The past few months have been the busiest I've ever had. I just bought a house (which came with its own lovely complications and workload), closed a play (Did I mention that I had to perform with a dialect, learn fight choreography, and be on stage a LOT?), moved in with my parents while construction took place at my house (yeah, my apartment was re-rented...), spent every free afternoon and evening taking down wallpaper (NEVER use wallpaper), supervised and continuing to supervise my very first intern (she's awesome!), prepped for 2 presentations (I must have done that in my sleep...well, it sure felt like I was asleep), and faced a pretty big personal milestone (later, friends). Somewhere in there I fit in my regular job and spending time with friends and family.

So, needless to say, something had to give. Unfortunately for my readers, that meant blogging. I thought about it every single day, but just didn't have the time or the energy to do it.

Here's the good news: I am moving, officially, into my home this Saturday. My play is over. I have SO much more free time than I've had for the past 1 1/2 years, so that means I can finally sit in my office (EEEEE! So excited!) and work on uploading the hundreds of ideas and materials that I've accumulated over the years.

Starting Monday, be prepared to wish that I was absent from the blog world...okay, maybe I won't be THAT active, but it will definitely be better.

Thanks for understanding! :)
My life has been more hectic than usual, which is certainly saying something. I spent my summer taking a class, volunteering at Camp Quality, attending the ASCA conference,  performing in a short film, rehearsing a new play, moving my office to a new location in my building, and searching for my first home. In other words, I didn't allow myself much time to relax.

The past few weeks have felt even more jam-packed. First of all, buying a house is extremely difficult, especially when every experience in this arena has thrown more obstacles my way than I could have imagined or prepared for. In the middle of the negotiation process, my apartment was re-rented, so I had to be out within a few days...yes, at the start of the school year. The extra special bonus was finding time to pack when my husband was starting a new job 1 hour away and while I had rehearsals and cross country practices. I did this to myself, but it didn't make it any less stressful. This is where you're supposed to tell me: "I told you so!"

Anyway, I know things will get easier soon. Once we're moved in, my show is over, and cross country season ends, things will slow down. Despite my desire to be busy, I think I need this time to crash. Today, for example, is my first day with NOTHING extra to do in over 3 weeks. Yep, 3 weeks. That's not healthy.
This is why I haven't been blogging regularly. When I am stressed, I become more withdrawn. I need space. What's hard is that although I'm a natural introvert, my job and extracurricular activities require me to be bold and extraverted. Therefore, when I come home, I need to be alone so I can recharge and breathe again.

I sincerely thank you for your patience. I have so many ideas and materials to post, but in the end, I have to do what's best for me, my family, and my school. That means taking a break when I need one. I promise I will return at full capacity soon!  
Okay, so it's only been 3 months since Impossible Marriage closed. Not too bad, right?! ;)

As always, I wanted to reflect on my latest production, if only to give you a glimpse into my strange theatre life. If you've been following my site, you know that I've been a busy lady this year, which is a big reason why my posts and updates have been MUCH less frequent. I was in 6 shows this season, which is 4 more than my average. What was I thinking?!
It may be hard to believe, but being busy helps me be a better school counselor...well, to a point. I love going to rehearsal 4-5 nights a week and spending time with like-minded people. I love taking a break from lesson planning, compulsive email monitoring, and I hate to say it...blogging. If I didn't have a hobby like theatre, I would be online far more hours than any human should be. I don't know how to stop working, so why not "work" on something that gives me a break from stress and my endless blogging to-do lists? Also, I don't have children (not by choice), so in many ways, theatre helps me cope with difficult emotions, rather than sitting at home angry and frustrated.

Anyway, on to the show! Impossible Marriage was my first "starring" role in a while, which was exciting. For this production, I had to sing, speak in a dialect, play the harp, "dance," and move like I was pregnant. My character, Floral Whitman, is definitely one of my favorite parts to date. She's feisty and intelligent. It can be hard to find great female roles, so I cherished every moment as Floral.

Impossible Marriage is about a family preparing for a controversial union. Young Pandora is to wed a much older Edvard Lunt, a well-known author who divorced his wife of 23 years to be with Pandora. Floral Whitman, Pandora's older sister, is pregnant and unhappy in her own marriage. In an act of love (and perhaps, jealousy as well), Floral decides to break up her sister's marriage through a series of manipulative interactions. Along the way, she confronts her past and reveals a secret that has haunted her for 9 months. Despite their fears, the characters find a way to conquer the impossible and as a result, become much happier people. The end. Oh, and it's a comedy. ;)

You're probably wondering what I learned this time. Well, since you asked, I'll tell you. This role reminded me why I push myself as hard as I do. Our lives are precious. We have an opportunity to make a difference, to be the best version of ourselves, to look back with no regrets. I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard. I want to think about my life, mistakes and all, fondly. I never want to miss out on something magical because I was too scared to try and perhaps, fail.

