Monday, April 27, 2015

Never Forget

Thursday, April 16th, was a beautifully sunny day on campus. It contrasted starkly with the heavy subject our guest speaker came to discuss with the school: her experiences during the Holocaust in World War II. 

I would guess that Alicja Edwards now stands somewhere around four feet tall and uses a cane to get around, but it's no wonder: she's over 90 years old. If you learned about her first through reading either of the two books she's published, "They Called Us D.P.s" and "God Was Our Witness", you'd never guess that English is her second language, but she speaks with a heavy Polish accent. On Thursday morning, she came to Chrysalis and spoke about her life 73 years ago, when her family was woken in the early hours of the morning by Russian soldiers. She was forced to hurriedly pack a few belongings before she was carted off to Kazakhstan and forced to labor in inhumane conditions. Her brother, her mother, and her grandmother came with her; her father, she learned, had already been executed for his history as a soldier years before. 

While Alicja might not be considered a traditional Holocaust survivor because she was not captured by the Nazi regime, her experience draws heartbreaking parallels. "I belong to a Holocaust of the same era," she said, "but of a different nature... I do not have a Star of David tattooed on my arm, but in my mind there are deeply etched memories of pain and agony of those years spent in slave labor in Soviet Kazakhstan." Food had been scarce before the Russian occupation, it grew rarer when the Red Army invaded, and became virtually nonexistent during her life as a prisoner. Alicja's eyes teared as she explained to us that she had watched her grandmother starve to death in front of her. "Young children and old people suffered the most," she explained, "...there was no medicine, no doctor. You were on your own, fighting to survive." 

And how did she survive? Alicja said: "In those dark hours, you prayed and kept faith -- and helped each other to hope to see a better tomorrow." After three years, she was liberated, but freedom meant a long walk, for 24 hours, with no food or water, through the Persian desert, to get to boats that would take them away from their hell. After that, having no possessions or money, she survived on the generosity of others. 

When she finished telling her stories, the floor was opened to questions. One student asked if she had any advice to people going through tough times, and Alicja says to be honest. Lying will only cause more problems. Flipping through the binder of mementos she brought, it is clear that Alicja has plenty of life experience to draw on. Among the more modern keepsakes such as her letter from the Holocaust Memorial Museum are yellowed passports and crumbling documents, written in Polish, granting Alicja passage out of Kazakhstan. 

Alicja met her husband, an American soldier, while waiting tables by serendipitously spilling a drink on his lap. They traveled the world together, and spent some time living in Japan and Paris before settling in Chicago. Alicja was a concert pianist and sometimes plays piano at the local church on Sunday. She has children and grandchildren now, and spends her time painting and running a small antique shop here in Eureka. Her books and paintings are available for purchase in her shop, and her books are available on Amazon. 

Our Sophomore English and the World History classes have been learning about World War II and the Holocaust in school for the past few weeks, so Alicja's presence really helped ground the stories they've read. Somehow, seeing her walk around campus, share her stories, and show her paintings to us made the history so much more real. Sadly, as time goes on, fewer and fewer survivors are around to share their stories with us, making it even more important that our students learn from them now. The next time you visit Eureka, please pay her a visit and thank her for sharing her time with our students! She was grateful to spend time with our girls and said it made her feel young again to be surrounded by so many young people interested in her life -- almost as grateful as we were to listen to her story. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chrysalis Explores Costa Rica!

