Murder In Our Town

The Poudre River runs through the town of Windsor, the Poudre Trail bicycle and pedestrian path travelling along the north bank of the river.  The residents of Windsor share a small town atmosphere.  People are generous and welcoming, they smile and wave when they recognize a friend on the street. Our Mayor John Vazquez compared it to “Mayberry.”  Close neighbors and friends support each other and welcome newcomers and strangers into their oasis of serenity and safety.  Those who live here call it home and are proud to do so.

At 10 am on May 18th, an ordinary day in Windsor would change into a day of disbelief and shock, as the news broadcast that an unknown killer had taken the life of a beloved Windsor citizen, John Jacoby.

A murder?  Not in our town!  The last one happened eight years ago.  A homicide effects everyone that it touches.  Lives are changed forever.  The countless people who loved and were involved in John Jacoby’s  life — families, friends, acquaintances, employees, search and rescue, physicians and EMTs  — feel the pain that resonates. David Jacoby, John’s brother, was a first responder at the scene.  His burden is unimaginable.

John Jacoby was a Windsorite.  A simple man with a heart of gold who gave back to his city.  He  defined who he was by his continued involvement.  This included his involvement with K99’s 28 Hours of Hope to help fight the battle of child abuse in Northern Colorado. His brother David shared a memory of John, who liked to be called “Johnny,” writing a letter to Paula Woodward, anchor of Channel 9  news when he was in the 6th or 7th grade,  telling her he loved his life, his family and Windsor.  A friend, Shelly Jamison, who went to high school with Johnny, smiled as she shared memories of her friend, who lettered for four years as a water boy and never missed a day of school. Over the years, the Windsor Fire Department made him an honorary firefighter, because he would often beat the fire department on his bike, to a call in progress.

sadness and griefThose who were not acquainted with John — “Johnny” to his family and friends — were introduced to him in the cruelest of ways and were impacted by this senseless tragedy . It made an impression on our thoughts and our minds.  People who live in Windsor are speaking of it at the grocery stores, the cleaners, during book clubs, and at Starbucks.  His community did not let him down.  They stood tall and proud as they planned his funeral and gave from their hearts and pocket books to honor this wonderful man. What a celebration of life as hundreds of our community filled Faith United Church and spilled over to the high school.  The killer took away his life, but Windsor gave it back in memory and celebration. John was hearing impaired and faced many adversities and overcame them.  He was honored by the Mayor of Windsor as an “icon.”  What an achievement. Windsor is part of this story.

What can we do as a community? This community is still frightened by this uninvited intrusion. We are still angry.  Our lives have been altered. We are more cautious. One person told me that she is afraid to walk in her neighborhood alone. One mother is asking her children not to ride their bikes for a while.   It will be some time  before this tragedy and the emotions surrounding it are relegated  to the past.  The police, FBI, family, friends and the rest of us are waiting for justice, and for healing.   As a community we will lean on and help each other through this time of grief, mourning, and loss.  We persevered through the tornado of 2008.   We rebuilt.  This time we are rebuilding our hearts and that is a long and difficult process.

Summer Weddings and Doubts

What is it about a wedding invitation that brings nostalgia? Perhaps it is because we all like fairy tale settings. We fill our heads with visions of white, flower girls and ring bearers and we are excited and honored to be one of the guests. The event can be stressful not only for the bride and groom but also for the guests. We all want a perfect wedding! What do those pre wedding jitters mean? For guests it may be as simple as choosing the right wedding attire or the most inexpensive flight. For the bride and groom wedding nerves may not mean anything at all or they may be a sign that something is not right. We have all heard of runaway brides. How do you know before the wedding that you are choosing the right person to marry? With half of the marriages in the United States ending in divorce it is important for you to be sure of your decision before the engagement and wedding. Wedding vows are not made during the dating period or the engagement . They are made on your wedding day. The marital relationship is different than any other relationship. Often while I am involved in a pre- marital therapy session with a couple a statement will be made regarding the relationship of marriage stating” marriage is a formality for us.” Wrong. Marriage rules do not apply until you are married. This is Susan’s story.

