Surviving the Big Transition

By Andrew Lopez, CPS and Darby Gregersen

In the middle of the coronavirus crisis I remember actively thinking that I would be very excited for all this to be over and to get back to normal. In reality the situation is quite a bit more complicated. I didn’t anticipate a number of challenges including the ones created by my own mental health.

One of the big adjustments for me is socialization. I’d gotten used to (for over a year) spending time away from friends and connecting with people over the phone and video chat. Seeing people in person seemed a little difficult at first and took me a while to adjust. I still have to remind myself to engage more often with my friends as I have fallen out of the habit of connecting with them.my friends are adjusting as well and some of them have been really hesitant towards engaging in in person contact. It’s been a struggle though with trust and kindness we are being patient with one another and our needs. During the start of the virus crisis I had been seeing a therapist but this therapist had so many schedule problems and issues with the telehealth services that ended up dropping out of their caseload. I’ve been looking for new therapy services but it has been very difficult to find in-person services. I am deeply hoping that there will be a change in the mindset of some of these mental health clinics and being tolerant of in-person services especially for those who have been vaccinated.

Professionally there’s been some big changes as well. Going back to in person services has created a number of challenges. The first challenge is the schedule changes. For a year of doing telehealth services I didn’t have to travel or planned for the time to travel. Being away from home more often was an adjustment for me and my cat. At first it felt pretty strange to be away from the apartment for so long in getting used to seeing my peers in person. I feel like my schedule has been more inconsistent than it has been in the past and this has led to a great amount of anxiety. In addition there have been changes in my caseload that have thrown in a bit of chaos. I’m very fortunate that I have a lot of professional support from my supervisors and coworkers.it helps to know that my coworkers were also struggling to make the adjustments and this wasn’t a personality flaw on my part. It’s now been a few months since I started doing in person services again, and I still feel like I’m adjusting. I feel like it’s getting better as I go and I’ve been very appreciative of the patient’s my peers and coworkers have shown me.

To give you perspective outside of the Chrysalis staff Darby has provided a summary of her experience dealing with this great transition:

I want to start from March but I would like to include my experience from the start of the decade. At the beginning of 2020, I was very much already in a transition point, working on many long term goals I have had around socialization, relationships, working, taking care of my health and apartment. January and February I kept pushing through what I was working on and making progress. I was feeling confident about it all for the first time in probably years and felt the momentum as I was also finally getting support from different people and services I needed. Then, March came around and as we all know, that’s when things really started to change for most people. My birthday is the first week in March and a few days after my birthday, I went out for dinner with my mom and brother. I hadn’t heard a lot about the virus at this point, I was aware of it but couldn’t have guessed what was coming. While at dinner I found myself listening to my mom getting more serious on the topic of the virus, informing me UW would be shutting down it’s campus soon because of it. Then, within the next week, campuses were sending students home, non essential businesses were closing, the beltline went from bustling chaos to the same energy as a back road.

Within that same week before the shutdown, I met with my Chrysalis case worker for the first time. I was so excited to be getting started with this and on track back to being employed. But obviously, because of the situation with the pandemic, that isn’t quite what happened. I was honestly somewhat devastated. Anxiety and still setting in devastation around the pandemic aside, I was devastated about my own progress. I thought about how hard I had worked over the last near 4 years to get my life back on track and how draining and frustrating it has been trying to find the tools and resources. Here I was, starting to make that progress and feel like a person again, then the shutdown happened and put an indefinite halt, unpassable restrictions, and in some cases just a full stop around the assistance I had in achieving getting my life back.

Throughout the summer, this heartbreak thought storm came back to me often, as did the part of my brain trying to just survive the new situation in front of me. It broke me, my mental and physical health declined as I tried to adapt to the situation. I felt guilty for having all the feelings I did about my personal progress, the world was in shambles and everyone was struggling. Some struggling arguably more and thousands of people were actually dying. What right did I have to panic and cry over losing so much of my supports and resources, as so many were going through the same? And often lost in my head, I did forget that I do have the right to all my feelings. I was extra hard on myself asking why I couldn’t just “get through it” like everyone else. I will infer that I am not the only one that had this back and forth in their head between mourning their life pre-pandemic and being angry about it, and feeling guilty for having those feelings or just telling themselves to ‘buck up’ and face the new normal. Another thought scenario I know kept running through my head was anger and frustration with other people as I would watch the news, peek on social media platforms, hear it from people talking to me, but watching as some people went about their lives like nothing was happening. Positing pictures from parties to instagram and continuing to leave the house for frivolous things. Watching people do that was hard and made it harder in ways to accept what was happening as real; or the opposite that anger that people weren’t taking the situation seriously.

