One of the brightest moments for me is right now. This week...the holidays, the superbowl of non profit work. My greatest job comes from acting as a facilitator for giving. I love being able to give people a way to give in a way that is meaningful to them- whether that means filling a stocking, buying a gift, or providing dinner for a family. I often feel that, as the middle man, I get the see the best parts of both parties, the giver and the receiver. I love the relief in a parents face when they find out that they are getting help , without asking, for the holidays. I also love watching my staff work together for long days, putting together gifts for families, and literally laughing all the way. We are very blessed to be in a community (global community) where people ARE good.- Marci Volmer, Area Director Boys and Girls Clubs of Snohomish County

Marci is one of the incredible beings I had in my leadership class.  This exchange between people, that Marci describes above, is the essence of leadership, it is the way we exchange something with each other. It is our attitude, our intention, the way we receive and "see" the heart of each other. May 2015 be filled with thoughtful interactions. Wishing you joy.- Sarri

Every day in many communities across the country Boys and Girls Clubs are providing a safe place for kids before and after school while their parents work. These crucial settings help with homework, snacks, fun activities, and keep many many kids safe. If you would like to learn more, click here.


I asked a couple of people to share with me some of the highlights from the places that make a big difference.  I wanted to share with you some heart-messages for the holidays.


One of our clients (age 4) received her first wheel chair while staying with us in the shelter. Her mother  always had to carry her until she was able to get safe and stable. Everyone in the shelter (advocates, other residence, all the other children in the shelter) stood, clapped and sang as she drove herself around in her amazing chair.  A wild party ensued and the smiles could be seen from the moon.  She was free, finally free to be a child and she was so very happy. In our new shelter we now have ADA rooms available which we did not have at the old location.  This beautiful life changing moment for this precious soul would not have happened if we had not moved into our new beautiful facility. It was indeed a bright moment. - Vicci L Hilty, Executive Director, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County

Restoration is the most important task people can do. Restoring your heart, or a relationship, or a community, or people who need support, restoring value, the earth, a company, or endangered animals, there are so many opportunities to make a difference. Every single day at Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, they restore moms and their children.

We all benefit from acts of restoration.
If you want our world to be a better a place, you must engage in acts of restoration. Much of my work with people is about restoration. Sometimes people find themselves "giving up", not thinking restoration is possible. This joy that touches the moon as Vicci describes, is what happens when we get past the barriers, past the "I can't", and find new possibility. We get our wheels under us.
As we move into 2015, prioritize all acts of restoration.- Sarri

If you would like to learn more about Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, please click here.


I asked a couple of people to share with me some of the highlights from the places that make a big difference.  I wanted to share with you some heart-messages for the holidays.


 He is a youth that tends to be a bit of a show off, acting like he doesn’t need anyone or anything, like nothing matters and he doesn’t care.  We were all worried about him.  I got to observe him patiently sitting on a bench trying to lure the squirrel that seems to reside in our courtyard to him.  The young man had placed some nuts on his shoe and he sat patiently, silently coaxing this squirrel to his foot.  When the squirrel finally did run up and grab a nut the smile on this kid’s face was priceless.  And then to watch him run in to share his excitement about this little event with his fellow youth and staff – well it made me feel like he was able to reconnect with the world.  Such a small thing, and such joy that it brought. - Cassie Franklin, CEO Cocoon House

Reconnecting with the world. To make a connection or reconnection, we journey outward. We don't know if someone will be there to greet us. I have been both the  squirrel and the boy at times.
It is a great practice to recognize when someone is waiting for notice them. 
The kindness of your connection can offer so much.
It was a long time ago that I started Cocoon House. I can't imagine what would have happened if the Lion's club did not step forward and offer to buy a house to start the shelter for teens- way back in 1991. They mortgaged their Bingo Parlor for a total stranger.  And changed the lives of thousands of kids for 24 years! What a powerful connection. You never know what happens when you put a nut on your foot.
More recently, I had a friend from long ago reach out to me on Facebook. He started with an apology, something he wanted to deliver to me. It was the nut on his foot.
This was not an apology I was waiting for or seeking, but I realized receiving it was very important.  I accepted the nut in the loving spirit it was offered. 
We get so many chances to create connections. 