Four years ago, I was a much less happy version of myself. I gave up theatre to finish school and then lost all confidence to jump back in. I didn't want to see plays because they made me feel sad - I wanted to be up there with them, but "knew" that I wasn't good enough. One day, I decided I had to audition for something. I didn't feel fulfilled. All I had was work and since my husband was in grad school, I was alone a lot. So, I went for it. During the audition, I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up, my hands were shaking, and I tried desperately to blend into the background in the waiting room. When I got the call that I earned the part I wanted (the smallest one possible!), I couldn't believe it.

When I look back at that time, I both cringe and smile. I was horrible. No, seriously. I was. I didn't remember anything about performing, but because of my supportive director, stage manager, and castmates, I slowly got more comfortable on stage again. Now, I am certainly not an expert, but I can see the growth in my acting abilities. To some extent, it's luck that got me where I am today in theatre - the right part, the right look, the right voice, etc. However, I also was whipped into fighting shape by hours of rehearsals and amazing directors who knew exactly how to challenge me.

As we prepare for this school year, remember that it's okay to start off a little rocky. Just keep working at it, lean on those around you, learn from the "experts," don't be afraid of pushing yourself, and then, enjoy the fruits of your labor. What I love is that I still have many more years to grow as both a school counselor and actor. In fact, the two go quite well together. A school counselor, after all, is often on a stage, engaging his or her audience. An actor must understand emotions, motivations, and interpersonal communication...well, my job lets me work on that all day!

What are your special hobbies? What are you going to find the courage to do this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section, friends. :)

Here are some production photos from Impossible Marriage, courtesy of Juan Rodriguez. Enjoy!
Some school counselors, even at the elementary level, have trouble working with the younger age groups (a.k.a. kindergarten and 1st grade). They can be a little quirky, have short attention spans, and be difficult to reason with. Personally, I love this group. I think they are hilarious and adorable little monsters, and I mean that in the nicest way.

Whenever I'm having a bad day, I visit these kiddos during lunch or recess and just check-in with them. They ALWAYS make me laugh. I love hearing their perspective on the world because it's so honest and innocent. Don't get me wrong, I love my "big kids," but sometimes you need those little five-year-old jokesters by your side.  
Kid Snippets, a series created by BoredShortsTV, embodies all that I love about my kiddos. The idea is simple: Kids talk about various situations and adults act out what the kids discuss. Seriously, it's adorable. SERIOUSLY.

Our students, while often the source of stress, can also be stress relievers. Their energy and humor are infectious. Take a typically terrifying experience, such as a job interview (right). I dare you to watch this and not feel a little better about your job search. See, it worked!

This school year, remember to look for the cute side of your little monsters. The claws aren't always so scary. :)
That very first day on your own. It's hard to forget. When you're in grad school, all you want to do is finish your internship and land a great job. When that happens, there is a massive sense of relief - you did it! Everything is working out!

Well, that feeling lasts until you watch the sea of little faces fill the hallways in waves and waves and WAVES. There are kindergartners crying, new students trying to find their way, and worried parents who want this year to go better than the last. Suddenly, you are expected to help and there is no school counseling supervisor to look over you any longer. I remember thinking, Am I actually qualified to do this job? Which is ironic because I spent my whole job search convincing myself I was.
I don't know about you, but in my school counseling program, we had to analyze films that had counseling scenes in them and reflect on the techniques and level of success that the counselor had with his or her client. It's easy to critique someone else's performance than create your own. If I watched 50/50 (above) during grad school, I probably would have laughed at how Anna Kendrick's character handled her first counseling session. She looks uncomfortable and follows the basic script we all learn when we start our counseling programs. In essence, it's fake.

However, I watched 50/50 post grade school, so my reaction was a little different. In many ways, I saw myself in Kendrick's character. I remember my first school counseling session, trying to figure out what to do and say. This feels awkward, should I say something? They are being really quiet, what should I do? How long should I let them talk before I wrap things up and send them back to class? It's funny how quickly things change.

Now, I feel like I can handle most of what comes my way. I am learning the fine art of listening and guiding, being supportive and firm. I know which students just need to vent and which need more advice. I know which teachers need time to talk about their difficult students and which ones need some space. I am certainly not perfect, but each day I am becoming a better version of Marissa 1.0, the newbie who had no idea what she was getting herself into.

