Life Lessons I learned From Gardening

If you are like me, a beginner, but an ambitious gardener, chances are, you too, planted bushes too close to each other, not approximating correctly how they will grow and which of them might be stronger and take over everything around them in the long run.

In the beginning, I considered them all equally desirable, I planted them all with love:
Morning Glory, Roses and Berries.

Soon, I discovered that the morning glory, and its seemingly delicate flowers, spread fast, are strong and ultimately, strangled the rose bush, which had no choice but to grow into the berries bush next to it, and affect it negatively!

I wanted them all, but yesterday I had to make a decision: Which do I save? Which do I give up or at least limit in its tendency to take over everything?

I settled on saving the berries and the rose bush and sacrificed some of the morning glory which was strangling its neighbors. I didn’t pull out all the morning glory roots, but only those which endangered its neighbors.

As I was clipping and pulling out the roots of what at the beginning I thought was all desirable, I thought of how many times in life I started actions with an abundance of great ideas, but in practice, there came a time when I had to choose ONE idea, ONE action and ONE consequence and as much as I would have liked to use all the initial good ideas, there came a time when we had to choose ONE.

Has this happened to you? If so, please share.20140910_124124




Re-gifting!! What Could Happen??? Some post-Holiday thoughts…

We are in the post-Holiday Season… have you thought about RE-GIFTING  any of your less fortunate presents? Please read on…

When one of my daughters was a teen, she was in the hospital, and her friends and my friends went to visit her. Some brought cards, some flowers, some other gifts to cheer her up.

One of my friends, who had just had a baby and I was grateful she took the time to visit, brought her a beautiful white and gold lap blanket. My daughter liked it, but it didn’t become her “security blanket,” as she was passed that age. So, she wrote my friend a thank you note and when she left for college the blanket was left behind.

A while after that event, completely unrelated to it, I went to a women’s church retreat. The church members were allowed to bring friends who were not members, but our personal friends, and many of us did.

The retreat was on the shore of the Atlantic, so we took a group- walk, about 15-20 women. It happened that an unknown woman to me, a friend of a church friend, walked at the same pace. We introduced ourselves and continued to walk and of course, talk.

As we knew nothing about each other, my companion told me a little about herself, especially that she was very hurt by the lack of thoughtfulness of a woman whose children she babysat. In fact, she was so hurt that she was looking for another job!

“What happened?” I asked. “It must have been serious…”

“Indeed, VERY hurtful!” she said, and continued… “The other day, I was cleaning her desk and here there was this… note… I read the note and this person was thanking my employer for the beautiful white and gold lap blanket! I MADE that blanket for one of her babies. I poured my heart in it, and SHE just gave it away to a stranger, whoever Amy is!”

I froze and became very silent, as Amy was my daughter and the “thoughtless employer,” my friend who re-gifted the lap blanket.

I changed the conversation to a less touchy topic and never confessed to my walk-companion the strange, unlikely connection between myself, my friend, the re-gifter, and the woman I had just met!

The lesson?  The purpose of this story was to illustrate the unlikely, but possible consequences of re-gifting.

Life takes us on a winding road, with twists we cannot predict. If  and when we consider re-gifting, it is wise to expect and be prepared for the unexpected, because this is how real life works… and ultimately all we could control is our reaction to what happens in our life, good, bad, or hurtful.

Counseling/Psychotherapy. I am not”Crazy” Who Should Have Counseling and Why?

Sadly, there is still a stigma on people who are  aware in a healthy way, and understand  that  counseling  is effective when one is NOT in a crisis!

Counseling will be less effective, or not effective, if one seeks it only when in an emotional crisis or trauma, when our minds’ are already confused and our hearts in pain! Why? Because we are not that crisis, that moment in time and space when something negative happens to turn our lives upside down! We are on a path which slowly, sometimes in ways we are not aware of, leads us to the moment of crisis. Thus, knowing healthy techniques to  understand ourselves, our triggers, good and bad, our patterns, will help us to take care and go through a  crisis smoothly.

