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Dr. Flowers, Director of Clinical Services at Youth Bridge, lives in Fayetteville with his wife, Lara, two children, one affectionate pup and a rather major passion for helping children and families.So. Go ahead. Snicker.
No really. I’ll wait. I deserve it.
After all, I opened up the floor for open auditions for snickering, finger-pointing, judgemental eye-rolling and any other numerous public shaming tactics, by talking a big blogging game months (… sigh… that’s so tough to type… “months”… insert large-eyed emoji here…) ago, and then initiating radio silence.
Follow-through…hmm. Just as a general question, how long does one have to be adulting before this seemingly illusive skill is learned? I mean, will it just manifest itself at some point? Like when I was 19 and suddenly preferred strong coffee over orange juice in the morning? Because I’ve kinda been an “adult” for a while now. And, there’s little of that learned behavior happening. Clearly, I need more in-depth tutoring in this field. But then… when one DOES follow through, one runs the annoying risk of having to ALSO be accountable, as people, for whatever reason, now EXPECT said person with aforementioned follow-through to CONTINUE to, you know… follow through. Dumb.
So. Many. Questions. While I’ll attempt to sort it all out, I’ll spare you my own personal agony, and instead, throw some more Cavecloth Cares love in your lap! (Yes! Cleverly change the subject and bait the reader with a far more interesting subject than my own bizarre inadequacies. I’m sure this tactic is like number 3 on the Top 10 “How to Blog” checklist.)
And here’s a quick reminder of what this Cavecloth Cares segment is all about: We go around Fayetteville, finding the faces of neighbors who are working tirelessly and often thanklessly to improve the lives of others and the community in which we live. We’ll snap a quick pic, ask them a few questions, and offer you a little look into what they’re doing to help make Fayetteville a fantastic place to live. We’ll post it all up on our blog (ta-da!!) in the hopes to drive awareness of just how powerful the efforts of a single NWA neighbor can be. Not to mention, we think they just plain-ol’ deserve some awesome praise.
So, here it is folks. The SECOND (boom… it’s like a thing now…) edition of Cavecloth Cares: “Featuring the best threads that make up the cloth of NWA.”
Cavecloth Cares Vol. 1 Ed. 2
Name: Michael Flowers, Ph.D, LPC
Title: Director of Clinical Services, Youth Bridge, 2012 to present
In a nutshell, what do you do, Michael?
“Youth Bridge is a nonprofit, community-based behavioral health provider specializing in counseling and substance abuse services for children and adolescents while partnering with regional schools, foster care, and juvenile courts in our service areas. I oversee all mental health/clinical programs for Youth Bridge from Fayetteville to Mountain Home. We have programs in outpatient, school-based (with summer and after-school programs), and residential treatment facilities.”
Wow. That’s a major undertaking. And what an incredible opportunity to impact so many lives in NWA and beyond. Aside from what you do, what do you love about what you do?
“I love that Youth Bridge is a great resource for our community, schools, and other key stakeholders. Our job is to listen to the community’s needs for treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues whether that is in schools, homes, or residential programs. I am extremely grateful for all of our Youth Bridge teammates, and I am honored to work with a high quality group of people who share the passion to help others. Also, I love that we can partner to serve our most important population, children and families in need. I am energized and feel most successful when a school reaches out to Youth Bridge for help regarding a school or child crisis, and we can respond to keep children safe. I enjoy providing training for our community partners to help them navigate the resources needed to help children. I am hopeful we can all work together with the same goal in mind, to improve the quality of our children’s lives by offering the best care and services we can. As a parent, and long time mental health professional, I am acutely aware of the needs children and families face. I am driven to provide consistency, quality, and professional services for our clients.”
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
“I am blessed with a wonderful and supportive wife who encourages and allows me to give a great amount of energy to the mission of Youth Bridge – to serve at-risk youth and their families. I want to honor her by making a positive impact on as many people as possible.”
