So much to be thankful for

Much information abounds on the topic of Thanksgiving and the time and place where it first originated, much of which isn’t always in agreement. But, the one common thread of information is that Thanksgiving was a day set aside to express gratitude for a bountiful harvest that would sustain those early settlers through another winter. Now, amidst the craziness of Black Friday–that Great American kick off of conspicuous consumption, the football games and parades and for many, the tables piled high with our individual favorite epicurean feasts; we might lose sight of why we gather together in the first place. But, many of you, as I will, will reflect on the past year and recognize the many wonderful things that were placed along your path. So, for my November contribution to this newsletter I would like to share some of those things I am most grateful for as they relate to my life as a therapist and teacher.

I am blessed to share my business life with three intelligent, talented and gracious people; Dr. Dolores Vetter, John Neupert and our newest addition, Judy Cresson. My business partner Dee Vetter, has brought so much to the success of our Madison west side mental  health clinic; Sonas Behavioral Health, which celebrated its 7th year in August. I am thankful for her belief in all things ethical when it comes to our profession and her brilliance in so many areas of her life.  She is one of the most intelligent women I know, has a heart of gold and a never ending reserve of energy for giving to the community in so many ways; most prominently her volunteer contributions to the American Red Cross as a trained crisis intervention specialist.

Dr. Vetter, John Neupert and I trace our histories back 17 years to a time when we had adjoining offices at a local social service agency.  I was the novice. I stepped into a professional career in mid-life and yet they treated me as an equal despite my sometimes obvious green horn approach to being a mental health provider.  It is because of John that I became a volunteer with the Bethel Separated and Divorced Support group nearly 13 years ago.  Later when that program transformed into the current Rebuilding at Bethel program, John maintained his weekly presence as the facilitator for Genesis; the first part of that three part program. I am most thankful for John’s continued and varied contributions to the success of this new series, his amazing skills as a group facilitator and for his ability to help our new members feel welcomed, connected and safe. John is my “go to guy” when there are bumps in the “program” road. John has a strong reputation in the Madison Mental Health community and on Madison golf courses.

And then there are our volunteer facilitators. Tom Smedema has been part of the Bethel program even before I became involved back in 2000.  Tom graciously gives up his Tuesday evenings week after week to come to Bethel to participate where ever he is needed. He has helped with the orientation of new members, stepped in to facilitate Genesis when John needs to be away, attended the social activities to provide support, offered his home for parties and made coffee when the rest of us couldn’t figure out how to run the machine. Every week you will find a package of cookies sitting on the coffee cart that Tom brings to share with everyone. He is a kind, generous man with a giving heart and a big desire to help others who experienced the difficult transition that is part of ending a significant love relationship.  And, besides being thankful for these things, I have to throw in that he has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of all my programs and is quick to share his experience as a participant of classes. Thank you, Tom.  This year we were also blessed to receive a call from a UW student who wanted to participate in the program as a volunteer. Her name is Jackie Bykowski. Jackie comes every week to participate because she is considering counseling as a future career.  I applaud her for her willingness to help others through a difficult time while trying to juggle a busy class schedule and a life. Wow!

I must not forget to mention Bethel Lutheran Church as well.  Bethel’s support in terms of space, scholarship funds, printing and mailing, copies and inclusion in their website, and their outstanding reputation in the community as service providers has contributed so much to our programs success and continued growth. We are so fortunate to have the beautiful space Bethel provides that allows us to run all three parts of the program in a convenient, safe and comfortable environment. And along those lines, I would also like to thank Attorneys Janice Wexler and Diane Mader for supporting our program by sponsoring one Rebuilding student this year.

The Puffins Post, for which I am very proud, would not arrive at your email door step each month without the vigilant help of Jennifer Dobson. Jennifer is the techno wizard behind the scenes of this publication who adds wings to the many features you have before you today.  She has contributed so much time, thought and skill to the publication of this newspaper bringing it light years beyond what it was when I did my first cut and paste, one page attempt at being a publisher. Her patience with this technology and with me is admirable. Her significant contribution is all done as a volunteer despite being actively involved in so many other personal pursuits.  As the number of features has grown she has had to learn to make things fit and make them readable.  Thank you just doesn’t seem quite adequate for someone I think “walks on water” when it comes to technology.

Next in the “I am grateful for you” line are those individuals who have stepped forward to create the activities that help to bring the different levels of classes together.  Karen Lehman, Kurt Johnson, Bonnie Johnston, and Julie Scharm have put together some wonderful gatherings since they offered to act as “activity directors” earlier this year.  Canoeing, bowling, dinners and a walk in a corn maze are just a few examples of adventures they have planned this past year. These events take thought and energy. They offer open arms to welcome new people who move from Genesis or the Rebuilding Class into the Movin’ on group.

And finally, I can’t end this Thanksgiving salutation without tipping my hat to all of the individuals who have contributed to this newsletter.  Randy Winkelman writes the “Where’s Randy” feature. His wonderfully informative and interesting articles faithfully show up in my inbox as quickly as an issue is sent out. Grateful salutes to Beth Dibbert for her feature: Health Care and the Single Person, Penny Duane for the Penny Wise feature, and Styling with Amber Whitehouse.  And each month we are introduced to various organizations in the community that make the Greater Madison Metropolitan area the giving community that it is.

If there is someone I have left out of this list of wonderful contributors it isn’t because of lack of gratitude but rather a mind and heart so full of gratitude that it is too crowded to see everyone.  Now you have some idea why Thanksgiving is my time to rest from a busy year and reflect, if just for a moment, on all the blessings that have come my way.

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