Keep putting the nut on your foot! Extraordinary things happen. - Sarri

To learn more about Cocoon House,  please click here


4 Ways to Lower Holiday Stress This Season

I think of the holiday season as "boundary season". Truly we practice our boundaries all the time, every day. If you need improve your boundaries at work and at home, join me for my next workshop Sunday Nov. 16 in Seattle. Learn ways to deal with boundary pushers, challenges, and increasing your own wellbeing- REGISTER HERE

Many people notice a higher level of stress all through the holiday season. Here are 4 skills you can practice during the holiday season to lower your stress.

Tip #1 Inclusion is less stressful than exclusion. The true meaning of the holidays are extinguished when people are made to feel unwanted and uninvited. This is a good time of year to practice kindness.

Tip #2: Focus on appreciation rather than criticism. Negative talk is toxic. Be thoughtful about what you say.

Tip #3. Leave time to not be rushed. If you have "too much to do", take responsibility to take some things off your list so you have "less to do" and more time to be. You will find this far more satisfying.

Tip #4: It is not your job to meet everyone's expectations and demands. Be brave and clarify what is ok for you and what is not.

Sharpen your boundary tool set and build boundaries where you need them at work and at home Sunday November 16 in Seattle. Register Here.

What is a boundary? drawing blog

I am teaching my Transform Your Boundaries® Workshop in Seattle on Nov. 16th. 1:30-4:30
It is great for anyone who wants a wellness boost, especially before the holiday season.
If you are a therapist, this workshop is approved for 3 CEUs.
If you work in healthcare or human services, use the code HEALTHY for a $25 discount.
Other deals:  Group of 3 for the price of 2. (deal ends Nov. 3)
Hope you can attend. Most frequent feedback- "I wish it were longer!"

You Are Not What Happened to You

Today Judge Kenneth Watson reversed a 35 year sentence against a 24year old mom who had her child murdered by a violent partner. This heart-wrenching story is one of many where women who are abused are jailed because they "allowed" their child to be abused. In most of these cases, the women did no such thing. This Judge showed tremendous courage and compassion. The mom had entered guilty plea and served 2 years of her sentence, when the Judge and jury heard her testimony of the violence and the day her daughter was murdered, the Judge intervened to reverse her plea.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Learn more, do more. #TransformYourBoundaries

The Truth about Pain Meds

The Truth about Pain Meds

When you have a serious health condition, you will find yourself overwhelmed by decisions. Boundaries are made of yeses and noes and it is hard to know if one medical option is a yes or no for you, if you don’t have enough information.

I want you to be the best medical advocate for yourself and your family when it comes to pain medication.

 In my book, Maggie is married to someone who has lost much of the quality of his life to pain medication. Though all the characters in my book are invented, the truth is that I have some experience seeing the devastating impact of chronic use of pain medication. I’m a therapist. I am not a doctor and I don’t prescribe pain medication. I have a limited point of view, from 28 years experience working with people as a therapist. I have extensive experience helping people recover from depression. I’ve worked collaboratively with medical professionals and people with chronic health issues.

Very few people seem to be aware that long-term use of pain medication causes depression. For people who were struggling with depression before ever being prescribed pain meds, their depression will become much worse and much harder to recover from.

If you are severely depressed and taking pain medication, you can’t recover from depression while taking pain medication. We have to get you off the pain meds first.

Any time you are prescribed anything, it is a good idea to find out if there is any link to depression from the medication.

When you have chronic health issues, serious life style adjustments must be made. It can be very hard for people to wrap their lives around the healthcare that they need. Psychotherapists can help people adjust to the changes and work with the grief that can come from the many adjustments needed.

When pain meds are prescribed, other therapies should always be prescribed. Some examples may include: physical therapy, acupuncture, meditation classes, chiropractor, and massage. If your doctor has not prescribed these things, you must ask for them.

I have also seen doctors prescribe massage or physical therapy, and people refuse to follow through, or they go for awhile and stop. If you have chronic pain, you may need the support and guidance of physical therapy to move what you can move.

Do not believe everything you read online about pain medication. I have been reading things online from very popular websites and I am shocked about what is not being said about the dangers of the medications and the relationship to depression.

I also do not see mention or warnings about suicide risks. Yes, people can become suicidal while on pain medication. While they are taking the medication as prescribed, and they are not feeling the physical pain, some people have become so depressed they have killed themselves.

Ask your doctor for the safest way to use the medication prescribed. 
Be open to alternatives and things that help bring peace of mind such as yoga, Qigong or meditation. Look into somatic therapy, hydro- therapy, and find people to work with that help you feel comfortable and safe.
Work with a therapist for extra support and to help monitor your emotional wellbeing.  
 Anyone taking pain medication for extended time needs support finding as much wellbeing as possible, one day at a time. There may be medications, or alternatives to pain medications that are helpful to you. Ask about what else you can try to see if it is effective enough for you.