What about your work helps you sleep at night?
“I am enthusiastically driven and resourceful, characteristic which can be exhausting, because, unfortunately, our work is never done.”
What is one thing about Fayetteville that inspires you to give back?
“I am invested in the community from Fayetteville’s at-risk families to our great schools. I have a personal investment because my children attend Fayetteville schools, and I am acutely aware of the immense challenges involved in providing treatment for mental illness, substance abuse and addictions in our community.”
What is one thing you’d like people to know about Youth Bridge that they may not already understand?
“We have provided services in nine counties throughout northern Arkansas for over 50 years.”
Youth Bridge is the only clinically and behaviorally focused organization in Northwest Arkansas that deals exclusively with youth and their families. Youth Bridge offers counseling and other support services with children and families in both residential and outpatient environments; offers multi-disciplinary professional teams for better results, and maintains a collaborative approach with other agencies. Youth Bridge does not turn away those who need help because of a payment issue. Youth Bridge encourages the community to join forces and participate through the many opportunities with advocacy, volunteerism and fundraising.
Thanks for all you do, Michael! Cavecloth cares about you!
Originally published March 10, 2013
I wrote this over three years ago. And, periodically, I make myself go back, and re-read. Perspective is powerful stuff, guys. But, seems I’m a tough nut. Often impermeable to perspective. (It’s an affliction. I’m working on it.) At any rate, it’s time again to self-medicate. Join me.
Holy glacial meltdown, caveman. It’s been quite the week. To liken it to a continental shift would clearly be hyperbolic, but considering this recent chain of events, I’ll take the risk. (Confession: I sorta just wanted to use the word “hyperbolic”. Who knew it actually is NOT an infectious disease? Unless of course, you liken my deplorable writing to an infection… Moving on.)
For those very (very) few of you who may have been paying attention (…unlikely…), I realized I told you that this next post would be coming from the newest, spiffiest, most-recently promoted member of the Cavecloth team, the Caveman himself. However, as we all know… or at least you do now… this little corner of the cave really is all about me. I could sit on my hide, idle, only so long. With all that’s rumbled these cave walls the past few days, I had to get my grubby little hands back on the keyboard and bore you with my introspective drivel. It’s okay. I’ll wait for you to cook up some bacon and return to this post with a strong resolve, and a full stomach, to make it through to the end.
If you’re not familiar with our intriguing, captivating, film script-worthy background story, you can read all about it here. And until this past Friday, that’s where the story was stuck. We were on a journey. We wanted to invite you along. But, up until this point, we’ve been somewhat noncommittal on exactly where we were going. (Don’t worry. We wont ask you to chip in on the gas we used during all those U-turns and detours.) But, NOW… well, geeze. We’re practically breaking the sound barrier with our progress. (See what I did there? Hyperbole. Hang in there. You’ll get it.)
Enough pointless buildup. Wilson, my brave, grounded, uber-responsible husband, after much contemplation, consultation, prayer and a huge leap of faith, committed to leave what he has known for nearly 15 years. A gifted salesman, and loyal sole-supporter of our family, he willingly submitted his resignation to the insurance industry. Or from my perspective, HOLY POOPBALLS! HE’S FLIPPIN’ HOME, YA’LL!
And, THAT is NOT hyperbole.
We’re still drifting in and out of the tides of shock, euphoria and fear. Mostly swimming in the euphoria… mostly. But, there’s this thing called money, see. And, this thing called a job, which he no longer has, has thus far provided that money, see. And well… not sure how that’s gunna all shake down. But, like I said, mostly euphoria.
So here’s the real deal. I met, crushed on, fell in love and married this really great guy. We had some babies. We had to pay the bills. And those bills got paid when he was on the road. After a number of years, we accepted his travel as necessary, and soon we became desensitized to what was essentially a roommate relationship. Through a series of events, which we are unhesitatingly certain were each and every one purposeful and necessary, our eyes and hearts were finally pried open and flooded with the intense reality that life was NOT what it should be.