Susan’s Story

Susan was 29 years old and out of college when she met Gary. She was dazzled by him on her first date. He was always the life of the party and he was polite to her mother, well almost. In the early months of their dating, they went out with friends and every once in a while they spent a romantic weekend away. They spoke of marriage someday and seemingly got along well. In the last 6 months Gary had not been calling or spending much time with her and when he did see her he preferred to watch TV instead of going out on a real date. He tells her he loves her and pecks her on the cheek before he leaves her. Susan cannot remember the last time they were intimate with each other. She loves Gary but she does not want to make a mistake of marriage.
Susanbird-love would be making a big mistake if she were to enter into an engagement of marriage to Gary. With the doubts she is having now she may very well be a runaway bride. Gary is not fulfilling her emotional needs. In her book ” How Not To Marry the Wrong Guy, Is He “the One ” or Should You Run ” Anne Milford identifies 5 universal signs that you are dating the right guy:
1. You bring out the best in each other, not the worst.
2. You trust each other and can count on one another to do the right thing.
3. You have fun together.
4. You share common core beliefs and values.
5. You communicate with each other out of care and concern instead of judgment and criticism.
Choose a healthy relationship when you are choosing a man or woman to date. In making the right choice you will no doubt have wedding jitters on your special day but they guide you to the alter not away from it.

Love, Happiness and Health Contribute to One’s Quality of Life

Quality of life: love, happiness and health are at the top of my list for things to wish for in the new year.

Without these things, life can be very unpleasant. All of us define quality of life differently. What is important to one person may be insignificant to others. Many people make resolutions in January. Some of us want to lose extra pounds, some of us want to quit smoking, some of us want to explore new employment opportunities, and some of us pray that our life continues to be what it is today.

“Value” describes a belief system, or the worth or importance of something. Social, religious and political values are often chosen. However, personal values that are developed early in our lives are solid and less likely to change with time.

What do you value? Perhaps you value love, happiness, health, family, friends, and children. Maybe your value is defined by your job or the material things you have acquired.

The value of self often is forgotten when we speak of values. Personal value begins with validating, believing and celebrating you. Your integrity and dignity are related to the choices you make in life. I like the quote from Alexander Hamilton: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Love, health and happiness are values that cannot be measured and by some are valued the most. It is when they are lost that we miss them.Health

One’s health is never to be taken for granted, as fate can change one’s circumstance in seconds. Health is relative and defined personally. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Complete is the operative word here. Have any of us ever had a complete state of health or wellness? That’s doubtful. For some of us, illness such as cancer or the death of a loved one are not easily dealt with.

Happiness is evasive and can change from moment to moment depending on your circumstance. The Happinesspursuit of happiness was defined as an “unalienable right” in the United States’ Declaration of Independence. Most of us define it as an emotional state of contentment, joy or well-being.

Positive psychology is the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. These researchers’ work includes studying strengths, positive emotions, resilience and happiness. Their hope is that by better understanding human strengths, we can learn how to be happier. Do you describe yourself as a happy person? Is your life a happy one? If so, cherish it.

LoveLove stands by itself. It is what we all need and long for. Finish this sentence: “The one thing I need most is …” Most of us will answer: love. You see it every day in homeless shelters, shelters for battered women, rescued animals, the lost and hopeless, and others that are or were denied love. The best thing that you can give to yourself and of yourself to others is love.

Until next time, light and blessings to you.

Let me know what you think or ask me a question by emailing me at

Christmas Comes From the Heart, Not a Store

I often hear people say they wish Christmas was celebrated the way it used to be. In the past, Christmas was celebrated very simply.

When I was growing up, we looked forward to Christmas. We believed that Santa kept a list of who was naughty or nice and we were on our best behavior. Times were difficult financially for many families during the 1940s and ’50s. We did not enjoy the luxuries of today. Many people did not own a TV.

MP900409379Christmas was not tied to the commercialism of shopping or competition. Instead, sugar cookies were made and decorated as we listened to Christmas songs on the radio. Live Christmas trees were decorated with shiny glass ornaments. Stringing popcorn and cranberries to wrap around the tree or making homemade ornaments at school was our fun.

We would spend Christmas Eve with our aunts, uncles and cousins, having fun and enjoying family. We could open one present. Our mom would help us pick out our clothes for midnight Mass. During Mass, we would try not to fall asleep as we heard the story of baby Jesus.

I remember lying awake in bed listening for Santa and wondering if I would get what I wished for. Christmas morning we would open our stocking from Santa first. We did not receive a lot of gifts. We were happy for what we received. Perhaps we knew times were hard, and our gifts were given from the heart and of good will.

This is Elsie’s story:

Elsie was born in 1922 and is 91 years old. She recently told me her Christmas story.

When she was 7 years old, her father worked for U.S. Steel in Elwood City, Penn. During Christmastime, the owners would invite the children of the steel workers to their private hall to see Santa Claus.

MP900423696Each child would receive a stocking filled with a popcorn ball, hard-tack candy, pretzels and a box of Cracker Jacks. Santa would ask each child what she/he wanted for Christmas. When Elsie spoke to Santa, she said she wanted a doll and carriage. Santa said to her, “If you are very good, you will get what you ask for.”