Our health system, unfortunately, doesn’t make it easy to seek and stay in therapy until one truly is healed. As a result, many suffer in silence for various reasons:

Am I going to loose my job if it is found out I see a therapist? Can I afford to pay $200-$400 out of pocket and not go through my insurance! My insurance only pays for the first ten sessions… the first of two are paperwork!

Generally, unless a crisis occurs the person, or family will wait until the bomb pushed down in the darkness of the soul comes up and explodes, and here is the CRISIS! Many times too late!

I’d like to share a few thoughts that went through my mind, and  perhaps through yours, concerning this topic:

Oh well, I really don’t need counseling because I have smart friends who advice me, they know me best!!! A counselor gets paid, he/she doesn’t really care. It’s a job! If they don’t pay, counseling stops!

It is too expensive!

I don’t have time. I have to get a baby-sitter, more money! It’s hard to get an appointment!

It’s too far and  gas is expensive!

I really do not want to stir those childhood traumas, the abuse, rape, sudden death of a parent… what good would that do? It would just upset me more and hold me back in the past instead of living in the present and planning my future!

Many years ago, as a young wife and mother, coming to the US from Eastern Europe, a communist country at the time, I was faced for the first time with the need of family therapy. WE had a crisis!

Before the marriage crisis, back in Romania,  psychotherapy wasn’t something I  would  have ever considered. In my young mind, it was reserved for the crazies. NOT ME!!! 

Slowly, but steadily, my views changed and I understood, at last, that counseling is not for the people who are already in an emotional crisis, but to AVOID a crisis. Of course in a crisis, there is urgent and immediate help: CALL 911, go to your nearest Crisis Center or Emergency Room!

I do have amazing friends, smart, loving. They are also too close, they are in my  picture. No matter how well intended, we cannot give valid counseling for people who are so close to us.  The same principle why a doctor takes her/his sick child to a colleague.

A good counselor has years of education and knows techniques that will help one for the rest of their lives to ease or avoid the crisis.

The  therapeutic relationship of trust and mutual respect is essential to the success of therapy. That trust  and therapeutic relationship on the part of  both client and counselor is the foundation of successful therapy.

I also think one is a more understanding counselor if they, themselves, experienced the feelings of being clients, the doubts and the fears and especially the courage to seek help.

I have become a different person thanks to counseling, on and off, over the years. I finally understood my childhood patterns and my foundation. We cannot heal on quick sands, our childhoods are our foundations which  must be strong and understood by us.

A pattern, repeats itself making one’s life miserable. Once one understands, it becomes a life lesson which propels one forward in a positive way.

Life and tragedies happen. To some, more than to others… I felt this was what happened in my life, but  I did not want to be a victim!I I understood I could not control or change what happened. What I could control was my RESPONSE to the events.

This was what counseling did for me! It prepared me for the  unspeakable tragedies which rained on me ALL in ONE YEAR!!! A FLOOD!!!

I doubt I would have had the same response had I not been prepared and had I not known that I could not control the events, but my response. Yes, easier said than done, especially if your children are involved. It is not easy, this is why it takes time. 

Yes, I was “entitled” to be a victim! My choice was to earn my M.S. in Counseling and Clinical Psychology, so I understand in depth and help others going through the ups and downs of life.

After 12 years as the owner and practitioner of a successful wellness business, at a time when life  and illness overwhelmed  me and my family, I applied and was accepted for my Master’s degree in Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia . I KNEW I HAD A CHOICE! I give credit to therapy for making me aware I had choices.

I believe one is a better counselor if she/he was also in the position of being a client (Patient),  knows first hand the range of emotions, the doubts, fear and courage it takes to seek help.

I also believe that  the counselor-client professional relationship  of trust and respect is the key to successful therapy.

Why I chose to be an online Counselor?  I trust  cyber therapy is the way of the future.

I applied to a reputable online company, Proven Therapy (  which reviews it’s therapists’ credentials before approval, and all therapists on the team are highly qualified professionals with a minimum Master’s degree.