In sharing those feelings in this blog, I am hoping some of my words resonated with people who had those thoughts as well or gave a new perspective to someone. I would like to continue and end this with some of what I experienced in regards to one of my services and how it was affected by the pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier in my writing, the week of the shut down, I met with my Chrysalis caseworker in person for the first time and was going to start to dip my toes back in the employment waters. I have been unable to work for longer than I would like because of both mental health and medical struggles, and at that point I was starting to feel ready in my self and my schedule to reenter the workforce with some support. I was ecstatic to be starting to work with someone from Chrysalis and get this part of my life back on track. Though, since the shutdown happened things had to change with that a bit. We continued to meet through video meetings, we talked about me, accommodations I would need from an employer, what I want in a job, ideas for workplaces I would enjoy and all that good stuff that the case workers of Chrysalis help you with. If it wasn’t obvious in what I said before, I was super discouraged when the shutdown happened seemingly in sync with this step toward progress. Some months into talking to my case manager and the shutdown, I was no longer feeling safe to work again. As much as I long to work again, I had regressed in my own mental health and had grown anxious around the idea of looking for a job during the pandemic. As things started to open up again, with more non essential businesses opening back up, we talked about my comfortability applying to some jobs. I had to be honest with myself and with my caseworker that I no longer felt that I was in a place to work again especially with doctors starting to see people again in person. I had tons of medical appointments stacking up and reclaiming my schedule from me.

This was all super discouraging but we kept meeting, up until a certain point when I and my case manager agreed that it would be the best move to take a break from meeting with each other for a while until I felt ready to start looking into working again. This was hard for me but felt okay, it wasn’t an end, my case manager assured me that she was still there for me if I needed someone and would still be there for me when I was ready again. I wasn’t forced to give up working with someone from Chrysalis, which does not necessarily sound like much but really meant a lot to me with how much I did have to give up in the past years as well as during the pandemic. I still got to hold on to that feeling that I made progress in this area and wasn’t just back to square one with it.

Before we stopped our personal meetings, my case worker did give me some help and support by making me aware of Chrysalis’s consumer advisory committee. She thought it would be a good thing for me as I was in this place of knowing I couldn’t work a regular job, but dying for some sense of purpose and accomplishment somewhere. This committee fit the bill, it only required 2 hours of the month as a minimum, so within my capabilities at the time. I would also be paid to participate in the committee, along with one of their subcommittees, giving me a purpose and something that felt meaningful to fill some of my time with. Thankfully I was accepted into the committee and got a spot in the blog group sub committee, which is the reason you’re reading my words and I am able to share my experience with you. The committee has provided me with a sense of purpose and accomplishment as I finish my share for blog pieces and spend time (over zoom) with the other members of the committee.

Now here we are, a year later transitioning again with all new changes to navigate. Last year my birthday was celebrated on the end of “normal” in a restaurant; this year I was surprised with a trip to Burnie’s rock shop by my boyfriend- this year wearing a mask and following the store’s new capacity limits for social distancing. It was great to get out again and see other people and meander around a store as much as it was unsettling and near scary to do that again. Now we are nearing May and more changes like that are happening, with things opening back up, people getting their vaccinations and social gatherings tentatively being planned, it’s all cause for excitement as well as anxiety. I am sure many people are feeling similarly as they go about handling the changes in our nation, community, and in their individual lives.

