to see and so much fun to be had. This is a great way to get in the holiday spirit and have some fun holiday family fun! I encourage you to grab your family, significant other or a group of friends and head downtown to watch the 2011 Christmas Parade. It's bound to be tons of holiday fun! Enjoy! 

Teens & Stress

I see quite a bit of teenagers and their families for counseling. One of the biggest issues I see is stress - now it may also be accompanied with anxiety and/or depression, but stress is what a lot of teenagers are experiencing. What I don't often see are teens who know how to effectively handle that stress. So instead they act out, engage in sexual activity, get into drugs or alcohol, cut themselves or harm their bodies in other ways or yell and argue with their parents. What a lot of teens are saying through these actions is "help me, I'm overwhelmed and I don't know what to do!" Now this isn't the case for every teenager, but many that I see are feeling overwhelmed, under immense pressure from parents or at school, have difficulties in their friendships or romantic relationships. Perhaps they are being picked on or bullied at school and they struggle with low self-esteem. Sometimes what helps is to decrease the amount of activities teens are involved in so there's less stress. Other times they need to hear their parents say they love them and that A's are not the goal but rather trying their best is the aim. Open communication between parents and teens will often times decrease stress in a teens life when done in a healthy, supportive and positive manner. Stress is all around us; we have to know how to manage our stress or how to eliminate stress that can be eliminated. A lot of stress we bring on ourselves; maybe we are over-involved or haven't resolved conflicts with loved ones that need to be resolved. Maybe we aren't engaging in enough positive activities that we enjoy. Increasing positive activities in our life can help decrease stress for some people. We also often engage in irrational thinking patterns and negative self-talk that increase our stress. I work with clients in counseling (teens and adults) to identify their thinking patterns and the way they are talking to themselves. We often uncover unhealthy, irrational thought patterns that lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression. Also, we find a stream of negative self-talk running through clients' minds that is not helping them in any positive way! One way to decrease stress is to examine these things - thought patterns and self-talk - to determine if they are healthy and rational. If not, the next step is to identify a healthy, rational and positive alternative to the negative, irrational thought. It takes some time but the more we speak the rational, positive thought to ourselves, the less stress, anxiety and depression we experience. If your teen is experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, I encourage you to open a dialogue about that. If they are resistant to that, enlisting the help of a counselor can be a great next step!

Chasing Happiness

I hear so much in daily life (TV, movies, commercials, magazines, blogs, radio, etc) about "being happy". "I just want him/her to be happy." "If I just had (insert object, relationship, career), then I'd be happy." Chasing happiness has become something so central to our American society. I hear it all the time in my counseling office from various clients; teens, couples, families, men, women...they all claim if they could just figure this or that out, have this or that, or get rid of this or that, then they'd be happy. "Really?", I want to say. Really do you think you'd truly be happy then? Do you really think that getting him/her/it will make you happy? Of course, I tend to say those things with a bit more therapeutic tact than that. But my message is the same: do you think that getting what you want will make you happy? If happiness is your goal, will you ever truly find it and be able to maintain that state of happiness? I think not. Getting that relationship, career, object, or getting rid of either of those will not make someone happy. The way I see it, the problem is in the goal. If the goal is happiness found in the hands of other people or things, it will never last. People will disappoint us, there will always be some new object out there we just have to have, jobs are lost and interests shift. When happiness is our driving motivator, we'll always get let down. We'll always be chasing one thing or another or one person or another. As a Christian, happiness is not my goal. My goal is to know and love the Lord, to know and love others. If anything else is my goal, I'll be unfulfilled. If being happy is my goal then I'll be let down constantly. As believers in Jesus, we weren't promised happiness nor were we told that happiness should be what we incessantly strive after. We were actually told the opposite...Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Wewill have trouble, things won't go our way, we will be let down, disappointed, suffer, hurt, etc. Those disappointments, hurts, sufferings can lead us to intimacy with Jesus and closeness with others. And in those things, there is great joy. Joy is deeper and much more lasting than happiness. Happiness tends to be based on situations and is fleeting. Joy is something that cannot be taken away by loss or change in situation. If you find yourself chasing happiness and ending up sad and disappointed more often than not, I'd encourage you to reassess your goal. Chasing happiness doesn't lead down any lasting path. Counseling can help you do that if you desire!