Dear Friends,

Seven students, six parents, and a handful of Chrysalis staff met in San Jose, Costa Rica, in early April with great expectations about the adventures at hand. The whitewater sections of the Pacuare River provided class 3 and 4 rapids through beautiful rain forest on day one of the trip. Further north, the mountainous area around the Arenal volcano offered us an exciting zipline adventure, and the chance to hike into the edge of a lava field left from an eruption in the 90's. Our accommodations in Monteverde were virtually on top of a mountain that afforded views of the distant Pacific Ocean by day, and the Southern Cross by night. The southern hemisphere stars were brilliant. 
We left the cool mountain breezes of the cloud forest and descended sharply toward the coast, arriving at Manuel Antonio National Park where the temps were above 100 degrees and the humidity made the swimming pool feel comparatively dry. Each of the three hikes we did in disparate areas in Costa Rica were on winding trails through dense vegetation. Added together, they provided up close and personal views of howler monkeys, rare squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys, several varieties of sloths, an anteater, brightly-colored snakes, and a number of beautiful birds that we'd never be able to see outside of a zoo, they were sights to behold. 
The thrilling adventures, enchanting natural resources, and fascinating wildlife described above would be quite enough to make this a fine international trip, but it's clear to me in retrospect that the best memories from Costa Rica will be about the excellent human experience we all enjoyed, and the relationships that emerged. Our students were careful and thoughtful about the goals of the trip, which they designed prior to our launch. Each of them moved toward a closer and more considerate relationship with their accompanying parent. Meanwhile, our lovely and generous parent group cooperated in every sense. We couldn't have had a nicer group of folks with whom to spend this amazing adventure.
Very Best Regards,
Kenny Pannell
Kenny Pannell and Mary Alexine 
Rafting in the Pacuare River
Sunset in Monteverde 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One Crazy Ski Season

The winter of 2014/2015 will surely go down in Chrysalis history.  We haven’t seen winter conditions like this in the past and I hope we never do again in the future!  The girls had the shortest ski season on record, starting on December 6th and ending on March 7th.  They each missed out on 2 or 3 ski days this season due to safety issues when the snow simply melted off of the lower runs.  However, if you watched them ski or ride today you wouldn't know they missed out on those last days of the season, I have been impressed with this group since opening day!  

We had amazing skiers and snowboarders this year, the girls tackled various conditions with determination and enthusiasm; it was a joy to watch them excel!  They had fun on a few powder days, they enjoyed the warmth and ease of spring skiing (and there were a lot of spring like days, which is just odd in February).  But it was the icy days that their skill levels soared, each one of them found the courage and confidence to use their edges properly and succeed!  Naturally they had to brave a few sub-zero days here in Northwest Montana, as well as a few rainy days sprinkled through the season.   But they loved it and begged to keep skiing and riding despite the unfavorable conditions.  They want to feel the excitement and joy of making turns on the snow with the the peaks of Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies as their backdrop.  Ah, what a beautiful experience, this is the type of adventure we value here at Chrysalis.
My goal is to instill a love of the outdoors in the hearts of our students and share with them the peace that can be found in nature.  Many of our students will grow to love skiing and snowboarding, it will become a lifelong passion that they can share with their families. I encourage all of you to get outside and enjoy what each season has to offer.  As for me, I am going to do just that!