I want to end this by saying, all feelings around these changes are okay, and it is okay to take them at your own pace, just remember: “To respect others comfortability around the changes, respect the guidelines in place that allow us to start safely transitioning into some normalcy, and always respect yourself and your pace in these changes.” – Darby Gregersen

Chrysalis Clubhouse: Rooted/Troy Garden Partnership

Hi! My name is Brent and I’m Shoua. We are Chrysalis Clubhouse colleagues. We are so happy to have this opportunity to share our Rooted-Troy Garden Partnership experience with you. 

What was the first day like for you? 

  • Brent: I haven’t been in a garden this year so the first day at Rooted felt tedious but enjoyable. He stepped on a piece of broken glass on his first day! That was quite an adventure! 
  • Shoua: I was so excited and anxious at the same time for my first shift at Rooted. I went there early and just waited anxiously in my car for the big tour from KZ!  I met up with Brent afterward and we spent our morning pulling GARLIC. It was so relaxing and much fun! 

What made you decide to come back?

  • Brent: I decided to continue to volunteer because it needed to be done. It’s very beneficial to the Clubhouse. 
  • Shoua: I like gardening. I believe gardening improves mood and can improve many aspects of our mental and health. Additionally, this partnership gives me a chance to represent Chrysalis and I’m grateful for that.?

What do you like about the garden most?

  • Brent: Harvesting. I love to harvest vegetables.
  • Shoua: The relationships. 

What tasks do you perform at the gardens?

  • So far we’ve done weeding, trellised tomatoes and harvesting. We harvested cabbages, garlic, green onions, and kohlrabi just to name a few. Brent is the only one that’s done planting. He planted herbs. 

Would you recommend Rooted Garden to other Colleagues and Why?

  • Brent: Yes, It helps you realize the work that goes into growing and harvesting the vegetables you buy in stores.
  • Shoua: I would recommend other colleagues to give Root a try. It’s a good way to build relationships in the community. And again, there are just so many benefits to gardening. It helps me to meet my goal of staying active and eating healthy. 

We hope to continue our partnership with Rooted for many seasons to come!

Taking time off from work

By Kurt Stapleton

For some people this is a no-brainer. For others it’s difficult to do. I fall into the 2nd category.

I’ve been working since I was 16 yrs. old and I’ve only taken a handful of vacations in that time. When I was younger I called in sick a lot just to get out of working and that had negative consequences. I soon realized how much it affected my paycheck and my relationships at work. After a while I just equated missing work meant negative consequences and therefore did not take any time off. Except for the occasional sick day or rare vacation. This took a toll on my mental and physical health. I was literally afraid to call in sick. I had it in my head that if I called in I was hurting everyone at work and my family financially.

And nowadays I am working 2 jobs to be able to do the work I love. This was my choice and I knew what I was getting into. I work during the day and then when that job is done I work during the evening and weekends, not giving myself a break sometimes.

It wasn’t until recently that I found myself in a position that actually embraces me taking time away from work for my mental health. This is so foreign to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. They want me to take a day off if I feel overwhelmed?? What?

But after taking a day off here and there and seeing coworkers doing it and seeing how much better they feel afterwards, I’m embracing it.

Taking a break from work has been so valuable to me as it allows me to reconnect with my wife and son, and focus on them. Without being attached to my phone.

It also allows me to reflect on myself and where I’m mentally. I’ll go for a walk and do a mental health check in. “How are you feeling about everything? Do you still enjoy what you’re doing or are you getting burned out?” These questions allow me to focus on myself and where I’m at mentally.

I never understood what a “mental health day” meant until recently. I get it now.

Going on vacation does not bring on fear and anxiety either. I used to get very anxious when a vacation was coming up, knowing that I will have tons of work to catch up on when I get back, that I felt it wasn’t worth going on vacation. Work was always on my mind while I was away too. “What is happening there? Did that thing get taken care of? What if they screw it up and it’s a mess when I get back? How will I get caught up from this?” Those thoughts would actually ruin my time off. I can now focus 100% on my family and enjoy the time away from work.

Work-a-holic? I think I held that title at one point. I am trying to find balance with work and personal life. Keeping them separate, and giving each of them the time they

Experience with Pops

By Tina Turvey

Three years ago I had an exciting and beneficial experience–the making and selling organically made frozen treats known as chrysalis pops. The chrysalis pops venture is meant to give vocational skills to people from mental health diagnoses.