A (Cheap) Raleigh Date Night Idea

It's a great time of year, great to be outside and enjoying this Fall weather! This time of year, I'm a huge fan of outdoor dates. I encourage the couples and families I see for counseling to get outside, enjoy the weather and each other! This Friday is First Friday and there are lots of great things to see and do in Downtown Raleigh. (The website linked to "Downtown Raleigh" has a great calendar of events and you can find out what is going on downtown on any given day!) First Friday doesn't have to cost you a thing either; you can wander around the galleries for free! You could start your date in Cameron Village at one of the many delicious restaurants this great area has to offer. If you like, wander around the shops or grab something sweet. Then mosey on further downtown and start seeing what the galleries have to showcase this month. You can ride the free R-Line around town so you don't have to worry about parking more than once! Also if you are unfamiliar with Downtown Raleigh, the R-Line is a great, free way to see the city! :) This kind of date is a great way to see new things, spark new conversation and have a great experience together. Dates like that help to deepen your relationship and break the monotony of dinner and a movie or a night at home. Walk and talk together; discuss what you think about the art you see! Aim to really know what your significant other or your family member thinks about what you are experiencing together. Get to know each other deeper. Have a fun fall Friday date Raleigh! 

On Being a Family

It's hard being a family. Put together different personality styles and temperaments and you are bound to have conflict and clashes.Add to that people who have grown up in the same home and are reaching the teenage years, and things just get downright tough. I work with many teenagers and their families. We work on communication, relationship building and conflict resolution most often. What I hear most from the teens I counsel with is that they desire to be heard; some of them tell me that outright and with others I hear that more indirectly. But they all long to be known and loved at their core - even if they aren't sure who they are quite yet. That can be said for us adults as well; at our core we are desiring to be known and loved. Teens are seeking attention, affection and love - and often they seek this in the wrong places. It can be scary to seek this kind of love from our families. Maybe there has been pain or hurt in the family and they have been wounded in the family. Or maybe there hasn't been any major family trauma or tragedy but it is still hard for them to reach out; likely it's just a product of being a teen, searching for who they are and where they belong, needing connection yet desiring independence as well. I encourage parents to pursue their teens, pursue their kids' hearts. Chase after them even when they continue to run away or put up walls. Deep down teens do desire to be known and loved; they need their parents attention. It's just hard for them to ask for it, so instead they disobey, rebel or talk disrespectfully. It's hard to be a teen; there is so much pressure to perform - to make the grade. There's pressure to fit in, to look certain ways and act certain ways and if you don't you'll be an outcast or made fun of by your peers you so desperately want to love you. It's a tough world to grow up in these days. I admit though, I'm not a parent of a teen so I don't fully know what it's like to have your child rebel, disobey or disrespect. And I know I'm no longer a teen and that they live in a different world than what I experienced during my teens. Yet I think a lot of it comes down to pursuit of relationship- real, deep, consistent relationship. It's not going to always be easy or pretty, but that is life - messy and difficult. So parents...pursue your teens. And open to letting your parents in every now and then, even if it's hard. I encourage you to seek out Family Counseling if times are rough in your family; it can be a great tool to navigate the relational changes and challenges that happen during the teen years. 

Raleigh Art in the Park

There are so many great things to do in the Raleigh area! As you can tell, I really like sharing the fun things I find to do in Raleigh with you. I think utilizing all your community has is one great way to stay grounded and healthy! As a counselor I'm always discussing with my clients the benefits of being connected in your community and accessing what your community has to offer. I also encourage the clients I see in counseling who are experiencing depression or stress to get outside and exercise. The fresh air and movement really help to decrease depression and stress. The NC Museum of Art has a great outdoor exhibit that you can visit. You can stroll through the museum's "Art in the Park" leisurely alone or with a friend. You can also kick it up a notch and exercise while you take in the art if you'd like! I have done both and loved the experiences. The art provides some great conversation starters with friends or significant others. My niece and nephew really enjoyed the exhibits too, so this can be a great family outing as well! I have seen families bring bikes, picnics and balls to play and enjoy the park and the art! This fall take some time to get outside and enjoy what your Raleigh community has to offer!

Fun Family Outing

There are so many great things to do in the Raleigh area for families. Something fun I have done with my family is to boat around on Lake Johnson. Lake Johnson is a fun area to romp around, explore, walk or boat! You can feed ducks or get chased by geese! Doing something fun and different is a great way to invest in your family, show your kids you care and want to invest in them, and just all out have fun together. Whether I'm working with teenagers and their families in family counseling or working with couples and talking about the importance of family, family outings get brought up. Family outings really help to build connection and deepen relationship. Memories are created and a strong family foundation is fostered. There is great benefit to initiating something fun for your family to do. Before the weather gets cold, I encourage you to get outside and do something fun as a family.