Happy Spring,
Julie Hughes

Friday, March 13, 2015

5 Ways To Show Love For You Daughter

Did you know that this past Sunday we celebrated National Women’s Day? In honor of Women’s Day, we would like to share 5 different ways that you can celebrate and show love to your daughter:
Active Listening
During family therapy, be an example of active listening. Not only should you be an example of it, but you should acknowledge [and praise] your daughter when she is doing it.
As you make an effort to actively listen to your daughter, you are sending a message that what she has to say is important to you.  As you express interest in what your daughter is saying, and praise her in her listening efforts, this translates into, “I care about you. YOU are important to me.”
You should know and learn about women that your daughter looks up to.  Do your homework on these people and anything else that is important to your daughter.  Take the qualities in those women she admires and relate them to your daughter. For example, “You’re so like your grandmother.  She loves yoga too.”
By taking an interest in what is important to you your daughter, you are reinforcing that you are actively listening to her.  This leads to feelings of validation.  By taking a step further and finding out WHY these things are important to your daughter, you are silently saying, “What interests you, interests me. Tell me more!”
Holding boundaries
As you hold important boundaries for your daughter, it gives her consistency in order to feel safe. That safety translates into unconditional love. Safety and love are closely united.
For example, when you hold boundaries during visits with your daughter (at the program or on home visits) it shows your daughter that you respect the program. This translates into your daughter’s success in the program. As you consistently hold boundaries, you show your daughter how much effort you are willing to put into building her success.
You might be scared to hold certain boundaries for fear of damaging your relationship with your daughter.  As you CONSISTENTLY hold boundaries, you give your daughter a sense of certainty to know what to expect from you.  It also clearly explains what you expect from her. By doing this you are creating stability in her life.  Consistency leads to stability, which offers an environment of physical and emotional safety for her to belong to.
Challenging them
When you challenge your daughter you are ultimately showing her love and that you believe she has the ability to grow beyond her current circumstance.
For example, you could ask about how your daughter is doing in different aspects of the program.  Ask about:
  • school
  • therapeutic work
  • working out
  • and adventure.
Actively engage your daughter by supporting her as she works hard and pushes herself to do better.  Be specific in why you are pushing your daughter to go the extra mile. It is easy for our teen daughters to misinterpret our intentions if we do not convey what those intentions are. We must have a sturdy foundation in our relationships in order to build on and test them.  Teach your daughter to be happy and accepting of who she is. But also teach her that there is always opportunity for growth.
As you practice active listening, validating and remain consistent in your expectations, your daughter will be more willing to accept the challenges you extend to her.
Expressing gratitude:
Express gratitude to your daughter by showing your appreciation for her willingness and ability to challenge her skills. Again, be specific with your gratitude.  Some examples of skills are:
  • Community living skills: “Thank you for helping set the table tonight.”
  • Communication skills: “Thank you for talking to me about how therapy is going.”
  • Academic achievement: “Thank you for working so hard and preparing for that math test.”
Those are hard things to do! It is hard to communicate as a teen. It is very hard for girls to live in the community.  Girls think that parents have no idea how hard it is to live here. Knowing that you appreciate her and her efforts helps her feel loved.
By expressing gratitude, you are offering reassurance to your daughter that her current efforts have not gone unnoticed.  You cannot push her to do better if you do not also reassure her that you appreciate her, that you are aware of the efforts she is already making. When you express gratitude, you automatically have a positive interaction with your daughter.  Be mindful of these interactions.  Make sure you have at least 5 positive interactions for every  challenging interaction.
Active listening, validation, boundaries, challenging, and gratitude help you connect with your daughter on a deeper level.  They facilitate growth resulting in greater confidence and increased capabilities.
What are your favorite ways to celebrate and show love to your daughter?

By Ashton Snyder- Chrysalis Residential Shift Supervisor

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Student Gratitude

Student Responses to the Question: 
What are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for my dad who has been there for me when times get tough. When he plays around with me and we go out to get ice cream shell and laugh about silly jokes. I’m grateful for my mom because she has not given up on me and has faith that our future is bright. For all the times that she has given me a second chance. I’m grateful that I have a full, complete family that love me unconditionally. For my sister who can joke and play around with me and then also be the big sis that everybody wants. For all the times I have needed help and she drops what she is doing and comes. Christmas is the best holiday of the year for me: the laughs, family dinners, snow ball fights, warm fire, hot chocolate and cookies with milk and love. I’m grateful for my strong faith that my dad has helped me stay focused on. And lastly for bubble baths, Netflix, music, chick-fil-a, sweet tea, the south, beaches, and most importantly my best friends.  

I’m grateful for sunrises and sunsets. I’m grateful for family and friends supporting me through the roughest times. I’m grateful for photography to capture each precious memory in the moment. I’m grateful for big warm sweaters while sitting by a fire holding a hot cup of tea, and someone to share it all with. 