I say this not to scare you, but in fact, to help you feel less alone. It's okay to be scared out of your mind sometimes. It's okay to not know all of the answers. I am only going into my 5th year of school counseling, but I can say each year is better than the last. You grow more than you ever could have imagined and soon become a strong, self-sufficient machine, in the best of ways.
As you gear up for this school year, know that not every session will go well (see video on the right), and that's okay. It's about the connections you make. If you feel nervous and stumble over your words, your students will forgive you as long as they know that you care. I promise!

So, when you see the waves of kiddos flooding your halls in a few weeks, you can choose to sink in your own self-doubt or kick until you reach the surface. Not literally. You know what I mean. ;)

Oh yeah, and don't forget: There are a lot of school counselors out there who can lend you a pair of floaties.
I will be at Camp Quality Ohio from July 13th - July 20th.

CQ is a free, entirely volunteer-run camp for children with cancer and their siblings. I work as a companion, which means that I am paired with one child for the entire week. My job is to be my camper's friend and mentor, but most of all, my job is to make sure that he or she has FUN!

For more information about CQ, check out my previous posts. I will write about my experience when I return
As we ease into summer break and begin reflecting on the 2012-2013 school year, it's easy to think more about the stress, frustration, and disappointments we experienced than the success stories.

If you're anything like me, you store all of your mistakes (big and small) inside yourself and during those difficult school moments, begin playing them on a loop in your brain.

Then, when you're sufficiently on edge, all of the unexpected crises that pop up throughout the school day become more and more difficult to handle. I am a patient person, but even I need to take significant breathers when this occurs.
In the spirit of this type of self-reflection, I thought I'd share a video (above). It does a wonderful job explaining what the "real world" feels like. No one can prepare you for what it's really like to be on your own as a school counselor, including how to deal with outside stressors while still performing your many school counseling duties.

For those of you who have yet to join the profession, please don't think I mean to scare you away from, in my opinion, one of the best jobs there is. I am, however, trying to give you the heads-up that may prevent you leaving the field once you're in it. We often have an idealistic view of the helping professions, thinking we can save the world. Well, I still am quite the optimist, but I now know that saving the world shouldn't be my barometer for success. You have to accept the failures to appreciate the little victories. You have to go to work each day knowing that things probably won't go as planned, that a student may make a bad choice, that a co-worker may be struggling and take it out on you, that a parent may believe their child's story over their teacher's and call you to express their anger.

It's easy to let these unexpected events drag you down. Why is this happening to me?

Well, those who are frustrating you may be saying the same thing to themselves. When we're stuck in traffic, we are angry at those in front of us for not moving quickly enough, almost as if we're not part of the problem - "they" are. If we take a step back, we might realize that those cars behind us are probably feeling the same way...about US.

So, watch the video. Remind yourself why you want to be a school counselor. Recognize that kids and adults who act out are probably responding to difficult circumstances. Take a moment to appreciate your success stories, forgive the missteps, and remember..."This is Water."
The past few weeks have been filled with meetings, planned and unplanned counseling sessions, programs, lessons, crisis response, and paperwork. I could REALLY relate to the "Extreme School Counseling" post at School Counseling by Heart. Oh, and I'm in another play, a previous play was invited to a regional community theatre competition (cue extra rehearsals), and I have been helping out with Camp Quality Ohio's recruitment efforts. Literally every minute of my life has been scheduled, leaving very little time and energy for blogging.

While my body and mind may be screaming, "What are you doing?!", my heart is certainly appreciating and cherishing all of the positive experiences I've been given.

I think it's important to create a life outside of school counseling. I know if I let myself, I would submit to every irrational thought and urge. I would spend too many hours working and critiquing and "perfecting," since I can't officially "close the book" on my day - there's always more to do. While my extracurricular activities may seem exhausting, they have truly saved me from myself. I have new friends and new ways to challenge my mind. When I'm having a horrible work day, I can recover through other creative outlets. I feel like I'm expanding my impact on the world, leaving me feeling hopeful and rejuvenated - I have more opportunities to feel like I'm a meaningful part of history, however small that impact may be. I cannot stress that enough. It's important to feel like we have a purpose. Otherwise, we fall into a dark pit, which is certainly not where I'd like to be.

Anyway, just wanted to give you an update on my life. I hope to post more about my current show, Impossible Marriage, soon. Oh, and I guess I could post school counseling resources too! ;)
If you've been following my blog, you know that I have been incredibly busy in the theatre world this year. In the last 7 months, I have performed in 5 local productions, including From Up Here, I Hate Hamlet, The Dinner Party, The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later. The Laramie shows were performed in the same weekend, which required the actors to learn 2 full-length plays and collectively, over 100 characters.