And so, we jumped. We started this little biz called Cavecloth, and with high hopes, just jumped in.
What we didn’t realize at the time, however, is that we had only plunged in ankle deep. Bummer. If we wanted to catch those great waves… you know… the euphoric ones… we were going to have to find some open water. And if we couldn’t find it, we were going to have to make it. We’d have to break down whatever dams we had built in our lives that were keeping the full potential of those crashing, powerful, overwhelming waves of fulfillment from rushing in. And when it’s a breakdown you’re after, usually it only results after a crushing blow.
So, Wilson… he brought down the hammer. Friday of last week, with a deep resolve, and an even deeper breath, he bravely broke down that dam and knew that, whatever waters would rush toward him, he would, with great thanks and overwhelming thirst, face the welcome deluge.
I’ve had the weekend to soak in as much of the resulting runoff as I could. I’m still having to remind myself that this is real. That it’s Sunday afternoon, and he is in fact NOT upstairs packing his suitcase. He is NOT quietly avoiding me or the girls in an attempt to make this next goodbye less painful. And we are NOT going to have to chip away at each other just a bit more, losing a little more of our grip on what we love and respect in each other.
Okay. So I take back my comment that I shouldn’t liken this to a continental shift. This IS earth-shattering. Because, our world as we knew it is indeed washing away, and in its wake, there’s a flippin’ incredible horizon in front of us. (Cue Chariots of Fire.)
And here’s what I’m slowly beginning to realize. (Here’s where the ick rolls in with the tide.) These past years of living with my part-time lover, I have been closing myself off… a little bit at a time… protecting myself from getting hurt. I thought we were making it work. But, you can’t love someone while you’re fortifying the walls of your cave more and more, and gradually moving further and further from each other. Stone walls eventually make for stone hearts. And be dog gone if mine wasn’t getting durn near impenetrable. I had no idea how much I had shut him out simply because I was anticipating him leaving. Why get close? It’ll just hurt that much more the next time he’ll pull out of the driveway. We’ll get closer some day. But, not now…
Here’s the great new twist. The turning of the tide, if you will. (And you will.) Today, I awoke with a new reality… and be dog gone, a more porous heart. He is HOME. And I am free to let him into my heart again. These walls we’ve built… he began to demolish them with his huge act of faith last week. He’s now living to do the work he loves. Not working to live a life he loathes. And I couldn’t be happier for him. But, selfishly, I’m happy for ME. I’ve got every single day to repair those chips we’ve left in each other. It’s gunna take some time, but time is what we’ve got. Time in the tide. High or low, the tide’s gunna take us somewhere. We’ll undoubtedly have to swim like the dickens or trudge through the muck, but we’ll roll with it together, instead of gasping for air 200 miles apart.
So, we begin a new chapter in the cave. I thank each and every one of you who have supported and encouraged us throughout this evolving process. (See what I did there? Evolving? Cave? You’ll get it.) We couldn’t be more humbled and genuinely thankful to have the opportunity to do what we are truly passionate about. And our prayer for you today, as we give the Almighty thanks for this latest turn in our life journey, is that you too may find the courage and strength within to make even the smallest of changes to better your life. We only get one. After so many chips, it starts to get really distorted. And before long, it gets really tough to remember how incredibly beautiful life can be. But, the great thing is, repairing just a few of those little nicks can remind us that there’s a great big ocean of opportunity out there. Jump in… soften up just a bit. And see what happens.
Martin Tuller is the friendly face of the Fayetteville Visitors Center. But we like to call him Fayetteville’s Ambassador to the World.