I am grateful for the nooks and crannies of our world, waiting to be explored. I am grateful for the expanse of our universe, waiting to be understood. I am grateful for all the unknowns of our world and the opportunity to explore them. Also, dogs. 

 I am grateful for the java bean, those rare sunny days in Portland, scrambling up rock walls, the whale sound a frozen lake makes, and great novels.

I am grateful for the way music and stories take me places far away or close to home and myself. 

My dad. 

I am forever grateful for God’s love, healing, my family, and my Chrysalis sisters and family. 

I am grateful for my brother, dad, and mom. For my dogs. I am grateful for having food every day. I am grateful for life. 

I am grateful for pixels. I am grateful for screens and soundtracks and buttons and characters. I am grateful for the friends I have. Also chocolate.

For warm sweaters and hot chocolate by the fire. For mechanical pencils and down jackets. For glistening fresh snow and steaming coffee. For family and friends. For fresh starts and old memories. For the smell of new books and the smell of old books, too. For lullabies and crickets. And for times when it’s ok to cry. 

I am grateful for my family who loves and supports me endlessly. I am grateful for the ability to walk, talk, and breath. I am grateful for good food. I am grateful for laughter that makes your stomach cramp and for smiles that ache. I am grateful for dogs, fires, and life. 

I am grateful for my family, for all the amazing things they have done for me, for the opportunities they have been able to give to me, all the wonderful memories we have had together. I am grateful for amazing friends who have always been there for me. For my teachers who have gone out of their way to get me the extra help I have needed in school. I’m grateful for Bob, Paula, and their cooking of course! I am also grateful for the mistakes I have made that have helped me become who I am today. I am grateful for True North Wilderness Program in Vermont, and Mod for helping me throughout my time at True North. 

I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my dogs, my friends, snowboarding, and music. I’m also grateful for warm fires, brownies, and blankets. 

I am thankful for the incredible support system I have at home and here. I am grateful for all the people who have been a part of my journey or impacted my life one way or another over the past year. My life has changed dramatically and I am a whole new me, and I am so grateful for that. 

I’m grateful for nail polish, staff that care, passing junior year, and whiteboards.  And I’m so grateful for my mom, dad, and little brother.  

I’m grateful for my super annoying, severe ADHD because it’s what makes me me, and I’m happy with who I am. I’m also grateful for the ability to make people smile. 

I am grateful for my sister and brother. I am thankful for warm weather. I am thankful for the beach. I am grateful for Florida. I am thankful for home. I am thankful for my dad. I am thankful for the ability to exercise. I am thankful for hot drinks. I am grateful for spas. 

I am grateful for my younger brother, for my wonderful parents, for good vanilla lattes, Disneyland, and for spending holidays by the fire with the most important people in my life. I’m also very grateful for Franny! 

For all the unseen and unheard things that come to me willingly. For all the strengths I have. 

I am so grateful for being alive today – I wouldn’t be without this place. I’m also grateful for green bean casserole. 

I am grateful for my family, my friends, my teachers, my coaches, and my role models. These people that I have listed have taught me so much. I’m also grateful for the knowledge that I posses. I am grateful for star lit skies with no light pollution where you can see the milky way. I am grateful for drinking warm hot chocolate with marshmallows on a winter night. I am grateful for genuine smiles and laughs. I am grateful for hugs when you are having a bad day. I am grateful for songs that give you chills. I am grateful for love and support. I am grateful for meaningful quotes. I am grateful for my life, even with its downs. Those downs are what got me to where I am right now. 