For those who may not be familiar, The Laramie Project is about a theatre company that traveled to Laramie, Wyoming in the wake of Matthew Shepard's brutal beating. Matthew was gay. One night, he was tied to a fence and savagely beaten by two Laramie men. When he was found, Matthew was barely breathing and days later, he died in a Poudre Valley hospital. 10 years later, members of the Tectonic Theater Project returned to see how things had (or had not) changed since Matthew's murder.
My fellow school counselors may be wondering why I have dedicated so much of my personal time to theatre and perhaps, how I can manage to fit it in at all. Well, my best answer is that theatre helps me be a better person. I can release the stress of my day through my characters, connect with my local community, and immerse myself in a variety of situations, allowing me to better empathize with others.

I love school counseling and most definitely feel fulfilled by my career. However, I truly believe that we must have an additional outlet for our creativity; otherwise, we may be sucked into a black hole of self-doubt, stress, and worry. We need a break from any passion so we can come back to it with a fresh perspective and rejuvenated spirit.
I also try to pick projects that I am excited about, especially since I have to devote so much time and energy to them. The Laramie Project has been one of my dream shows since my freshman year at Bowling Green State University, when I read it for the Honors Program's "community read." It broke my heart as I discovered more about Matthew Shepard and the town he lived in. It forced me to have an opinion, a stance, and a voice.

Soon after watching a live performance at BGSU, I checked out HBO's film version of The Laramie Project, which is extremely powerful and brings the Laramie voices to life in a honest, heartfelt way. I encourage you to watch the film because it sparks great discussion about our communities and nation.
So, when it came time for me to live out this dream, I felt nervous, but prepared. However, I didn't realize how emotionally challenging and intellectually demanding it would be to perform in not just one, but two Laramie shows in the same packed weekend. My nine characters were so different: some blamed Matthew, some used their anger to advocate for others, some didn't know what to think. Looking back, I'm so proud that I was able to remember my lines, my props, and all of the little details that kept the story afloat. Our company of 13 actors worked together to create a production we could be proud of.
Finally, I wanted to share a powerful video that leaves us with, as Doc O'Connor says in The Laramie Project, "H.O.P.E."

I couldn't help but tear up as I saw Matthew's picture appear. What would our world be like without hatred?

I like to think that, as school counselors, we can help our students stand above the negative actions they see in the news, in films, and in video games. I want to create free-thinkers who can recognize when injustice is occuring.

I want to be the change. I hope you do too.

Here are some production photos from The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, courtesy of Todd Michaels. Enjoy!

Snow Day!



It's the first snow day I've had in 2 years, so I'm excited for the unexpected opportunity to relax...and my definition of relaxing is movies, theatre, and blogging.


These are some of the movies I've been digging lately. All 3 deal with tough topics and can certainly help school counselors reflect on the challenges their students experience. While there are inappropriate parts in each film, there are brilliant clips that students could benefit from as well. For additional movie suggestions, visit my Amazon store.
I know many of you have watched Shane Koyczan's powerful visual poem about bullying. When I saw it for the first time, I couldn't help but cry - I became a school counselor because I want to help students who feel broken become whole again. This is the kind of thing that stirs the helper and healer inside of me.

But...the poem also made me think about my own childhood. I had trouble in school, I was made fun of...but...did I inflict pain on others in order to fit in? Did I say something I thought was funny, but really damaged someone's self-worth? The thought haunts me sometimes, because I may never know how I'm truly perceived through another person's lense.
I discuss this with my students, because not only do I not want students to feel bullied, I also don't want students to live with regret. I don't want anyone to be the villain in someone else's memory. I, like most of us, will never know the extent to which my kindness and my cruelty (intentional or not) have impacted others. My hope is that we all take a step back and reflect on our actions, good or bad. Then, and only then, can we become better people.


Right now, I'm preparing for The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, my 4th and 5th shows of the season. These plays discuss the aftermath of Matthew Shepard's murder in Laramie, Wyoming. We have a company of 13 actors who are dividing up over 100 roles, which are, in actuality, real people who were interviewed in Laramie.
I first read The Laramie Project my freshman year at Bowling Green State University, because it was the Honors Program's "community read." It broke my heart as I discovered more about Matthew Shepard and the town he lived in. Matthew was gay. One night, he was tied to a fence and savagely beaten by two Laramie men. When he was found, Matthew was barely breathing and days later, died in a Poudre Valley hospital.

Members of Tectonic Theater Project interviewed the people of Laramie and created a moving play based on those interviews. Ten years later, they came back to see how things had or had not changed. "The original will move you, the follow-up will shock you." More on these productions will be posted soon!


I recently added a new school-wide program to my website. It's a friendly, good behavior competition my school started to improve cafeteria behavior. For more information on this program, click here.
In other news, Elementary School was featured in the January/February issue of ASCA School Counselor! The article, Get on the Blogging Bandwagon, was written by Darrell Sampson, the founder of From the Counselor's Office blog.

Check it out!