As annoyingly cliche as it sounds, Fayetteville is so much more to us than just our home town. Six years ago, we pulled up our roots in Little Rock, packed up our little people and puttered into town in hopes of opening up a new chapter. After all, I spent four years getting my scholar on at the U of A, was a proud and oft times awkward member of the Razorback Marching Band (file that under “Random and Unnecessary Facts About Beth”)… I even met my husband here at a Dead Day party. So, it was inevitable that we’d eventually find our way back to the turf that nurtured us in our unencumbered youth.
We came back because we knew, of all the places we could have chosen to raise our tribe, Fayetteville was… home. The community. The funky local vibe. The diversity. The flair. The farmers. The parks. The trails. The food. The arts. The football. (Oh, the football…) But, most compelling, the people. And the longer we stay here, the more we fall in love with you, over and over again.
And so, with that, I’d like to welcome you to the first (hopefully of many) edition of our newest social media venture. As a small business in a community that is so focused on supporting our neighbors, we wanted to launch a series of exposés, if you will, to simply feature and give a great big shout out to the best (and often times unseen) efforts of Fayetteville.
It’s still pretty organic, guys. I can’t lie. I’d love to tell you we’ve got a wrinkle-free plan. But, you’d all see through it pretty quickly, anyway. (Not to mention, I’d HATE to have the accountability that comes along with promising things I simply can’t deliver. Which… basically applies to ANYTHING I do.) But, the nuts and bolts are simple. We go around Fayetteville, finding the faces of neighbors who are working tirelessly and often thanklessly to improve the lives of others and the community in which we live. We’ll snap a quick pic, ask them a few questions, and offer you, our six readers, a little look into what they’re doing to help make Fayetteville a fantastic place to live. We’ll post it all up on our blog (ta-da!!) in the hopes to drive awareness of just how powerful the efforts of a single NWA neighbor can be. Not to mention, we think they just plain-ol’ deserve some awesome praise.
Here’s the deal. In launching this Cavecloth venture (this insane, risky, cliff-diving, rollercoaster, questionable venture) we’ve learned many things.
BUT, the lesson that rings loudest right now is that, above all other goals we may be seeking as a business, we’ve got to remain centered in community. And regardless how it may or may not impact our bottom line, we have an opportunity as a local business to serve as a voice for the good. And that’s really all we want to do.
So, here it is folks. The first edition of Cavecloth Cares: “Featuring the best threads that make up the cloth of NWA.”
(See what I did there? You’re welcome.)
Cavecloth Cares Vol. 1 Ed. 1
Visitor Services Manager, Fayetteville Visitors Bureau, August 2014 to present
In a nutshell, what do you do, Martin?
“In addition to providing information on local attractions, advice on what to see and do, restaurant recommendations and general knowledge of the city and Northwest Arkansas, I am responsible for the buying and merchandising of the Fayetteville Visitors Center gift shop.”
That’s great! What a unique opportunity to meet and greet the faces that come to experience our great town. Aside from what you do, what do you love about what you do?
“I love sharing my love of my hometown with visitors and locals alike. Particularly, I enjoy sharing the history of our town and all the changes I have seen. Also, being able to meet people from all over the country and the world is always an incredible experience.”
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
“The love of my husband of 36 years, our comfortable surroundings. Gratitude for another day of sharing life with the many folks who mean so much to us, and the wonder of what the day ahead could bring.”
What about your work helps you sleep at night?
“The smiles on visitors’ faces after my interaction with them. I know they left with not only a beautiful memory of our city, but if in some small way, I enhanced their visit, that makes me proud to do what I do.”
What is one thing about Fayetteville that inspires you to give back?
“The diversity of our community and the accepting and inclusive nature of most of our citizens. The co-mingling of different cultures and values impact our city in such a positive way.”
What is one thing you’d like people to know about the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau that they may not already understand?
“I wish more locals knew about the changes in our retail gift shop over the past two years. We are truly a one-stop shop for local food, chocolate, t-shirts, razorback merchandise, post cards, books, souvenirs and gifts.”