On Christmas morning, she woke up and looked for her present behind the chair in her living room as they did not have a Christmas tree.

Instead of a doll and carriage, she found an orange, a dime and a box of Italian candy, Terrone. She was so disappointed that she would never again ask Santa for a Christmas gift.

This year Elsie opened her Christmas present from Santa early and found a doll and carriage. She was excited and happy and said, “I got my babydoll!” A dream fulfilled.

“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under the tree.” — Charlotte Carpenter

Until next time, light and blessings to you.

Let me know what you think or ask me a question by emailing me at

The First Week of December

For most of us, the first week of December, is the first week of the Christian holiday of Christmas. During the month of December in Colorado you will see snow covering the ground and be in awe of the beauty of snow packed mountain peaks. The average snow in Denver in December is 8.5 inches and December is the coldest month of the year in Colorado. A great month for skiers.

MP900431277Many people are preparing their homes for Christmas. Decorations and holly will be placed in windows and on doors while lighted Christmas trees will sparkle and dance. Children are not shy in asking for holiday gifts as they dream of Rudolph, Santa and the joy of Christmas morning. Young or old everyone is entitled to the anticipation and wonder and of Christmas morning with pretty presents under the tree and all the excitement the holiday brings.

The hustle and bustle of Christmas has begun! Some who have not made Christmas travel plans will search the web hoping for low fares. Christmas is in the air. People seem to be more gracious and giving during this time of the year than any other. Why? Perhaps this is because the many activities that surround Christmas give happiness, joy and purpose to people.

Sadly, a segment of the population does not enjoy the holidays. For those who have not had the memories of childhood joys, or people that experience sadness or depression during the holiday season, Christmas can be daunting. There are many triggers that cause feelings of stress and unhappiness during this season. Some have lost a loved one during this year and are grieving. Grieving during any time is difficult, but loss during the holiday is especially poignant. Many people are single and live alone and do not have a good support system around them. Seeing others interact with their families can be sad and painful for them. Estrangement and divorce is another loss that can cause inner conflict and sadness. With the decreased sunshine and the gloomy weather seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is yet another reason that people have a difficult time enjoying the holiday season.

The Mayo Clinic lists 3 triggers for the holiday blues or holiday depression: relationships, finances, and holiday demands. Mental Health America points out that there are many people who experience post-holiday let down or post-holiday blues after the first of January. If you know someone who is going through a difficult time during the holidays, encourage them to ask for help.

"It's a Wonderful Life"If you are feeling sad or depressed this holiday season realize that your symptoms are very similar to clinical depression and if your symptoms continue to interfere with the quality of your life see a professional. If you feel the holiday blues interfering with your peace of mind and your joy perhaps you can use this first week of December to bring the joy of the season to someone else. Volunteer at a nursing home or a hospital or simply enjoy a Christmas movie classic such as “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Create new memories by going to see Christmas light displays or hang a few of your own. Surprise a friend and take her/him to dinner. Choose something you have an interest in and you will find new meaning and enjoy the experience.

Let me know what you think or ask me a question by emailing me at Until next time, light and blessings to you.

A Stress Free Thanksgiving

As we prepare for The Thanksgiving holiday 2013, turkeys are being bought, with all the holiday fixings of past traditions. You can be sure Mom’s cornbread dressing will be on our plates.  A stress free Thanksgiving?   Probably not, as most of us want to make the best of the holiday with family and friends.  What would a stress free holiday look like?  Perhaps a trip to Las Vegas or the Bahamas.  No preparing the turkey ahead of time or deciding whether you will have pumpkin or pecan pie.  You wouldn’t be wondering which relative would be late for dinner or not show up. Stress free, unless your flight was delayed!

"The First Thanksgiving" (1915), by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

“The First Thanksgiving” (1915),
by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

The first Thanksgiving in 1612 lasted 3 days. There had to be plenty of food for the 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians.  They lived off the land and ocean and did not have the food industry to support them. Instead of wild turkey, they ate duck or goose.  In the New England colony they ate seafood such as clams, mussels and lobster. They ate plenty of vegetables provided by crops and gardens.  The forest provided chestnuts and walnuts. Instead of pumpkin pie they enjoyed boiled pumpkin.  Not a bad meal to feast on and to give thanks for. One of my earliest memories is my mother talking about her mother’s recipe for dressing that included apples, chestnuts, and walnuts.