I was very interested to discover how online  counseling works versus face-to-face.

What I discovered was that the real issue, was stated by the client upfront. Knowing the truth upfront is a huge  advantage for successful therapy. I also discovered that thanks to the reasonable fees and convenience, as well as complete confidentiality, people choose to return to counseling regularly.

 Being an online counselor  gives me the rewarding feeling that I could be available for my clients 24/7, when they need me, that I may slide my fees to meet their financial hardships, when appropriate, and to provide confidentiality. It is more joy in giving than in receiving, the saying goes, and I agree. Still. I love my Birthday cards and presents:)

I will end with a personal story, a conversation I had years ago, over lunch, with a “friend.”

 I told her I was going for my Master’s in Psychology. She looked at me intensely, smiled, you know, that type of biting smile:) which is a smile of the mouth not the eyes?

“I took my daughter once to one of those” she said… “and she (the therapist) gave my daughter a list of  self-help books. So… now you will go to graduate school to be one of those?”

Do you think we had lunch again?

Rodica Mihalis, M.S. Counseling and Clinical Psychology

What Qualities Does One Need To Be Successful In Today’s Changing World?

The times when one started work for one company and if he or she worked hard and performed well, chances were the person could happily retire from that company, are GONE!!! 

I read somewhere that a person may change their profession up to nine times in their life-time! That piece of information made me feel good about my self and changing professions only seven times! 

Given the statistics and my personal experience, I would say the number ONE Quality necessary to survive and possibly thrive in today’s environment is FLEXIBILITY!

Because we live in a litigious society, and I cannot or would not sue myself, I’d give my personal example:

I was born in Eastern Europe, in Communist Romania. Communism cannot even be conceived by people born after its fall in 1989, but in those times one quickly learned that flexibility meant survival.

I always liked to learn, or to be honest, my mother instilled in me the wise idea that EDUCATION was the only quality which cannot be taken away from you!

I graduated with a B.A. in English and Romanian from the University of Bucharest and during my college years I worked for an International Fair, and fortune smiled on me, I was selected for the U.S. Pavilion, which provided for us red, polyester uniforms which we got to keep, and coffee on our breaks! This is how I met a few diplomats and after graduation I was fortunate to get a translator job at the US Embassy. After a few years I defected to the U.S.No one needed Romanian translations and everyone was asking about my experience in various fields.How could one get experience if no one wants to hire you? To this day it remains a mystery to me…

One sector ONLY didn’t ask me about experience; instead, they gave me tests, written, oral, interviews face to face to determine IF I had the right personality for sales! This is how from a translator I became an insurance agent knocking door to door and making as many as 100 calls to get one appointment. I quickly advanced and earned all the possible licenses in the fields of life, health, homeowners and later mutual funds. Honestly, I hated it, and I was taking rejection personally, despite  my manager’s weekly pep talks! After a few years I married and dedicated my life to my two daughters. I wanted them o have everything I didn’t in my childhood, but especially my attention and love. After a few year, of motherhood,we needed more money.I tried several businesses: Affairs of the Heart (was a letter writing service for busy people who wanted to express their love) It failed! Then followed:”Home Away from Home (a bed and breakfast, which lasted a month, until my township which issues me a license went me a letter:it was a mistake, a zoning issue.) I still persevered and attempted “Unforgettable Moments,”a video service, and I still get nightmares about it!Then I went to a reputable massage therapy school, led by nuns at the Medical Mission Sisters in Philadelphia., later  learned energy modalities, clinical hypnosis and ultimately went again to school and got my license in esthetics (skin care).

By 2000, after working in an M.D. office, I opened my own Wellness Services Office, at a time when wellness was not “in.”

Those were the happiest years of my life. I loved helping people and being my own boss, which allowed me a flexible schedule for my daughters.

Unfortunately, life happens, and in 2005 I was forced to close my business.

I was again at square one! I had experience but no longer the physical ability to work with what my clients considered healing hands, and make a living. 

