As we finish up the final week in August (2014), I can’t help but be amazed at how fast the summer months have flown by.  In a week and a half, three of my kids will start school; and one starts her junior year at Notre Dame this week (their first football game is this Saturday!).  I am pleased that finally my girls will be in the high school together this year.  At one point I had 4 kids in 4 different schools!  My girls go to school in another district 30 minutes away which has made my schedule crazy on some days.  Some days I spend 7 to 8 hours in the car, waiting and driving, going from activity to school, to activity.

Since 2007, I have been enrolled in school.  First finishing my Bachelor’s degree, then receiving my Master’s in psychology.  I can’t remember when I began this blog, but in the midst of full-time school and kids, I began to write of my experiences, my challenges, and the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way.  After graduating with a Master’s in psychology and practicing life coaching and counseling for about 2 years, I realized that it was better to be licensed–not necessarily to take insurance, but that I would have the credentials to do more in my career–like publish research or become an expert witness in court.  Additionally, I realized that the field of marriage and family therapy incorporated many of the concepts that I resonate with–families and relationships are comprised of systems–they are interconnected.  When one part of the system is not “working” or it’s dysfunctional, the whole system is affected. I began to be interested in the field when I encountered parental alienation in my own life which became an extensive research paper for my Master’s in psychology.

In late 2013, I enrolled as a full-time student in a Master’s program in marriage and family therapy.  Simultaneous to this, I was asked to become the Executive Director of a small nonprofit, the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  I spend about 25 hours a week focused on school.  I spend about 5-10 hours a week focused on my job as an Executive Director.  This still does not feel like enough time, but I’ve managed to get all my work done so for the time being, it works for me.   The rest of my time is spent balancing family, couple, and me time.  I have active kids so many hours are spent on the road with them.  I am also active so some of my free time is spent kayaking, going to the beach, hanging out with family and friends, running, reading, writing, or meditating.  Meditating has been especially important for me lately–it’s really helped me to remain centered and grounded with a lot that’s been going on in my life.  It frees me up to not be caught up in life’s challenges so much but instead, to be focused on the learning opportunities they provide.

Nicole NenningerAs a busy wife and mother, I have found it hard sometimes to balance life and work.  I do love to be active (for my body + mind) and I cannot imagine sitting around in retirement.  I also love the idea of personal and spiritual growth and am constantly working to evolve myself.  I have always had that drive, but after going through intensive therapy for 4 years, I also found that the process is propelled when you work through your childhood issues and learn tools to handle the inevitable challenges that crop up in your life.  It’s like getting rid of a 50 pound anchor that had been weighing you down.  Suddenly you have all this energy to devote to other things.  But growing and learning never stops; it just becomes easier because you grow and learn from each experience.

I recently read “The Giver” for a class assignment and if you’ve read it (don’t read this paragraph if you haven’t), you’ll know that Jonas experiences a new way to look at life.  He wonders why others in his community don’t see this and want this–but he doesn’t “put” this on anyone.  Jonas’ perspective isn’t better than anyone else’s but his is more life-enhancing I believe–to see color, to hear music, to have all memories, to be able to choose…I can relate to Jonas because my beliefs and perspectives have changed over the years because of exposure to personal therapy, extensive reading, classes and workshops, personal experiences, my school work in psychology and marriage and family therapy, and being around my husband for these 7+ years who is also on a personal and spiritual growth quest.  This doesn’t make me “better” than anyone else; it definitely makes me different and it definitely enhances my life.  And, it also makes me a target.  Growth can be threatening for some people around you.  As you grow, you learn to not focus on the loss of those relationships–they tend to be the ones who try to diminish your light.  Your tribe might get smaller, but the quality of the relationships is better.

Even though I have had my share of tragedies and immense challenges in my life, I’ve remained positive, happy, and loving.  This is my belief:

I believe that every single thing that happens to you is an opportunity for growth, increased understanding, and expanded awareness.  All challenges are, are learning opportunities in disguise.  What are you supposed to be learning from your challenges?

As these summer months progress into Fall, I will be focusing on more research into PA which you’ll probably see reflected on this blog.  I am also highly interested in couples’ relationships, and what helps and hurts them.

I have 5 classes left, then I begin my practicum and internships in MFT.  My work as an ED of a nonprofit has led to a wide array of business skills that I never would have been exposed to had I not had this job.  I’m lucky–I believe in the ideals of naturopathic medicine so to have a job in another field I resonate with, well, I feel blessed!

Even though my schedule is busy, I love hearing from you and responding to your emails!  I’ve recently heard from several people asking about how they can best handle PA as a targeted parent.  I think that’s a great question especially because there isn’t a lot of research out there on this.  I’ll be writing more blog posts on this topic.  Always in the back of my mind, and created in a folder on my desktop, is the concept for a book on PA–written by someone who’s experienced it firsthand and also healing/headed the relationships with their alienated kids.  There are a lot of professionals that get burned out from dealing with PA/PAS and a lot of you probably know the reasons why–it’s a highly contentious area, the alienators are litigious, and there’s little reward because often the therapy is thwarted by the child and the alienator (remind me again why I’m interested in this!?).

 

 

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