As the Thanksgiving holiday is a prelude to the holiday season our stress level is on the rise and is defined differently than other times during the year. Studies range from 70 to 80 percent people feeling the stress of the holiday season.

Women are most likely to report feeling stress during the holiday season because they are multi-tasking.  Preparing the house for the holidays, preparing for meals and their everyday stress can lead to disaster.  Many women will fall into bad habits such as overeating, and indulging in too much alcohol. Increased stress often leads to a decreased immune system and by the time the holidays are over women are often exhausted.

decorated Christmas treeAs the Christmas season is around the corner work stress will increase as many families are trying to work overtime to compete with the commercialism of holiday giving.  According to Ronald Nathan, PHD, clinical professor at Albany Medical College in New York a key culprit is our own memories.  He states “When we think about the holidays, we dwell on the past and what went wrong, or we romanticize it and make it impossible to recreate.” ( Web MD, the magazine).  He counsels people to carefully examine their thoughts and expectations and not drive themselves crazy finding “the perfect gift” or planning “the perfect party.”

Here are some tips to reduce your stress during the holidays:

  • Set your priorities: Too much of anything can create stress. Prioritize your activities and do the things you enjoy.
  • Create your holiday:  If your schedules permit, plan as much as you can, from decorating to your holiday meal.
  • Live in the here and now: Don’t worry about the future or fuss about the past.
  • Stay happy and socialized:  Don’t isolate, get together with family and friends or volunteer during the holidays.

Stress is the killer of smiles somewhere in between lies balance.

Let me know what you think or ask me a question by emailing me at   Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Anxiety and The Fear of Flying

plane_flying_sky_610According to “Wing Tips,” February 2013, more than 53 million air travelers passed through Denver International Airport in 2012, setting an airport record. If you were one of the airline passengers, you were among a daily average of 145,633 passengers who traveled by air at DIA. When traveling, most vacation passengers are excited about their trip. They may be visiting a fun and exotic destination or simply visiting family or friends. Even business passengers have some fun. There is a population of travelers however who are plagued by the fear of flying, “aviophobia”. Research is minimal. One of the studies dates back to 1980 when two Boeing researchers found that 18.1 percent of adults in the U.S. were afraid to fly. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that 8.7 percent of Americans have a fear of flying so intense that it qualifies as a phobia or anxiety.

“Specific Phobias,” classified under anxiety disorders, is an unwarranted or irrational fear of something that poses little or minimal danger. They are recognized as phobia of animals, blood, heights, travel by airplane, being closed in and thunderstorms. These patients may worry about what they might happen if they have to confront what they are afraid of such as fainting, losing control or having a panic attack. Specific Phobias are twice as common in women as men (NIMH). Phobias may be the result of trauma, parental impact on childhood, or observing something traumatic.

Debbie’s Story

Debbie, a woman in her 40s, was healthy and fit. She had seen her primary physician 3 months ago and was given a clean bill of health. In her presenting statement, Debbie said “I am afraid to fly”. Debbie’s anxiety symptoms were initiated by the prospect of flying to Dallas to visit her mother for the holidays. As Thanksgiving 2012 approached, she feared flying even more intensely, and stated she had not flown for 2 years. She stated she had flown from Colorado Springs to St. Louis in 2010 and her plane had circled the field for nearly an hour due to thunderstorms. She also reported that the flight was unusually bumpy, the plane was full, and many of the passengers were airsick. There was no one to help as the flight attendants were strapped in their seats. They finally landed safely, but it was the last time Debbie had flown in an airplane. She reported even the thought of driving to the airport made her feel short of breath and sick to her stomach. She came for help because she recognized this fear was unreasonable and it was embarrassing. She did not want her fear of travel to interfere with her personal life or become disabling. She stated she did not want to take any form of medication while flying. Debbie was diagnosed with Specific Phobia, Situational Type.


Treatment choices for anxiety depend on the severity of the problem and the preference of the patient. Some of the treatment choices include medication such as an anti-depressant, or anti-anxiety drugs as well as psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy to change thinking patterns and behaviors that support the fears, and hypnosis. Research has shown that hypnosis is used as a complementary therapy by therapists to help eliminate phobias or reduce their strength.

In discussing a treatment plan with Debbie I suggested we use a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and hypnosis to introduce positive life changing suggestions into her sub-conscious. Consequently, Debbie was able to identify and reframe the triggers associated with her fear of flying. She successfully flew to Dallas to visit her family for the Thanksgiving holiday in 2012 and after a 6-month follow up had no recurrence of symptoms when flying.

Let me know what you think, or ask me a question by e-mailing me at Until next time, light and blessings to you.

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