We have metaphors to describe many things in life that are difficult to define.  It helps to compare larger more important topics to common well understood things and experiences.  Life is like a box of chocolates.  That is a metaphor many of us have heard.  What about grief is like an onion?  Another metaphor used in a previous blog states that  raising children is like gardening.  Symbolism, analogy, metaphor- these can be beautiful especially if used poetically or in creative writing.  One of my favorite stories is The Velveteen Rabbit.  Metaphors and symbolism abound in this story that celebrates aging, love, and wisdom.  The beauty of this figurative language is you can take from it many different things, many different lessons.  Since it is getting close to October, I will end this blog with a verse from a poem my mother wrote.  She wrote this long ago but it has always stuck with me, as good metaphors do.  Blessings,

The step of dark October nears, grasses strewn beneath the wind of his dusky hoof. In the shrinking air does dark October breathe a cloud, morning omen. In the chill darkness of star time does dark October offer up his thickening coat and hard flank, accepting the north wind and shielding the likes of me, with the stern glance of his dark-speaking eye.


From Teacher to Social Worker

Today our guest blogger, Kari Boeckermann, an intern with the AASK Program gives her perspective on the first few weeks at Catholic Charities North Dakota.  We think its always interesting to hear what our new additions to our staff learn about what our agency does and  what they have been surprised by or impressed with.  Here’s Kari’s take!

My name is Kari Boeckermann and I am a MSW intern from UND completing my field experience with the AASK program. I became interested in adoption when my husband and I began the domestic infant adoption process.  At the time I wasn’t aware of all of the different areas of adoption. When I began to learn about the alternatives to infant adoption I found the AASK program, which I became very interested in.  Luckily, I am now able to learn about the process from the inside, although I am no longer participating in the process myself.  The part of this position that has most amazed me is how many adoptions are being finalized at any time.  I had assumed it would be very difficult to find homes for older children and sibling groups, but this agency does an amazing job of finding wonderful families for the kids they serve.  I have also been very impressed with the families I’ve met.  The commitment and love that they have are constantly amazing me. 

Outside of AASK, I am a Special Education Teacher in a high school setting.  I work with at risk youth and love watching the growth they make each year.  I also have been lucky enough to find a position co-instructing Equine Facilitated Learning groups, for at risk youth, through a local Equine Assisted Therapy center.  Last, but definitely not least, my husband and I are expecting a baby girl any day now.  

About Mindfulness

Mindfulness is to be in the present, today, the here and now. However, in a busy world that we live in, we are finding less and less time to actually be in the present moment. We may be physically sitting at our desks at work, but our minds are far from paying attention to our work with all the “to do” lists, worries about our loved ones, and keeping a busy scheduled organized, we may not be able to focus. By practicing mindfulness, we are able to find peace and clarity in our lives. In that many of our worries we don’t even have control over. So that’s a lot of time and energy wasted on such matters that we can’t even changes. I bet we have a lot of items on our “to do” lists that we could delegate to someone else. I know, we want to feel important, to feel needed, but at what cost? Our physical, mental, and spiritual health?   We feel we may be accomplishing things when we can “check” them off on our list; however many of us tackle the easy tasks and continue to avoid the big issues that are staring back at us. We are our own worst enemy. By avoiding the real issue, we become angry at ourselves and think that we are flawed. However, we live with others as we wear many hats such as parents, spouse, partner, employee, neighbor, parishioner, etc. except that we try to get things done ourselves. We don’t live on an island by ourselves and talk to a soccer ball named “Wilson” as in the character portrayed by Tom Hanks in the Movie, “Castaway”, we live with others. We all have our own gifts to share. I go to a dentist to fix my teeth and go to a mechanic to fix my car because I don’t know how to perform their specialized tasks. However, when it comes to depression or anxiety, we think we are supposed to “buck up” and get this problem figured out on our own. Just think if you replaced the word, depression or anxiety with the word, diabetes how would you treat yourself then?  Unless you are an endocrinologist that specializes in diabetes, you would most likely make an appointment with an endocrinologist medical doctor.

Here are Catholic Charities North Dakota’s Counseling Department, we can help you prioritize your life in order to practice self-care. Simplifying our lives to focus on the real tasks at hand is what we can do for you. By practicing mindfulness with you, we can complete an assessment of your current life as we gather family history, relationships, financial, abuse, education, and spiritual beliefs just to name a few. We are trained to “see the big picture” without being emotionally involved which can be invaluable when helping our clients gain a fresh new perspective on our approach in life. So ask yourself if you are currently living your true authentic life. If not, what or shall I say, WHO is preventing you from living this authentic life? Let us help you live the life you were meant to be. Call us to schedule your assessment at 1-800-450-4457