In the face of chronic health issues, sometimes people feel defeated. It may not feel possible to follow through on the supportive therapies and classes that can help. A great amount of encouragement and assistance may be needed to get someone to take steps beyond pain medication. This can be a challenge for the entire family. It may help to have the whole family learn ways to encourage and support the person to make the lifestyle adjustments that must be made. Some people find relief in art and music, and spiritual development.

I have seen the greatest outcomes for people who have become "seekers" and been willing try anything. 

How do you say no to people who get angry?

How do you say no to people who get angry at you for saying no? This is a question I received in writing. Every now and then, I will post one of the great questions I receive by email or in workshops. 
                                                  Tom Petty 
Saying No when you need to is an essential life skill, leadership skill, and wellness skill.
When other people get angry about your boundary, it means they can see your boundary.  Stand up and take a bow.  You have been heard! It does not mean you should change your boundary for them. But very often, people do.

It’s normal for other people to try to push and manipulate your boundary.  Expect it.  It’s helpful to think ahead about how the people in your life might try to manipulate your boundary.  If you were going on a trip to somewhere warm and sunny, you would pack your bag for the weather you expect.  You may pack sun lotion, a bathing suit, sandals, a hat, etc.  It is useful to “pack” for your boundary as well.  Think about what “might” happen.  Expect to be pushed.

Say “no” and remember the anger is not yours.  If I can anticipate it, I may say, “I’m sorry if this is disappointing, but I have decided this is No for me.” I have written a little song that I sing to myself about being sorry if I disappoint. Whenever I have a No that is hard for me say, I sing this song to myself. It helps me.

Of course if you are not a songwriter, you could sing Tom Petty's song I Won't Back Down:

Sometimes people use anger because they want you to change your No to a Yes. If they are trying to use anger to change your No, remember, they are not in control of your Yes and No decisions. You are.

You are not causing the anger. You are not in control of their feelings.

If someone wants to be angry, he can go take care of the anger away from you. You could say, “I can see that you are upset. My No is not changing on this topic, but I’m going to give you some space to take care of your feelings.” Do not try to manage their feelings about your boundaries. You are allowed to have boundaries. You decide where they are.

Your job is to take care of your own emotions.

Sometimes we want to make everything OK for everyone. Self-soothing – managing our own feelings – is an important life-skill. 

Sometimes an angry person is not willing to use other solutions. She wants you to do something, and you have said No. You may suggest there are other options to consider.

Anger is often made of other emotions, such as sadness or fear or a combination. It helps to acknowledge someone’s feelings, but please do not try to change their feelings, just as other people do not change your boundaries.

The Difference between Me and Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer

Romeo in his zen-mind
The Olson family dog after eating a half pan of something Erika baked....not for him!

The Difference between Me and Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer

If you are a fan of Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, you know that while he is world-famous as a dog trainer, he is actually a boundary teacher. He actually uses the word “boundary” on his website more than I use it on mine. If you don’t believe me, check out

I love watching Cesar’s show. I never tire of watching him teach boundaries to humans, again and again. Teaching boundary skills is so darn rewarding because like Cesar, I see results immediately. Like Cesar, I empower humans to achieve balance in their lives.

Of course, teaching boundaries to humans interacting with dogs is different from teaching humans how to use boundaries with other humans.

#1- Dogs go into a calm, submissive state when you set boundaries with them appropriately. Unfortunately, humans do not. In fact, when you set boundaries with humans, sometimes they have a fit. The emotional storm can vary in intensity. No need to stand there and watch the storm! However, it is essential that you not allow your boundaries to be manipulated or moved based on emotions.

#2- No leash. Sorry, I don’t have any kind of leash to give you to when you set boundaries with a human. But in a three-hour workshop, I can equip you with every skill you will need to set boundaries effectively with people.

#3-I don’t recommend giving humans a hug right after you set a boundary with them. Try giving a hug to a teenager right after you said No to something and you’ll find out what I mean. Humans get confused and think you’re apologizing for having a boundary. They imagine that you don’t really intend to stick to your boundary.

#4- While you may have one dog or several dogs, most of us have lots and lots of human relationships.

It’s very stressful to have a dog that is out of control. The same is true when we don’t use our boundaries to manage relationships with other people. The stress can be overwhelming. But, when you are ready, you can find balance. When you learn the techniques and use the tools, you will feel relief.