Those were hard years, but if I am to find the positive in misfortune, under those circumstances I learned who my real friends were.

But wait! I was not done with trying and determined to apply whatever skills I had to bettering this world. Some people are motivated by money, some, by power, I am motivated by the joy of helping others.

Under those dire circumstances I was accepted to the graduate school of Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. At the end of 2012 I earned a M.S. in Counseling and Clinical Psychology and joined on a need be basis Proven Therapy, an online counseling service

I often think that my mother, who died many years ago, would die again if she saw through how many changes I went to survive our changing world. At some point I was a cook for a rich family with various culinary needs.

Now that I count it actually makes for EIGHT drastic changes. These lessons made me who I am today. When my memoir, The Gypsy Saw Two Lives, was published, I was in bed with my right ankle broken, unable to  move.

So, the second quality necessary for survival, even success in our changing world, is to persevere- NEVER GIVE UP!

I would like to finish by sharing what guides my life:


May the Higher Power guide you and help you on your life-path. Don’t be afraid of hardships or changes. Almost always they ultimately bring renewal and joy! Most times, when we are too close to the picture we miss the bigger meaning!

Are You Alone, or Are You Lonely, or Both?

It was a Friday evening and  I was alone. I decided this was not going to stop me from eating in my favorite Italian Restaurant.

The line was long enough that required the hostess  to hand vibrating devices to the guests, so they  would have the convenience to wonder in the Mall and when the device vibrated return to the restaurant.

Unlike most times, I was happy to wait, may I dare say, I was grateful at the opportunity to “kill time.”. There was no other place to rush, no one depending on me, no kids to drive anywhere, no hungry husband to feed or wash to do. I was just responsible for myself, a new odd feeling, as if it wasn’t right, as if to be in charge of only myself, was not enough. However, this was the reality of that particular evening: I was alone and lonely. I felt incomplete after years of pouring my love and focusing on others, now I was forced to look inside myself to determine if “the container of ME” was empty, and if so, what would it take to replenish it with love of self… 

This was happening after my divorce, and I was determined to not fall into the stereotype of “rebounding,” of diving head first, numb heart, into the arms of the first available male, so on the surface I wouldn’t be alone, yet feel lonely inside.This time, I was going to do it right: Get to know myself first,  take my time to understand what I really needed,  and more importantly, what I could  offer an eventual new life- partner. Above it all, I was determined to have the courage to be alone, in the physical world,  until I was comfortable enough and love myself enough to not feel lonely! 

Going out alone, on a Friday night, was a first small step, which felt huge at the time…

“”How big is the party you are expecting?” the hostess asked, handing me the “call back vibrating device.”

I breathed in, I breathed out, slowly…

“Table for one, please.” I asked the restaurant hostess.

She handed me the “call back” device hesitantly:

“For a party of ONE, the wait would be longer…”

I assured her time was not a problem and grabbed the call back device.

In time, it got easier and easier to be a “party of one.” Many times it was a game I played counting how many other parties of ONE were in a movie theater for instance, and if I were the only one, I’d treat myself with ice cream, after the show, to celebrate being a party of one and feeling better and better in my own company.

After a few months of being alone and getting used to myself, I had to admit that in the last years of my married life, I was not alone, but I was lonely most of the time.Whose fault was it? His? Mine? I settled for both. Relationships are two-way streets and the grey areas are predominant. There is no such thing as his or her “fault.” When a relationship starts to deteriorate, the key is unmet expectations on both sides.

The lesson I learned is to identify my own  unhealthy patterns, the “whys,” of my actions, so in the future I would be able to change repeating the same mistakes, into life lessons, from which  I learned and will never repeat.

Most importantly, I understood that the only behavior and attitude I have the right and the power to change is MINE, and before I’d say “I love you,” to somebody else, I need to look in the mirror at myself, say “I love you,” and mean it.

“Party of one, please, and I don’t care how long it takes!”

Today I am alone, but by no means lonely!