Growing Confidence and Character

Gardening is a wonderful hobby.  Just think of all the valuable lessons learned while working in the soil.  Dirt is the top layer of the earth.  It is full of life sustaining nutrients, minerals and organisms.  There can be a negative connotation to the word “dirt”.   For some people dirt can represent chaos, disorder, or even fear.  How liberating to dive into the cool earth with both hands.  Gardening builds confidence and character.  It takes effort, patience, persistence and discipline to grow a large garden.  One must lovingly and carefully start the new plants, making sure to give them the best start possible.  Then one must diligently weed the garden to make sure the plants continue to thrive.  Water is essential for a plant, as everyone knows.  But farmers in arid regions are keenly aware of this and struggle to make sure their crops are not thirsty.  Harvesting is hard work not only to bring everything in, but to can, jar or otherwise preserve the valuable bounty. Anytime we work the soil, we are reconnecting with an important sensory experience.  Remember making mud pies as a child?  What a delightful experience.  It is important to find activities that increase self-esteem and build confidence.  Gardening is only one of many healthy, educational and fun activities.  If you struggle with finding productive hobbies or activities, one of the friendly counselors at Catholic Charities may be able to help.  Call 1-800-450-4457 for an appointment today!

Take an Adult Time-out!

We all need a time out every once in awhile. Time outs are not just for toddlers. Think back when the last time you have felt overwhelmed with a mix of emotions, we probably did or said something that we regretted. It is at this time of feeling overwhelmed that we need to take a time out. Create a “go to” place at places where you spend the most time such as your home, office, and even your car. Let’s call this your “sanctuary” instead of your time out place. Personalize your sanctuary by stimulating your five senses. For instance, your home. Find a quiet place such as a comfy chair (Touch). Then add something you enjoy looking at such as pictures of loved ones or places you’ve been to or would like to see (Sight).  Then add some music (Sound), perhaps it’s creating a playlist of soothing music on your iPod, or having the lack of sound/noise by using ear plugs. Then light a candle or incense or inhale essential oils (Smell). Lastly, sip some soothing tea or have some sugar free mints (Taste). Have all these readily available at your sanctuary so when you need your timeout, the items are already there. Also, keep a journal at your sanctuary and just start writing what is on your mind. It’s amazing the things you can do by just getting all your thoughts, worries, and feelings down on paper instead of stuck in your head. We need to be more kind to ourselves and slow things down. We are only one person and can’t do it all. In today’s society we are inundated by so many messages and feel pulled from all directions. We can’t do it all. Enjoy life, one thing at a time and when we can’t figure things out, take a time out for yourself!     Our Counselors at Catholic Charities North Dakota can help you to reduce stress and to make time for yourself!  Call us at 1-800-450-4457 to schedule an appointment.

How Is Grief Like An Onion?

Grief is like an onion.  There are many layers and getting through them makes you cry!  Grief is sharp, like the pungent smell of an onion.  It’s interesting that the onion metaphor uses the sense of smell.  The sense of smell is one of the most primitive human brain functions.  Grief can be triggered by scent and the reaction is immediate and powerful.  What happens when you suddenly smell something that reminds you of a lost loved one? Maybe it’s a certain soap, shampoo, cologne or hair product.  Sometimes it’s the aroma of a special dish, dessert, or food.  Any scent that is strongly associated with someone we have lost can trigger our grief.  The moment that your nose recognizes the scent, it tells your body and you get a lump in your throat, tears spring to your eyes and you feel an ache in your heart.   Our other senses remember grief as well.  Once when I was with my mother, she noticed me brushing my hair.   When I was done, she took the brush and felt the texture of the hair.  It reminded her of the sister she had lost so many years before.  It was over 60 years ago but the sensory information brought it right back and she cried.   Many people have their grief triggered by sounds, music or other auditory input.  The holidays are a huge trigger for most of us.  We remember the pain and hurt, but grief does end.  The part that is left, after grief heals, is sadness.  Sadness is different than grief and for most people, is bearable.  Grief can feel unbearable at times.    If you are struggling with grief, loss, sadness, or depression, these can be overwhelming.  Use as many of the resources that are available to help you through the onion.  The counseling program at Catholic Charities North Dakota is here for you.

Want or a Need?

What is the difference between a want and a need?  It is easy to mix these up because sometimes “wants” feel like needs.  If we stop to think about what we really need it is pretty minimal.  Food, clothing, shelter, clean water and clean air, medical care and a connection with our Creator.  Some might argue that a spiritual relationship is not a need but a strong desire.   It has been said that we are all broken and are missing pieces.  The only thing that truly fills our inner emptiness or the “God shaped hole”, is an understanding of our spiritual nature.   If we were stranded alone on a deserted island with those basic needs met, we could exist.  Many people would even flourish.  If we have everything we absolutely need for survival, then anything we add to that is an enhancement.