I am grateful for my family, my friends, and all the other people who have been in my life and taught me without knowing it. I am grateful for crepes, Nutella, eggnog, and my mom’s stuffing. I am grateful for snowboarding, longboarding, snow, and Bear Lake. I am grateful for the craziness in my house and the people who have come and gone here. I am grateful for kindness, and change. I am grateful for Chrysalis and how it has changed me and my family J 

I am grateful for life, the universe, everything – people who come in and out of our lives. I am grateful for the ability to write this, the good food we eat, the clean water we drink, and the sweet Montana air we breathe.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chrysalis Staff Gratitude

Some thoughts of gratitude from our wonderful staff:

I'm grateful to have the privilege and opportunity to work with amazing girls and their families in reconnecting.  It is truly an honor to be part of each girl's journey.  I also feel incredibly blessed to work with such dedicated, kind, and caring people.   
~Natasha, Therapist

First and foremost I am am grateful for my faith and the joy that fills my life because of it.  I am grateful for my parents for guiding my faith, for the love they have showered over me and for the strength the have placed in my heart.  As I aged, met the man of my dreams and started a family, I could not feel more blessed.  The deep love and simple joy that radiates through our home brings a smile to my face with each passing day.  I do my best to share my joy, especially with the girls I work with.  I am grateful for my parents teaching me to be compassionate, for that too is passed on to the beautiful girls I am trying to help. I just wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't mention how grateful I am for the mountains and for ski season being just around the corner.  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Julie, Adventure Supervisor

I am grateful for snowfall, for fashionable AND functional scarves, and hot baths. I am grateful for Cake Batter flavored ChapStick and dark chocolate with sea salt in it. I am grateful for living in a place that is so remote I can look up at the sky on a clear night and see innumerable stars right from my front porch. I am grateful for having food in my pantry that doubles as a gathering place for friends and family. I am grateful that my grandparents, Gert and Ernie, will likely be around for one more holiday season. I am grateful for the Chrysalis environment, both my fellow staff and students, which comprise much more than a workplace. It is an extended family I can learn from, lean on, and laugh with; who make sure everyone has a place not just for the holidays, but every day; who share the primo huckleberry patches and fishing holes; who laugh and smile (and tease relentlessly) like family; who care just as much for our girls as I do; who are only here because their families entrust us with their daughters -- without them, Chrysalis couldn't be such a loving place.
~Krysten, English Teacher

I am thankful for family and friends, both near and far. I am frequently reminded that people are what matter most, and I feel grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I am particularly thankful for my husband who has had so much patience, grace, and has offered support as I frequently travel for work. I am thankful for our home and land in which we have created a small backyard farm. I am grateful for the simplicity of fresh eggs and veggies, and the many meals shared this year. I love living in northwest Montana and I feel blessed to call it home. While I enjoy traveling for work and collaborating with many fantastic professionals, the more I travel the more I enjoy living in Montana. I am thankful for a job I believe in, and many co-workers who are my dear friends. 
~Carrie, Admissions Director

I am grateful for being able to join a team of people who are willing to work in collaboration for the greater good of young women and their families. I am grateful for the beauty of NW Montana that speaks to my heart and soul everyday without words. 
~ Becca, Therapist

Gratitude is essential for the soul. Without it, I wither and shrink from the joys of life. I'm immensely grateful for the blessing of harvesting a deer for my freezer. I'm thankful for my children, their spouses, and for my grandson's bright eyed smiles. My 14 year old daughter's journey from little girl to young lady delights my heart. I'm grateful for being witness to maturing young women and their process of moving forward in a positive manner. I'm thankful for a husband that is always there to encourage and fill up the empty spaces of my being. I'm thankful for a God filled with love and grace for me.
~Darla, Academic Director

This Thanksgiving season has provided us with very crisp temperatures accompanied by azure blue skies and sparkling, dramatic snow covered peaks.  How fortunate I feel to be nestled in our beautiful valley, inspired by our glorious scenery.  After thirty five short years, Montana and her grandeur still takes my breathe away.  I feel blessed to be able to work with an amazing team of professionals who are dedicated to our students and their families.  I celebrate the courage that it takes to fully engage in the healing process, and I am surrounded by girls who are finding their voice, mending their hearts, exercising their talents, honoring their values, embracing their families and building sturdy character.  I delight in the addition of our new border/bearded collie Charlie, his antics, the smiles he prompts, and the silliness he adds to our lives.  I treasure my family, and my husband and our co-founder.  I value our supportive, brilliant partners at InnerChange.  Life is good! 
~Mary, Clinical Director and Co-Founder


