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Retreat Reviews: "I thought my dreaming days were over, but since leaving my teaching job, I have started a new career and my husband and I are exploring China for two years!! Dream Positioning works for both of us as we move forward together..." -Shulah S. Retreat Participant "My wife and I attended a retreat run by Dr. Lavi years ago. Things we learned still help us keep things exciting!" -Bill and JoAnn H., previous participant

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are You Too Old To Start Pursuing Your Dreams?
                   Ruth Eisner started an acting career at 88 years old

Thought for the day: It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot

How many times have you thought about doing something & stopped yourself because you felt you were too old to start something new? If Anna Marie Robertson Moses had taken that stance in her late 70's the world would have been deprived of the art of acclaimed artist better known as Grandma Moses. Is there a dream you have been stopping yourself from following because you feel you are too old? Write to me, tell me about your dream & I'll help you come up with a creative way to start moving towards that dream at any age.

About a month ago on a LinkedIn group of professional psychologists & therapists, a 33 year old posted the question: Is it too late to start a psychology degree at the age of 33? I wrote a response encouraging the student & explaining why I felt it was never too late to follow your dreams. Since then there have been so many e-mail responses encouraging the man to start on his degree that I had to stop following the discussion. Hundreds of psychologists have been telling him their stories of starting back to school or finishing their degrees in their 40's 50's & 60's.

The fact that the question came from a 33 year old, however, is thought provoking. What could lead someone so young to fear that they are too old to start working on a 4 year degree? My guess is that it has to do with the second danger sign I spoke about in an earlier post, Five Danger Signs That You May Be Undermining Your Dreams. It is related to a DQ factor that can be discovered by using the Dream Quotient Questionnaire (TM). This DQ factor is connected to difficulty adjusting to life transitions. The warning signs that you may need to do some work in this area are feeling that once you have started in one direction in your life, it is too late to change your course.

A similar dilemma arose for one of the clients, George, whom I story is included in my book. George was nearing graduation from college. He was only 21 but also afraid to change his path & follow new dreams. George had dreamed of becoming an EMT, like his father, from when he was a little boy. His parents encouraged him to go to college even though he wanted to start working as an EMT after completing high school. As a compromise, he did both. He worked part-time as a volunteer EMT throughout his college years. When he neared graduation he was still intent on continuing in his dream profession. A call to assist following a car accident changed the course of his life & led him to reevaluate his dreams.

George had been on tough calls before, but this one traumatized him. Perhaps it was the age of the victims who were college students like himself,  or the horrific nature of the accident, or graduation & being ready to start life in the "real" post college world which was just moths away, but George was suddenly unsure whether he was on the right path. For the first time in his life, he had no idea ofwhat he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He worked in therapy to overcome the trauma & was able to return to work as an EMT, but his heart was no longer in it. His Dream Positioning System (DPS) work helped him discover new directions & dreams. He chose to enroll in business school & to do volunteer work for Students Against Drunk Driving. He wanted to start doing work to prevent accidents like the one he had seen. He hoped to start a foundation to lobby against alcohol advertizing on college campuses.

D.R.E.A.M. Program
Ruth Eisner, the budding actress in the video clip at the beginning of this post was discovered because she lived in one of the residences run by Menorah Park in Ohio. Menorah Park's Dream program, which produced a YouTube video that went viral for Ruth, is one of the Dream Nonprofits featured in & benefiting from my book, The Wake Up And Dream Challenge. In addition to helping Ruth, they have helped senior citizens accomplish hundreds of dreams in the six years since the Dream Program was founded. They realized the impact  that unfulfilled dreams have on older adults as they near the end of their lives. Fulfilling their dreams, big or small gives senior citizens deep personal satisfaction, comfort & peace as they reckon with the final stages of their lives.

National media took notice when they arranged a call from an American Idol judge & a rock star for a seventy-two-pound woman with ALS. Camera crews swooped in for footage of a ninety-year-old woman’s thrilling ride on a motorcycle with the city’s Mayor. The media showed the world artistic vision can continue throughout life. Not only did they broadcast the story of a dream-come-true of a legally blind resident in his ‘90’s who displayed his stunning art in a gallery for the first time, but he also appeared for the first time on television. News of 13 couples who dreamed of renewing long-time wedding vows went international.

The community has become reeducated about the possibilities, vitality & richness that can & does exist in later years. Each person matters & each has unique energy & passion. Menorah Park believes in ensuring their residents are happy, loved & appreciated; their dreams matter to Menorah Park. How amazing it is that through excellence in communication the many forces of good can come together to make this time in residents’ lives a very special time when dreams come true.

I chose to include Menorah Park's Dream Program in my book to show that it is never too late to start on your path towards a dream. In addition to supporting this program, I hope that other centers for senior living will learn about it & initiate similar programs for their residents. If you would like to contribute to this amazing project, half of the profits from your purchase of The Wake Up And Dream Challenge will go to the Dream Program at Menorah Park Center for Senior Living.

Friday, January 27, 2012

When Johnny Comes Marching Home Are We Ready To Support Our Veterans in Times of Peace

Thought for the day: The world has had glimpses of Gabby Giffords injury & amazing, yet still challenging rehabilitation. Our veterans returning from Iraq's injuries are often less visible. We rallied to support our troupes while they were at war, but the war to fight for rehabilitation will continue for many years. Programs like Higher Ground are ready but need our support to do their good work.

