I was born 40 years and a week after my paternal grandmother’s May 21st birthday and my father was born on his mother’s 21st birthday in 1949. (I can be honest about my age without having to make it easy for you to figure out.)
I was born into a “mixed” family of artists and bikers and enjoyed 6 years of being the first child until my parents provided me with the cutest little brother a girl could ever have.
We lived in suburbs of Milwaukee and I attended parochial schools in which I began my psychology career in first grade . My first “client” remains my dear friend to this day. In around the 5th grade, I found out that people got PAID to do what I was already doing and from that moment on, I knew I would be a psychologist. It was not, however, until the 7th grade, that I learned how to spell “psychologist.”
From about the 8th grade until late Junior Year, I was pretty busy being a teenager, living by the motto, ” Live dangerously and try not to get caught .” By the end of Junior Year, I was totally fed up with school rules , so, as a nobody, I ran for Student Body Vice-President and won. My two main goals were to get school dances and to have the dress code allow jeans. I never got to the second goal because the first one took all year.
We asked what it would take for us to be able to have dances and they set up a series of steps including that we have a school square dance and get 80% student body attendance, and we did it, but we still weren’t allowed to have a dance, so we had our own. A group of us got together and used our own money to rent a hall, get a d.j., buy decorations, and order those fun little printed glasses and napkins. We sold tickets and made our money back. Miraculously, there wasn’t a lick of trouble, at least not that I heard about.
Then it was on to college where I earned the B.A. in Psychology and already knew that it and 50 cents would get me a cup of coffee, so it was on to graduate school. A professor with whom I had done some research directed me to his Alma Mater, the University of Southern Mississippi and I said, “Sure, I’d love to go to Mississippi, where is it?
So, off I went to the Deep South where I got quite a cultural education as well as graduate education in psychology and then it was off to internship which was the most meaningful learning experience in all of my 22 years of education. It was hands-on, practical learning from the first minute I entered the psychiatric hospital to the day I left with tears in my eyes. During that year, I had the opportunity to work with about 300 of the most acutely ill children and teenagers in a 5-state area around Lincoln, Nebraska. I gained more cultural experience by coordinating care with the Omaha Tribal Council as well. It was during my internship that I was converted to Behavioralism .
I was always attracted to the more “artsy” side of psychology, the getting into someone’s brain and really finding out how they think and feel. I found the “touchy-feely” theories to be much more romantic than some rat running a maze. My internship supervisor appeared to be a staunch behaviorist and I wasn’t sure I was going to like his approach. However, it WORKED . I’ll never forget when he walked into a room of about 20 toddlers and their parents and without more than a handful of words, got all of the kids playing nicely together. So I tried it. It was uncomfortable at first and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it until the results started rolling in. This stuff works!
I went back to campus to jump through the final flaming hoop, the dissertation , and because I picked fantastic committee members, it was a relatively painless procedure, and I was granted the Ph.D. in psychology!
Although I had learned a great deal about psychology and how to help children and teenagers, I still had much to learn about life and about myself. While I was in graduate school and on internship, my 8-year romantic relationship fell apart when I wasn’t looking. I realized I was depressed. We began counseling together, I went to individual counseling, and I took an anti-depressant. Within a few short weeks, I was free from the crippling symptoms and left only with the merely bothersome ones. Painfully, I left the relationship and spent the next 3 years in Wisconsin again, focusing on my career, having fun with friends and family, and continuing the drinking problem I still didn’t believe I had.
I got tired of the snow and the cold and I knew I needed to go, but where? My younger brother and his wife had already begun what he hoped was a family exodus to Arizona and his daily e-mail weather reports eventually got to me. In October of 1998, I drove 1900 miles in a rented moving van, towing my car, wondering who put Arizona so DARNED far away. I tried a couple of jobs in Arizona, but wasn’t extremely happy with the work I was doing.
Meanwhile, I met a neat guy, a guy who shared his recovery with me, and I had a lot of fun with him. Sober fun. We dated for a while and we decided to meet each others’ families over Christmas.
Then something funny happened. My company decided to close several programs two weeks before Christmas. Yes, during one of the most suicidal times of year, that’s when they decide it’s a good time to turn 40 or so chronically mentally ill people loose with no service and another 300 or so that are only mildly or moderately ill. A handful of highly dedicated and ethical providers, including myself, worked their tails off to get as many people hooked up with new services as they could before the doors slammed behind us Christmas Eve. When I got the news, I had only 5 days before my scheduled trip home for Christmas, so needless to say, I didn’t have time to close 100 outpatient files AND find a new job, so I figured I’d just look when I got back.
With all the chaos, I hardly had time to do any shopping and still didn’t have a decent gift for my boyfriend whose only request for Christmas was that I give him my love. So I did. We were married at the Circus Circus Chapel of the Fountain on January 1, 2000.
I had to move and do all that stuff you have to do when you get married and I putzed around with that for a few weeks and it occurred to me that I still had no job. So I decided, that’s it. I’m going to do what I have always wanted to do, which is go into private practice. Someone told me long ago, “Do what you love and someone will pay you for it.” That’s what I’m doing.
After about 4 years of sobriety, I decided I could finally admit I was an alcoholic and just put myself out there as a recovering addict. I was afraid, at first, that no one would want to go see a psychologist that had “issues.” However, after serving on the Governing Board of the Arizona Psychological Association for 3 years, I concluded that there may not be any psychologists who don’t have issues, so I decided I’d just rather be up-front with mine.
The private practice went so well that I needed administrative help, but not so well that I could afford to pay someone. About that time, my husband’s work in printed circuit board design was going through some transition. Businesses were bought and sold and went out of business every couple months. That was right around Jon’s 40th birthday, so we figured he was about ‘due’ for a mid-life crisis, so we decided he’d leave his field and come on as the Office Manager of the practice.
Starting in December, 2004, Jon became the first point of contact for new callers. He greeted new clients in the waiting room, helped people feel comfortable about being in treatment, and did all the billing, scheduling, computer maintenance, web design, office maintenance, and just about anything else you can think of that wasn’t therapy. In fact, he loved to tell people that he does all the work and that all I do is “talk to people.”
As we neared the end of our commercial lease, we began to make plans to move our practice to our home. A flood of our house on July 13th of 2008 got the remodeling started for us by requiring us to take all the drywall on the lower 4 feet of our house out. We decided to put it back in a way that made a waiting room, treatment room, and client rest room in our home, with it’s own private entrance.
We were a week into that plan when I was in a serious motorcycle accident, requiring me to close the practice and putting me out of commission for 9 months. While I recovered, Jon finished the home office and helped nurse me back to health. I will have some permanent damage and some limitations as a result of the accident, but I’m back to work now and I’m incredibly grateful to be able to do my life’s work, with my husband, in my home.
We both love what we’re doing and intend to stay in business and continue to serve our customers and the community as long as we can. So if you’re thinking of coming in, you’ve got time, but don’t wait too long. You never know what could happen!
We look forward to seeing you!