It did so, and so much more. Along with learning to be proficient in the job role, I developed social skills and confidence. Being overly shy in public has been a challenge for me for years. Practicing sales I learned to not to be as fearful of people. People I learned are just people–and I was filling a need to provide them with a cold treat in a hot Wisconsin summer.

I am grateful for the experience and I look forward to other occupational experiences to add on to what I learned when selling pops. I have gained relationships and skills. Wandering through the food co-ops I still make a point to go to the frozen section to find the pops and savor them in the current summer heat. I love to reminisce over pops memories while enjoying my favorite flavors.

I would recommend this experience to anyone and sincerely hope others will try a chrysalis pop this summer–you won’t forget it. My favorite flavor, “cucumber mint” will definitely not disappoint.

THE BENEFITS OF HIKING

By Kurt Stapleton,

Word Search by Darby Gregersen

This year my wife and I have found a love for hiking. We have been looking for ways to be more active and getting outside. Hiking has been great for our mental health, and is bringing us together as a family.  We love being out in nature, seeing wildlife, discovering new places, observing unique landscapes and trees. Here are some benefits we’ve noticed since we started hiking.

  • Some things we enjoy is the peacefulness of being out in nature. 

We live very busy lives and are constantly in meetings, working with others, on our phones, in front of the computer or driving around town. Going for walk in the woods brings us back to our primitive mind and releases the stress.

  • Hiking has helped us discover new areas in our state. We get to travel to places we wouldn’t normally travel to and we enjoy discovering new places.
  • It challenges our minds. Going for a hike isn’t simply walking in the woods. Most state parks have multiple trails and some are more difficult than others. We have to choose which path we want to take and then you have to make decisions while hiking. It challenges us physically as well. Some trails are very long and can take hours to complete.
  • We also enjoy doing this by ourselves and reconnecting, taking time for ourselves. Going for a hike by yourself can build confidence, recharge your mental battery, and reflect on your life. This can also be a great time to do a mental check in with YOU and help you identify where you might be struggling or if your stressed.
  • Physical health has improved. We both have noticed that we are more active, have better stamina, and are losing weight. Some trails are challenging and require agility and good balance and we are both noticing these changes in ourselves.

Chrysalis Clubhouse Welcomes Clubhouse International Guest

By Cody Vogel and KZ

In our effort towards eventual accreditation, the Chrysalis Clubhouse invited Clubhouse International guest, Jack Yatsko to our Clubhouse Program meeting on April 20, 2021. Jack is the Chief Operating Officer with Clubhouse International and one of his specialties is providing support to new Clubhouse start ups, like us!  Jack joined the meeting virtually, as he lives in Hawaii. Clubhouse member, Cody Vogel, gave Jack a heartfelt overview of our Clubhouse journey thus far. We then gave Jack a virtual tour of our space and asked questions about Clubhouse International. 

Hi my name is Cody and with me today are my Chrysalis Clubhouse colleagues and we are happy to have you joining us today, Jack. The Chrysalis Clubhouse has been around for a year now. Ever since starting our clubhouse COVID has played a major factor with being able to see one another in person and being able to have in person social events. With COVID around we have also had to join zoom meetings on Tuesdays and Fridays which for me and others in the clubhouse isn’t what we prefer to do. It is what we need to do to prevent any spread of COVID.

The Chrysalis Clubhouse is a place where anybody is welcome and where nobody judges or gets criticized for their opinion. This clubhouse is a place where you can get support from not only the staff at Chrysalis but also from the members of the Chrysalis Clubhouse. Another way the Chrysalis Clubhouse can support you is through career development, meaning that if you want to work or are working or even want help with school the Chrysalis Clubhouse members and staff will provide their guidance or knowledge to help one another.

Another way the Chrysalis Clubhouse helps people is with a person’s wellness–and when I say helps I mean the members or staff will give their best advice and best support for any member. The Chrysalis Clubhouse wants every member to feel and have the support they need. With this support we also want people and the members to come to the Chrysalis Clubhouse through our zoom meetings or get emails about the clubhouse to be able to attend our meetings.