The Fayetteville Visitors Center is located on the southwest corner of the Fayetteville Downtown Square. Stop in. Say hi to Martin, and give him a high five for being a fantastic ambassador for our fair town. Stick around and browse the shop while you’re there. You may even find some Cavecloth you just can’t live without.
Thanks for all you do, Martin! Cavecloth cares about you!
So, there was a time (in land far, far away) where I think I remember I used to contribute to a blog. This blog. And it was fun. And on the very rare occasion, fun-ny. And even if it wasn’t, the eight people kind enough to follow along (six of them blood relatives), in generous acts of morale-boosting solidarity, kept lying to me to convince me otherwise.
And then, a kid got a stomach bug one day.
So, I delayed my next contribution.
And then, my upstairs bath was awarded Biohazard Level 8. And unless I actually addressed the pink ring in the toilet and the microscopic creatures that were just unashamedly reproducing in my shower… I mean, right THERE. Right there in MY SHOWER. Bold. I’m just sayin’… Anyway, unless I addressed this mess, the next step would be to just seal the damn thing off, mark it with yellow police tape and pray for the safety of the hazmat team that would have to deal with it eventually. (And believe me. I considered it. I weighed the pros and cons of that decision for a good 48 hours. After all, a family of four can easily survive sharing a bathroom. My mom grew up in a house of eleven. Three bedrooms. One bath. You do the math.) Regardless, I eventually “cleaned” it. This process was basically a symphony of heavy sighs, a litany of “What in the WORLD!!!” and “How… HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?” and a strict workout of curling my lip in disgust whilst closing my eyes and hoping my frantic wiping was putting an end to the bacteria’s indecent exposure.
So, I didn’t contribute anything that day either.
Days turned into weeks turned into more weeks turned into yet another eerily similar scene of me entering my bathroom and yet again screaming at the horror that had somehow returned. (Seriously, ya’ll. I have GOT to get my domestic poop storm under control.) Regardless, I’ve digressed. Reality is, I just… quit. I gave in. I bonked. I blew it. And, as we all know, the more time you commit to quitting, the further away you get from rallying. (I know, I know. Deep.)
So, that sort of brings us to the present.
I mean. Yes. Okay. There are a couple skipped pages here… the whole moving a startup from our garage, opening a retail store, trying to not (entirely) screw up two kids, running a business (… with your spouse… holy gravy… that’s a blog series in and of itself… yet again, I digress…) and in general just trying to maintain some (often times false) semblance of balance in the game of wife/mom/business owner/dog owner/home owner/tequila consumer. Those little things may have played a tiny roll in my cyber absence. And YET! Excuses, excuses. Tsk, tsk, Beth. Tsk. Tsk.
But look! I’m back. I’m back to plop down more deplorable ramblings on your screen. I think you guys (all six of you… I know I’ve lost at least two in the radio silence) will find it will most likely be as if we’ve never skipped a beat. The contributions will be just as awkward, mediocre and ambiguous as before. I’d love to be able to tell you how this recently concluded sabbatical has a neatly packaged “moral to the story.” Something that you can open and “ooh” and “ahh” over and then swathe yourself up in the quilt of “here’s how I have emerged stronger and wiser” that I wrapped up for you.
Nope. It’s just me. Same as ever. I mean… minus the whole newfound understanding that cleaning this house is pointless as long as anyone else is determined to live here. They refuse to move out. And they’re pretty damn adamant about eating… every flipping day.
Oh! But there is this. Yesterday, (it’s hot as Hades here, you guys… and I’m pretty much done with being hot, and eternally smelling of… well… horse and tea-tree oil) I decided to drop everything (yes, including bathroom bacteria bashing) and take the minions to the pool. More for my sake, than for their happiness. (Hot, ya’ll. It’s just flipping hot.) On the way, the sky opens up and dumps its contents upon us in furious haste. And I of course immediately jump into my cynical suit, emit several heavy sighs (I’ve got lots of practice with those), throw up my hands at the red light, and heave a “Perfect. Juuuuuuuuust per-FECT.” (“And the award for most dramatic emotional immaturity as a parent goes to…”) Just then, a tiny mouse from the back seat squeaks, “Mom. I LIKE the rain.”