Gratitude is never more difficult to find and express than when it comes on the heels of a difficult period in one's life. That is, however, undoubtedly when the expression of gratitude is the single most important response we can have, and the most important thing we can practice, day in and day out. That's when counting one's blessings and giving thanks for all that is good about our lives is most healing. It separates us from our burdens and allows us to look forward to the promise of a new day. And that glimpse of something brighter in the distance can make all the difference. 

This has been a tough year for many of us, professionally, personally, socially, financially, and perhaps in other dimensions as well. It's been difficult at times to arrive at laughter and lightness of being. And yet, when challenged to search our souls for encouragement, or reasons to be hopeful, we inevitably find them if we but try. I've often heard this described as a treasure chest sitting right in front of us, full of all manner of delights, just waiting for us to use the key in our hand to unlock the chest, open the lid, and discover the bounty of blessings within. This veritable "horn of plenty" may have been sitting there for years, waiting patiently for us to claim it.. At times this process requires some perseverance, some faith, and some action on our part. Fortunately, these are all characteristics that are available to us. We can possess them and utilize them when the going gets tough. And, thankfully, It turns out there are guides and mentors all around us, ready and willing to take our hand and lead the way when it feels necessary. Then, when we do our part, fulfilling our role in this equation, we begin to remember all that is good about the world around us, and all that is beautiful about our life within that world. 

In that spirit, I am grateful this year for countless blessings that are known to me, but can go unnamed in this more public expression. I'm also grateful for those blessings that I haven't stumbled across yet, but which are inevitably in my path. I'm grateful for those spiritual qualities of which I wrote that sometimes define us, such as perseverance, faith, and the capacity for positive action. I'm grateful for the guides and mentors in my life, both past and present, who have steered me carefully and collectively toward this lovely moment in time. I'm grateful that I can occasionally be a blessing to someone else along the way. I'm grateful for this beautiful place that we get to call home, and for the beauty of the people with whom we live and work. I'm especially grateful for hope, which we should never take for granted. And mostly, I'm grateful for God's good grace, always much needed, and for HIs willingness to weave all of this together for us, perfectly, 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you at Chrysalis.

~Kenny, Executive Director and Co-Founder

Monday, November 10, 2014

Students Talk with Author Daniel Quinn

Last week, some of our students had the wonderful opportunity to have a phone call with Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B, Providence, and various other novels. Our sophomores have just finished reading Ishmael and are working on their final papers for the unit, and all of our students have just begun writing novels for our participation in National Novel Writing Month (we'll have updates on that later this month!). The opportunity to speak with Mr. Quinn was phenomenal; Ishmael has been in print continuously since its publication in 1991 and has been translated into over 20 languages. It's been used in courses ranging from History to Anthropology to Philosophy to English (and everything in between) and he's been invited to speak at various universities across the country. 

Our girls asked him questions on everything they could think of regarding Ishmael and what it takes to be a writer, and we learned that he doesn't believe in writers block. If you have something to say, the words will come. Of course, they may need to be heavily revised and edited, but when a writer has something to say, writing is the natural outlet. We also learned that if he could redo Ishmael, he would clarify the gender of the narrator as it's been a point of uncertainty for some readers. Many of his novels took twelve years to be ready for publication, and he's working on another right now. 

I'm most proud to say that he was very impressed with our students. During the process of setting up the interview, he mentioned that Ishmael was not intended for readers as young as our students. When our interview concluded, he stated that this was one of his most difficult interviews ever as our students asked very challenging questions and made him think. I walked out of the room on clouds, and am so very excited to share how well our girls performed with this prestigious writer!