Now Chrysalis allows people and members to come in person while we still do COVID procedures like cleaning surfaces, taking temperatures, staying 6 feet apart, and wearing masks. I hope you see how much the Chrysalis Clubhouse is important to each member and how we want to become something much bigger. Thank you, Jack!

Photo Caption: 

As if this day wasn’t exciting enough, following our Program meeting, we held a wellness event at a nearby park, where colleagues Cody and kz finally learned who was faster. Cody’s shirt says it all about the outcome of this race. 

PTSD month, a fathers story

By Tina Turvey

June is PTSD month; PTSD or “ post traumatic stress disorder” became well known in veterans, called “shell shock”. Now we know that the condition can occur in not only vets but in victims of violent crime, the witnessing of traumatic events, first responders like police, EMT personal, and fire fighters. I have seen and experienced the effects of PTSD all my life; my father became affected while serving during the latter part of the Vietnam era years. Serving on the USS Kennedy (a naval aircraft carrier) My father was a fireman who put out breakout fires in aircraft. I sat down with him and asked him the following questions:

  1. How has your experiences in the military made your life difficult or hard to Manage?

I was lucky that during the time I was in the military I was training in martial arts which helped me cope. Dealing with and trying to get rid of PTSD anxieties, nightmares and flashbacks after my discharge was more of a problem and I needed help to get things under control.

  1. What helps the most with your symptoms? What helps the least?

Exposure therapy helped me the most; not confronting my fears helped me the least. The goal of exposure therapy was to slowly  expose and face stress causes. Stairwells triggered me the most and produced very disturbing memories and flashbacks as I fought fires in the stairwells of my ship. I avoided them for years! Increasing my exposure to them lessened my symptoms.

  1. What would you like people to know about your experiences?

That I have learned that there are very few problems in life, including PTSD that can’t be improved.

  1. Do you think or recommend people  follow your service? Knowing your difficulties?

Military life is not for everybody. It entails great risk and great rewards. I would do it all over again. Many have died–I know that. If one is young and healthy I would recommend it; but as I said, it is not for everybody.

  1. What do you think would help vets the most in this country? Do people receive adequate help in you opinion? How can people show appreciation for those who suffer for the common good?

I cannot say enough good things about the Veteran Administration. They help vets out a lot and if you really care about vets and out active duty personnel just thank them when you run across them, same with the police and firefighters.

Chrysalis Wellness Initiative: Tobacco Tackle Announcement and Updates

By Hilleary Reinhardt

Announcement: Chrysalis is officially a tobacco and smoke free campus! Chrysalis takes a holistic approach towards mental health recovery, focusing on individual’s entire lives, including mind, body, spirit, and community and understands the impact that tobacco use and smoking has on the whole person. Chrysalis staff members, program participants, and visitors all benefit from the improved health benefits of creating an environment free from tobacco use. 

In May 2020, Chrysalis was awarded a Bucket Approach Integration Award from the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Interventions (UW-CTRI). The Bucket Approach is an evidence-based tobacco dependence intervention tailored to smokers coping with mental health concerns and designed for those who work in the behavioral health field. Over the past year, with the support of UW-CTRI, Chrysalis has been working on a project called the “Chrysalis Wellness Initiative: Tobacco Tackle”. Through this project, we aimed to support the Chrysalis community as we increase the number of conversations surrounding tobacco use and created a tobacco free campus with the goal of reducing tobacco use in the Chrysalis community. 

Our Tobacco Tackle committee, consisting of staff, Chrysalis participants, and human resources has worked to educate our staff on how to have conversation with Chrysalis participants about their tobacco use and facilitate Chrysalis becoming a tobacco/smoke free campus in a way that does not promote shame or stigma. Over the course of the last year, the Tobacco Tackle Committee has been able to do the following with the support of Chrysalis and UW-CTRI:

  • Bucket Approach training with UW-CTRI in all staff meeting
  • Creation and rollout of smoke free policies in the Chrysalis Handbook
  • Signage around office to promote quitting
  • Creation of electronic resources for staff to use when discussing quitting with participants
  • Quit packs consisting of a fidget and quit resources
  • Implementation of the Bucket Approach into individual Chrysalis programs 

We at Chrysalis want you to know that we are here to support you in your journey to quit smoking or using tobacco and we support you WHEREVER you are on your journey!