Yes, you, the nine year-old, take the gold in demonstrating healthy perspective in the midst of your snarky-minded mother, yet again. Showoff.
I soldier on. I push the accelerator, and continue to drive through the downpour toward the pool. And guess what? All my snarky cynicism just melted. It was washed away and carried off with the gushing rain water into the nearest culvert, and I was left with a renewed spirit and appreciation for the wisdom of a child. It was beautiful.
OKAY NOW STOP.
You and I BOTH know that didn’t happen. *snort*
Right. So what DID happen was pretty cool, though. As the Jeep plows through the rain-covered streets, the clouds part, the sun pops out, and as we take a right into the parking lot, wonder of wonders, no rain. (I was still crabby, mind you. Let’s not get carried away that there was some sort of miracle. Please…) We get through the gate, the girls plunk into the deep end and I plunk onto a lounge chair. I can’t be bothered to actually do the thing I set out to do when we left the house – to actually swim. Ugh. I’m far too bothered for that. I’ll just continue to sweat and emit my barn-yard stink. That will show the world.
As I lean back and marinate, I look up. And, I miss it for a hot second, but then see the most amazing rainbow spanning the entirety of the sky. And you better know I was all, “Dude!! It’s a double rainbow! All the waaaaay!” In that moment, I succeeded in embarrassing both my pool-bobbing children. Score one for mom. However, superficial victories aside, I was enthralled. In that moment, while my kids scrambled out of the pool to get a better view, we couldn’t seem to NOT put everything aside and just stare. In that moment, it may not have completely washed away, but my cynicism did sustain a palpable gut check. In that moment, there was awe.
And, I know. I know I said there was no lesson here. But, dadgummit, I’m weak. There’s a lesson. Gosh, is there a lesson! I think you’re all smart enough to piece it together, despite the rubbish writing in which it’s been presented to you. But because I revel in the obvious, I’ll go ahead a lay it out for you.
There’s always a storm. It may be ahead of us, and we can feel the barometer dropping from where we stand. And it’s hard to breathe. Or worse, we don’t even see it coming. But it’s there.
Or, God help us, we may actually be in the middle of it. Just doing our best to stay strong… or put on a good front, at least. The storm can make us cynical. Harden us. Stoicize us. (Is that a word??) It can cause us to rationalize that life is HARD. It’s just. Too. Hard. And trying to keep up is just impossible. There’s no way we can keep up at work, at home… keep our marriage in tact… keep the kids happy, fed, clean, sane, agreeable, at peace… alive… AND continue to do other things… like writing (or, cleaning the bathrooms for that matter).
But finally, the storm may be behind us. We just may have survived. We may have pushed the gas pedal, not knowing why or how or with any faith at all that it will get us through to the end. But it does. And there are people along the way who lifted us up. And we probably rolled our eyes at them, and we probably took them for granted at the time. But they were there. And they survived with us. And we all got to see the promise that was waiting for us. We may have even tried to ignore it at first. Dismissed it. But, despite our smelly persistence to just stink up the joint with our bad attitudes and refusal to see the unabashed reality that there is a bigger purpose, and our role in life is far greater than ourselves, the good Lord never gives up on His promise. The rainbow is out there. Just waiting on us to see it. And there is awe. And it washes over us. And that shell of “life is too hard” breaks, and is carried away with the storm. And, even if for a little while, we’re back on track.
So, here’s to finding the rainbow again. Here’s to boring you again. Here’s to ignoring proliferating micro bugs and pecking out nonsense on my keyboard. Here’s to the storms, both past and brewing. And here’s to the tequila that sees us through it all.