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.

National Adoption Day Preparations

The following blog post was written by Alicia King, LSW an adoption worker for the Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK)  Program.  Our agency is gearing up for National Adoption Day tomorrow!


19, 11, & 3.  WAIT… WHAT?…. 19 kids finalizing into 11 families and we have 3 days left to get things organized and gifts bought…..AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

This is what has been going through my head the past three days:

What do we get for each child?

What do we get for the families?

Is there enough money to do what we want?

How are we really going to celebrate these families and kids on this important day?

Stop, breathe, take a step back Alicia. It’s not about the gifts they get that day, or the balloons and decorations, or the food. It’s about children becoming part of their family, belonging to their family and having THEIR spot in THEIR family. This is the day that families become legal mom, dad and child! It’s about the lifetime of memories that these families will make together, the support they will give each other and the LOVE that will be shared for the rest of their lives.

National Adoption Day is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year. The goal is to finalize adoptions in all 50 states for the 100,000 kids that are waiting for their family. It’s about encouraging people to adopt and building collaboration among adoption agencies, courts, advocacy organizations and families.

So, although we want to make this day as special for these 19 children and 11 families as we can, the families have already made this day one of the most special days in their lives that will be remembered and cherished FOREVER!



Adoption Gets Personal

November is National Adoption Month.  It is the month where we celebrate the gift of adoption.  In its traditional sense, adoption usually means a birth mother having the selfless courage to make an adoption plan for a newborn child, knowing that an adoptive family could give them a much better life than they are prepared to provide at this point in their lives.  In our 90 years of existence, countless families have grown their families through adoption and seen their lives being transformed by love. We are proud of our tradition.

Today adoption is so much more.  Each year in North Dakota, over 100 children in foster care  are adopted permanently into families.  Last year 126 children had their adoptions finalized through the  Adults Adopting Special Kids program which is a collaborative effort of Catholic Charities North Dakota and PATH, ND Inc.  On Saturday, November 23, 21 children will have their adoptions finalized in Fargo as a part of  National Adoption Day.  Nationally, over 100,000 are expected to find their permanent place in a loving family on that day alone.

For me, adoption touches a very special place in my heart.  You see, I have a niece who was adopted over 20 years ago.  I’ll never forget the day she came into my life.  You see, my sister and brother- in- law had been on “the list” for several years.  (This was before open adoption existed)   I was an eighth grader and got called out of class to go to the office.  I was afraid I was in BIG trouble for something or something bad had happened.  Instead, my Mom was waiting on the phone to tell me that the day had come… my sister was getting a baby girl.   I was a little shocked and surprised, but very excited.  I didn’t have to wait for 9 months like everyone else, she would be here in just a couple of days meaning that I would be an aunt for the second time, but this time it was a girl!

From the very first time I met her, this little girl with a bald head and big eyes, I was in love!  She became my buddy and I made excuses to visit their house several times a week.  She even gets credit for my family nickname, Aunty Tooney, because she couldn’t quite say my name and to this day it still sticks!    It was so much fun to watch her grow up with all my other nieces and nephews to be great people.   In fairy tale form, she grew up, got married and is now a Mom herself to two beautiful children!   The blessings just keep multiplying!

Each day at Catholic Charities, we see families growing because of adoption.  So much work goes into the adoption process with home studies, home visits, legal proceedings, team meetings with county social workers, family assessments, child assessments, life books, etc… that the process seems to take forever.     But, you can always tell when an adoption worker is finalizing an adoption.  There is usually an extra spring in their step and their smile is a little wider all because of the abundance of love and acceptance adoption brings.  Which makes me smile because I remember the feeling and think of all the blessings in my life. :)

If you are interested in growing your family through adoption or any of our other services, call Catholic Charities North Dakota at 701-235-4457 or go to to learn more.   

Colleen Hardy, Director of Development and Public Relations
Catholic Charities North Dakota

Dealing with Uncertainty

New Blog Post from Janelle Miedema, Director of Counseling

We’ve been working with a group of New American (refugee) kids at a school in the community and we were discussing “triggers”.  Emotional triggers are reminders of painful stuff from the past than can lead to upsetting memories and intense feelings such as fear or anger.  Youth who grew up in countries where civil war made their lives dangerous almost daily may have many triggers.  We talked to the group about the increase of national guard in the community due to the possible flood and how they may have on camouflage clothing and military looking vehicles.   We believed it was possible that any signs of military could be a strong emotional trigger for them. 

 Have you found that when you hear the news about the flood maybe you get a little knot in your stomach?  Do your neck muscles tense up?  Are you sleeping restlessly these past few weeks?  These may be your emotional “triggers” from having to deal with many years of possible and real flood fights.  We are very resilient in the Red River Valley and most of us cope and move forward fairly well.  However, if you find yourself feeling a little more edgy, slightly depressed, or having any other physical symptoms you may want to consider whether or not you are dealing with some emotional “triggers”.   It’s important to first recognize that this may be going on and then think about taking care of yourself.

Good self care includes:

  • Eating healthy and mindfully
  • Exercise (you don’t have to be a body builder – gentle walking, biking etc. can do wonders for the mood)
  • Prayer, meditation, relaxation
  • Massages
  • Call your friends and family and  tell them you care.
  • Think about all the things you have to be grateful for – this creates an attitude of joy and contentment.

 For more information about resilience, visit the Red River Resilience website at