We would like to give a special thanks to UW-CTRI for their support through the last year–we would not have been able to do it without your guidance and financial support. 

Celebrating 10 Years of Moving for Mental Health

A Q&A with Executive Director Dani Rischall

Q: How did Moving for Mental Health get started?

A: Ten years ago I was just starting my job as Executive Director at Chrysalis and quickly realized I could use some additional support in my role. I signed up for a Nonprofit Management Course at Madison College. The course was full of wonderful peer learning opportunities and a great instructor, Boris Frank, a well respected nonprofit management and development consultant. Part of this course was focused on selecting a project where students could work together and receive consulting services from Boris. I was lucky enough to partner with Beth Swanson, a special events planner. 

Beth and I worked together to create Moving for Mental Health, a Chrysalis fundraiser and opportunity to promote the value of physical activity on mental wellness. It was very important to us to connect this event to the mission of Chrysalis and not lose sight of this as we continued to plan. We loved the idea of sourcing food from the Chrysalis employer community and bringing our supporters together to connect and build relationships. 

Q: What has changed over the past 10 years?

A: Moving for Mental Health started small. In class we often talked about the sneaky expenses that often come with special events and wanted to mitigate these as much as possible. Our first year we have just under 100 participants and raised $3,985. As the event grew so did the participation and the funds we raised. The event has grown to  200+ participants (pre-pandemic) and raised over $15,343 in 2020. Collectively over the past 10 years the event has brought in $89,098 and netted $74,186. 

We also grew out of our original location! In 2012, our first year of Moving for Mental Health we hosted the event in our office space and gathered together for a post-race community building in our parking lot. In 2015 we realized we needed a bigger space. We were really excited about moving to Tenney Park as it was still in our neighborhood, offered more amenities, was a beautiful location, and we could use the same course.

Q: Why is Moving for Mental Health important to you?

A: I am proud to share that while the event has grown a ton, some things have stuck around. To me, these are the important things. 

  • The focus has always been on building community, celebrating wellness, being accessible, and having fun. While we realize there is a race component to Moving for Mental Health we have always made it known that this is not a competitive event. We welcome families, participants young and old with all physical abilities to join. This has also been a super fun way to connect with our community partners as people who have lives outside of the office.  
  • Food is important. We are bummed to not be able to share snacks this year, but in years past (and hopefully years ahead) we have been able to gather together to enjoy delicious food donated by our wonderful local businesses owners. 
  • We have the friendliest course markers. Our staff, board members, and Chrysalis participants have been on the course each year motivating runners, helping everyone stay on course, and bringing all the smiles. It is consistently something our race participants comment on and is a huge source of pride. 
  • Lastly I want to comment on the funds that we have raised over the years. In the nonprofit world having unrestricted funds is extremely valuable. While the dollars might not seem like much year to year, they do add up and they do give us an incredible opportunity to support the Chrysalis mission in innovative ways. Below are a few programs/initiatives that have grown from the funds we have received through Moving for Mental Health. 
    • Chrysalis Pops, our first Social Enterprise! 
    • Consumer Advisory Committee. A paid opportunity for Chrysalis participants to gain valuable leadership skills and share their voices.
    • Increased Advocacy Efforts. At Chrysalis we recognize we have an important role to play as service providers AND as systems change agents. 

Q: Where do you see Chrysalis’ Annual Moving for Mental Health event in another 10 years?

A: Oh this is a fun question! I see the Consumer Advisory Committee and the newly created Chrysalis Clubhouse taking a lot more ownership over the event. In general one of our organizational goals is to center the voices of those with lived experiences in our work. I would like to see how we can continue to do this within Moving for Mental Health. 
Another key component of Moving for Mental Health is stigma busting. I see so many wonderful ways we can continue to reduce the stigma connected to mental health and substance use through this event. As we have grown as an agency I have been less involved in the planning and implementation of Moving for Mental Health. I think this is exciting because we continue to have new staff, new participants, and new ideas infused into everything we do. This helps keep the event fresh and fun. It’s exciting to not know what the event is going to look like in 10 years but feel 100% confident that it will continue to be an amazing opportunity to reduce stigma, promote wellness, support the Chrysalis mission, and build community!