Did you visit Cesar’s site? Were you surprised to see success stories about parenting and overcoming disabilities? It can be hard to see all the invisible ways that boundaries are at work in our lives and in our jobs. Learning how to use your boundaries to take care of you in any demanding situation will change your life for the better.

Are you ready to learn more? Come to a workshop. We use my book, Transform Your Boundaries, and I walk you through this process.

Upcoming Open Workshops:

This workshop is approved for continuing education credits for social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors.
CEUs have just been granted for Oregon… see you there soon.

Moving People Forward with Kate

I’m doing Transform Your Boundaries® Workshops on the road, training a variety of people in professions working intensively with people. This interview is with Kate Grossman McVay, who I believe is truly masterful at transforming organizations and communities by moving people forward together. I am honored to say she is my friend. When I met her many years ago, she had stepped in to clean up a huge mess in an organization. She won me over with her diligence, teamwork, ability to see a better future, and honesty.

Sarri: Share a little bit about the breadth of your work.

Kate: I have been engaged in work with youth and families for almost 30 years.  I began my career at a Community Center in Chicago, working in an immigrant community to develop youth leadership and job training programs.  When I came to Seattle in the 1990s, I became involved in developing and operating residential programs for homeless youth. For the last 12 years, I have worked for the University of Washington’s Northwest Institute for Children and Families and the Casey Foundation, doing program evaluation and public policy analysis around issues relating to children and families.

Sarri: You now live on Whidbey Island with your husband Pat. How old is your son?
Kate: My son Reilly is 11 years old and entering middle school in the fall.

How long have you been the Executive Director of Mother Mentors?

I have been the Director of Mother Mentors of Whidbey Island since January of 2014.

What is it about Mother Mentors that attracted you to work with them?

I really love the idea of neighbors helping neighbors as opposed to an “expert” telling someone what to do, or in our case, how to parent.

If you could look back to your younger self and give her advice, what would you tell her (knowing what you know now)?

I would advise my younger self to figure out what specific types of work are most meaningful, then to strive to reach the stars with that work and don’t give up until you have achieved your goals.   Although I have had a very rewarding career, I have sometimes shied away from leadership positions, even though I knew I could do the work.  Also, finding ways in which to achieve a sensible work-life balance is important. I did not realize this when I was young; I just worked all the time.

What has been your greatest challenge or the life lesson you have personally danced with in your career?

My greatest challenge has been learning to have confidence in myself as a leader and trusting in my own abilities.  It is amazing how, when you speak with confidence, other people respond positively.

What has helped you thrive doing social work for this many years?

I think having a strong sense of compassion for people and realizing that we all have much in common has helped me continue the work. I also think having a sense of humor and being able to step back from the work have been critical to avoiding burnout.

Avoiding burnout is an essential skill if you work with people. Anyone who works with people extensively is at high risk. My workshop is designed to address this issue.

Upcoming Transforming Your Boundaries® Workshops:

October 17: Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma * CEU’s for licensed therapists and associates; MFT’s, MHC’s, LICSW’s, LASW’s
October 18: Tacoma, WA

Stress and Leadership

In the book 'Leadership and the Art of Struggle', Steven Snyder has interviewed leaders across sectors and industries, all facing challenges. He concludes that many executives struggle with resilience when they are thrown 'off balance'. He describes all of the symptoms I describe when we become symptomatic without sufficient self-care skills.
The truth is that our boundaries are the main operating system for our self-care. When leaders were out of 'balance" as he describes, he saw symptoms of hair loss, sleeplessness, depression, anger, self-doubt.
These symptoms undermine the ability to dig out of extreme challenges. In the face of challenges, leaders and executives will find themselves unable to problem solve and provide support and leadership to their team.
This is one of the many reasons why I have devoted myself to teaching people about their own boundary system and how to use it. This is your main operating system to problem solve, face challenges when there aren't solutions in sight, and give you the strength to persevere, while minimizing the potential symptomatic negative impact to you.

Join me for a Transform Your Boundaries® workshop this Friday, July 11 in Mukilteo.

Upcoming open workshops:
July 11- Mukiteo
August 1- Edmonds
October 16- PLU, workshop for continuing education credits for LMFT's, LICSW's, LASW, LMHC's. and associates.
October 17- Tacoma

3 Steps to Do Your Big Things That Matter and manage your sh#*-list

If you want to accomplish your mission, your purpose, get the things that really matter to you done, it requires setting boundaries on your sh#*-list.