Our lives are enhanced by other people and by the creature comforts we enjoy.  These additions are bonuses, privileges, luxuries, icing on the cake. When you look at life in these terms, that anything beyond our basic needs is an enhancement, it is hard not to feel immense gratitude.  Gratitude for the people in our lives, for the little things, for the beautiful world we live in and for ourselves.  Each of us is capable of sustaining ourselves without having any of our “wants” met.  Counseling is a safe place to explore the difference between wants and needs, along with any other issue that is on your heart and mind.  Catholic Charities is here for you as an objective observer, coach, mentor, therapist, and friend, with gratitude for being able to serve you.   To schedule an appointment or to find out more call 1-800-450-4457 or go to

Take Time for Yourself Alone

Help!  Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done?  Are your lists getting longer and longer? There is rarely enough time in a day to get done what is needed, much less to relax and nurture ourselves.  Many would say it is selfish and unfair to carve out precious time in an overloaded schedule.  We tend to feel guilty and are unable to enjoy this freedom when we do have the chance.  The dirty dishes are still there, the yard needs mowing, the bills need to be paid, the children are always needy, we may have elderly parents to care for, and even our spouse demands time and attention.   Some folks are not comfortable with too much alone time.  They say it is boring, hard to sit still, or pointless.  Why is that?  Being alone can be the most peaceful, refreshing and renewing time we have in our busy lives.  If we allow ourselves to accept the feelings, work through them and not give up, something amazing happens.  Getting past the fears or initial discomfort can be challenging but the rewards are great.  There is a peace and serenity that carries over into all areas of life.  Try sitting quietly in a restful space and examine the thoughts and feelings that arise.  This is valuable information that can redirect us if we are feeling unbalanced, anxious or distraught.   It may be difficult at first so start with a few minutes only.  Try to increase your tolerance by adding a minute each time.  It is not boring!  Our inner lives are full, rich and important.  Alone time is valuable because you are valuable.  Learn what is inside yourself.  There may be hopes and dreams that we have forgotten in our rushed and busy lives.  Take the time to treasure yourself and treat yourself gently, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Written by Lorraine Lubka, MS, LMFT, a Clinical Therapist at Catholic Charities North Daktoa’s Fargo Office.

Caring For Your Car and Your Marriage.

Is your marriage like an expensive automobile?  Is it a top of the line luxury model? Perhaps it’s the safest and most reliable vehicle available.  Maybe you chose the most comfortable and spacious car.  Maybe it’s very fuel efficient.  Whatever criteria is important to you, when getting married, you choose the highest quality, ideal person to marry.  Just like a machine, no matter how well it is made, a marriage requires maintenance.  If you start neglecting your vehicle it will still run, maybe not as smoothly, but it will run.  It’s easy to take for granted that the vehicle will keep running.  You tell yourself, “I have the best car ever”!  Then you start ignoring minor problems and skipping regular maintenance.  Maybe you can drive another hundred miles after the check engine light comes on.  You tell yourself you can probably drive another hour on that wobbly tire.  Maybe if you turn up the radio you can drown out the horrible sound coming from the engine.  If you fail to maintain the vehicle, it will run, but eventually it will suffer from neglect and no longer take us where we want to go.  Marriage is the same way.  As soon as you hear that knock in the engine, or smell that burning odor, figure out what’s wrong and fix it!  If you wait too long it may be too late.  It is important to keep in mind that you obtained the very best vehicle possible.  Why not treat your marriage with the love and care you would give that beautiful car?  Maintain it, wash it, wax it, take care of it and enjoy it!

Need more help in taking care of your marriage?  Contact a counselor at Catholic Charities North Dakota today!  Call 701-235-4457 or visit

Quietly Impacting Lives in Your Community

On Thursday, like several other non-profits, Catholic Charities North Dakota will participate in Giving Hearts Day, sponsored by the Dakota Medical Foundation.  It is a one day online give-a-thon that has blown up in the last several years benefiting those most in need.  Donations can be made on Feb 13 from Midnight to 11:59 PM at

Let me tell you a little about our agency and why Giving Hearts Day is so important.  Catholic Charities North Dakota celebrated it’s 90th Birthday last year!  These 90 years have been filled with many accomplishments but most importantly, the great impact we have on the lives of so many individuals and families.

Last year, we finalized the adoptions of 145 children, including foster care adoption, International adoptions and infant adoptions.  We provided decision making counseling to 35 women facing an unexpected pregnancy to help them make the important decision to parent or to make an adoption plan.   We acted as Guardian for for 431 adults with developmental disabilities to help them make the best possible decisions for their independence and safety.  We provided counseling services for 401 people who struggled with issues in their lives such as depression, relationship issues, and sexual abuse.  All in all, we impact so many lives. Though much of our work is hidden behind the scenes, we know that  our quiet support makes the lives of many more productive, fulfilling and happy!

Consider a donation to Catholic Charities North Dakota on Giving Hearts Day on February 13.