International Women’s Month

By the women of the Chrysalis blog writing group

Each March we celebrate International Women’s Month. This month-long recognition reminds us to highlight women’s achievements and continue to discuss women’s empowerment and gender equality commitments. This month, and the 11 other months of the year, Chrysalis celebrates ALL women–especially Black women, women of color, queer women, trans women, and immigrant women. The women of the Chrysalis blog writing group spent time sharing with one another stories of influential women in their lives, discussing what being a woman means to them, and sharing how they are influential women. Below are some of these accounts: 

There have been many amazing women in my life–my grandmother Mary was one of them. Recently passed, it occurred to me what an awe inspiring life she led. Born into a farm family in 1933, she was set to work at the age of 3 washing dishes for a houseful of men; and took on farm labor soon afterward. 

A lover of education and books, she attended business college after high school; studying administration and accounting–majors not common with women at the time. For her, secondary education was a must. Reminiscing her last day of high school she said that she cried on the bus ride home thinking that her academic life was over.

She was a great example to generations after her. Along with mothering four children and leading a successful 65 year marriage, Mary had a long and successful work life. She truly believed a woman did not have to choose between a career and family–she could do both or either. In this way, in my opinion, she was a true feminist; believing a woman could do anything in her heart or mind.

During her lifetime my grandmother worked at the Texas Electric Company, did the bookkeeping at a bank for over twenty years and finished her work life at a general practice physician’s office. Caring for the public she told me that she would telephone bank customers before they overdrafted their accounts; giving them time to deposit funds before a fine was issued. She truly was a loving person. 

I followed her example, going to college with a business major. In my family I was taught that a life is what a person makes out of it. Grandma Mary was an excellent role model in what a strong woman is. I hope to follow her footsteps, leaving a mark after I am gone.

~Tina, CAC Member and blog writing group

Being a woman means quite a few things to me. Due to my own past, relationship with myself and other women in my life, I have somewhat constantly worked-shopped what being a woman means to me throughout my life.
At this point to me, being a woman means, people like doctors will not take you as seriously or treat you the same way, it means certain life choices and roles will be assumed for you, it means too often you have to advocate for yourself twice as hard just to be taken seriously, it means being assumed to be weaker or more vulnerable, it means being asked too much of in one area and totally underestimated or even looked over in another.
Thankfully, now in my life I am able to see the dichotomy that women can hold within them.
Because aside all that, being a woman means we have profound capability to deal with and overcome those things. Being a woman means, even though we encounter doctors who don’t take us seriously, we know ourselves better than any doctor or person that is trying to assume our experience in our own bodies or tell us how we feel. Being a woman means you have the same right as anyone else to get the answers and attention you require from a doctor.
Being a woman means you can choose whatever life path, roles and scenarios you want to make for yourself, no matter what anyone, your family, friends, or society thinks. Being a woman means not accepting the rude and antiquated things like being talked over or assumed to be weak or vulnerable; it’s flipping the assumors on their heads and showing them that being a woman means being strong. Strong in every way. 

As women, we hold so much power. For all the power that has been taken away from women over history, to the power that is still presently stifled in women by antiquated societal norms; we have at least double. Being a woman means having the strength and power to overcome injustices and push on through all of life as our authentic, powerful, selves. 

~Darby, CAC Member and blog writing group

One reason I am an influential woman is that I have my paintings up on display around Madison Wisconsin; I have shown in galleries, coffee shops and local businesses. My paintings feature bright colors and textures. I have openly shared my recovery story and how my art has helped me through some dark times. My talent is touring darkness to light and showing this process through paints and colors. I hope to influence those who look at my art to feel inspired! 

~Jenny King, Employment Specialist and Vocational Peer Specialist

Before the month is over, we hope you take the time to journal, reflect, or talk with your friends and family about the influential women in your life and how you can honor and recognize the strength, persistence, and ingenuity of ALL women!