Do you know a veteran or a family of a veteran who could use some help? Share their stories & by all means let them know about Higher Ground.
For this post, I'd like to share a chapter from my book describing how Higher Ground, one of 21 Dream Nonprofits featured helps wounded warriors reach their dreams as they recover from the trauma & physical injuries of war.
Julio and Maria
Two years after graduating high school, Julio lacked direction in his life. He felt trapped. He saw no opportunities on the horizon in his home of Puerto Rico. After much searching, Julio found a career with plenty of room for advancement—one which would bring financial stability for his family, & provide opportunities for higher education. At the age of twenty, Julio enlisted in the United States Army.

During his first years of active duty, Julio enjoyed the path he had chosen. He had a secure job with great benefits. He, along with his young family, enjoyed visiting parts of the world they might never have had the chance to see. Eventually Julio received orders; he was being deployed to Iraq. While nervous & hesitant to leave his wife & baby daughter, Julio felt honored to have the opportunity to serve his country.

While in Iraq, Julio was exposed to multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Like most soldiers, he simply pulled himself up by his bootstraps & moved forward. He ignored the chronic headaches & grogginess he was feeling. Then, while mounted atop a Humvee in Fallujah, Julio’s unit was ambushed. Julio was shot through the right eye by a sniper. The gunshot & blast exposures resulted in multiple cranial fractures, & a detached retina in his left eye.
When he returned stateside, Julio awoke from a coma & discovered he had lost 90% of his vision, & suffered a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Julio also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reliving his battle experiences daily. He found himself on ‘edge’ in public & dependant on others for care. Julio felt distant from his wife, & unable to handle the anxiety brought on by his three young children.
With a three-year-old daughter, a new set of twin girls, & a severely disabled husband, Maria was overwhelmed by grief, exhausted by the task of being her husband’s caretaker & trying to run a household. Her challenges seemed insurmountable. She felt guilty leaving her husband’s side for even a moment, fearful that he might experience further harm. Julio was going through the medical board process. Although confident he would eventually receive his full pay & benefits, in the meantime, Julio received only a portion of his active duty pay.
While going through treatment at the VA hospital, Julio’s caseworker told him about the—Sun Valley Adaptive SportsProgram in Idaho—called Higher Ground (HG). Julio made contact with a Recreational Therapist on the HG team, & quickly developed a new friendship. Julio felt excited for the first time since his injury. He applied to a couple’s snow sports camp because neither he nor Maria had ever seen snow. Here was a chance for adventure. It would be a place to once again feel a sense of camaraderie with other veterans. This was a way for his wife to find the support of other spouses. They both could receive the individual attention of a team of therapists to teach them coping strategies. 
When asked what motivated him to join HG Julio replied, “I was a lifelong surfer before my injury, now I’m not able to even get in the ocean by myself. I think about it constantly. Learning to snowboard will prove to me that I’m still capable; it will show my wife she doesn’t have to always be watching over me.” In response to the same question, Maria replied, “I just want to see my husband smile again.”
Julio’s first day on the mountain taught him that he had grossly underestimated his potential. To the amazement of his instructor, he was making full runs—snowboarding from the top to the bottom of the mountain. Maria’s joy came from seeing what her husband could do independently. The staff of HG gained her confidence. For the first time in years, she was able to leave Julio’s side without anxiety. “I left Julio to go out & do something fantastic…it was the first time in years I was able to let him go; to let him be who he was before his injuries.” Maria grew increasingly comfortable at camp leaving Julio on his own.
In group therapy sessions Maria learned how to cope with her husband’s hardships. She also gained new insight into Julio’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most importantly, Maria learned that Julio was capable of being an independent man.
Before leaving, Julio thanked the HG staff, saying, “I’m going home with new confidence, but more importantly my wife has been able to be herself & not worry about me constantly.” As part of the HG program, the couple came up with a goal they wished to accomplish in the next year. Julio proudly stood in front of his new unit & announced that within one year he & his Maria would have a proper wedding in front of her family in the church she once attended in the Dominican Republic.
Julio decided it was time to be proactive in his recovery & applied to a blind rehabilitation center. Six months after joining the HG family, Julio called the staff. He was so excited that he could barely contain himself. “I just got back from seeing Maria & the kids. No one came to pick me up! I left the hospital, went to the train station, walked to the house, & surprised Maria at the door. I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!” The HG staff was brought to tears when Julio said, “You have heard of the snowball effect? I believe that sometimes that snowball can defy gravity & gain momentum & mass as it rolls uphill. My snowball started on top of a mountain in Idaho, followed me home to Florida, through blind rehab, & will be with me when I stand next to my wife at the altar.”
This true story is only one of many that the team at Higher Ground proudly shares. HG is now recognized as a leader in their industry from the Department of Defense, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Department of Excellence, & a host of military & VA medical installations nationwide. In their holistic approach to rehabilitation, HG provides therapy & support to those caring for wounded veterans. HG offers: the longest follow up program in the industry; daily therapeutic themes that provide the tools necessary to find success in life; resources nationally & in their home community; referrals to programs meeting medical, educational, familial, & social needs; a reintegration budget to continue the momentum at home; &, access to these services 100% cost free to the veterans & their supporters. In addition, HG staff conducts research with major universities assessing the efficacy of their techniques. They also present at conferences & seminars nationwide teaching others how to conduct effective therapeutic recreation programs.
It’s the dream of the HG staff to improve the quality of care provided to American heroes nationwide! 

To support their dream you can purchase The Wake Up And Dream Challenge at Half the profits will go to Higher Ground supporting our recovering veterans.