As we help people cope with chaos and uncertainty, therapists are struggling too
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Americans are facing uncertainty, and it's starting to seem as if uncertainty is the norm. Over the past eight months we have battled the never ending war with COVID, started, stopped and restarted virtual school, and witnessed the reanimation of a civil rights movement. We've watched daily as news outlets recount death tolls and survival numbers for the pandemic, all while trying to give our family a semblance of normalcy, but nothing about this is normal and the helpers we are used to turning to are burning the wicks at both ends.

In today's climate, therapists are battling the same battles as our patients. Once upon a time before COVID, our stressors would occasionally overlap, but in recent months the stressors are exactly the same as the majority of our clients. Therapists are encouraging our clients to do the very basics to keep from spiraling into a depression, all while we struggle to change out of our pajama bottoms for virtual sessions. At times it's difficult to put aside your own personal struggles to focus on the needs of our clients, but we still show up.

We keep showing up ready to hold space even though our own cups are empty, but the fear of the election outcome is a different level of connectedness that we as therapists were not prepared for. The fear around elections is not new, of course; we navigated this in 2016. But with the very palpable division in our country, our clients are scared. They're scared of either outcome, and so are we.


Communities of color are turning to therapists to help them not only navigate the continued shootings of unarmed Black and brown men by police, but to also have a safe place to express their fears and anxieties around the election. The state of the country is shaky, to put it mildly, for our minority communities. This includes increased depression and anxiety rates in LGBTQ+ communities as well. It seems as if therapists have noticed a collective holding of breath, and yet we also sit not breathing, waiting for the shoe to drop.

Therapists are not immune from current events. In fact, it's in many of our codes of ethics to be updated and actively advocating for things that are or will negatively affect our clients. Our clients are seeing news reports of the lines wrapped around sporting goods stores to purchase ammo and calls for a civil war should the election swing the pendulum toward the other direction. We sit in uncomfortable fear while our clients pour their hearts out, expecting us to have the answer. But we weren't trained for pandemic counseling in a tumultuous election year while the country is literally on fire. There was not a class for that.

We are sitting across from clients via screen or in person empathizing with their fear while experiencing the same gut-punching terror. We are getting hung up on what coping skills to suggest because we've tried them and they're not working for us, so we hesitate to suggest them to you. Of course, a brave face is put on display and we walk through mindfulness exercises to help ground you to the present moment, but in reality, the present moment is filled with uncertainty and doubt. When the only way out is through, we have to give our clients the tools to push through.

Therapy still works, even if at times your therapist may look haggard. We want you in our office, physical or virtually. This state that we're in is hard for everyone. It's important to know you're not alone and to develop the tools you need to push through to the other side of this election and beyond.

It's natural to have fear when nothing seems certain. We've been living in a heightened sense of survival for an extended period of time, and our brains are just not equipped to thrive in fight or flight for that long. So rest, talk to someone, and give yourself permission to feel whatever you're feeling. Even your therapist needs to do that right now.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

"Toy Story 2" got deleted and backups weren't working. Whoops.

A newborn baby saving an entire animated film production from unprecedented disaster? Sounds a bit like the plot of a Pixar short, doesn't it?

Something (sort of) like that actually did happen during the making of "Toy Story 2." (There are a several retellings of the story out there, from an in-depth interview on The Next Web to the simplified, animated version in the "Toy Story 2" extras shown below.)

Here's a basic rundown of what happened:

The film was well underway when an unnamed Pixar employee who was trying to delete unneeded files accidentally applied the "remove" command to the root files of the film. Suddenly, things started disappearing. Woody's hat. Then his boots. Then Woody himself.

Pixar folks watched characters and sequences disappear in front of their eyes. Obviously, this was … not good.

Oren Jacob, the associate technical director of the film, got on the horn to the systems crew with a panicked "Pull the plug!" They did. Were they able to stop the bleed? Nope, 90% of the movie was gone. Surely there was a backup system, though, right?

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!