Someone attending a workshop raised her hands to her face, set her hands like walls around her face and said, "I am trying to focus on what I really want to do, not just my list of things I need to do."

She spoke a brilliant truth.

It is easy to get consumed by the things that are due, the stuff on the list. It requires setting boundaries on that stuff so you can get to what really matters, your Really Matters list.
#1 Write the Really Matters list every day. (RM next to it on the list you make for your day)

You have to know your things that really matter for the year, set your vision, and then break that down to month, week and days. Just important to know what do you need to do to actually be doing the stuff that Really Matters.

Usually people keep track by writing down all the little things, like mail this, return that call, send this information somewhere, but they don't write down the Big Things that Really Matters to them personally to get done. Always write the Really Matters list. If it is on the list, you will get to it.
#2 Apply your strength and best energy of the day to your Really Matters list. Save the little things that don't matter like paying bills, scheduling things, for the time of day when you are worn out and tired. Or you only have 20 minutes to do something, knock things off the little stuff list.
#3. Allow yourself flow time with your Really Matters list. Flow is uninterrupted long periods of time. If I am working on my Really Matters, there is no email, phone checking, or intermittent conversation.
Flow is blocked on my calendar so I can get the time to actually do what Really Matters.

I have been reading Hillary Clinton's book Hard Choices, her memoir as Secretary of State. The book clearly spells out the boundaries that were required for her to accomplish the Big Things that mattered to her in this role. She had to use boundaries all the time to not allow her time and attention to be distracted and consumed. As you read it is clear she was working with a vision of the future. It takes boundaries to move a vision forward.
The same is true for all of us. We all have a Big Things That Matter to Us, a vision or purpose. It requires boundaries to accomplish anything.

If you would like to attend a workshop and focus on your boundaries, we will talk about things that Really Matter and all the ways to use your boundaries to support you. These are the next open workshops: Click here to register.
July 11- Mukilteo      
August 1- Edmonds            
October 17- Pacific Lutheran University-Training for therapists for CEU's 
October 18- Tacoma
In the next 3 weeks, July-August 55 people who work in human services in Snohomish County are taking the workshop in privately scheduled groups. I am so excited! In September, I have been invited to return to Island County Human Services and provide CEU workshops.

Are You a People-Person

Are you a people-person?
People-persons work with people and really enjoy working with people. We use any excuse really to get-together with others, we know relationships are a contact sport.

People-persons tend to pick professions where there is high contact with others - think health care, education, human services, service oriented companies where people matter - the list is long.

While we seek to work in places where people matter, we do tend to have one vulnerability with people immersion, and that is how do we take care of our ourselves when there are so many others to focus on?

Our attention tends to go outward onto others. We are good at noticing others, and after all, that is what makes us people-persons, noticing and caring about others.

However, when our attention is on other people for the majority of the day, it can be hard to notice what is happening to us. Did I stop to eat today? Did I just say yes to something that I don't have time to do?
Did I just "over-help" someone?

It can be hard to take care of yourself when your attention is on others. For some people-persons, when their people job ends during the day, they come to a family that needs their attention and care as well. People-persons may find themselves needed by others at work and at home.

If you are a people-person, I have designed a workshop to help you use your boundaries to take care of yourself, while you care for others.

Some people-persons find themselves struggling with their boundaries in the face of other people.

Join me for one of my upcoming Transform Your Boundaries® workshop and in 3 hours, you will focus on how to stay connected to you while you work/ live with others. These are skills that can be used at home and at work.

Limited seating to ensure a personal experience pre-register to attend:$150/person includes book, card deck of boundary skills, and a 3 hour workshop intensive.
June 27- Everett
July 11-Mukilteo
August 1- Edmonds

Boundaries and the Psyche

'It is appropriate to respect the boundaries of the psyche- sometimes we are just not ready to see what we will see, or feel what we will feel.'  Pat Schneider, How The Light Gets In
Our boundaries have one job, to take care of us. Sometimes protecting the psyche is necessary.
Other times, our boundaries , our Yes and No -have pulled the curtain aside and we know, see, and feel what is true for us at a very deep level. If we ignore this, suppress it, smother it, there will be consequences for our well being. Knowing what we know is our wisdom and it is life-changing.

We will explore how your boundaries can take care of you at my upcoming workshop: Transform Your Boundaries
June 27- Everett             July 11- Mukilteo                          August 1- Edmonds
Register online

The Lunch Boundary

"And lunch is important. It is the separation between the front of the day and the back, a narrow strip between stretches of work." Peter Miller, Lunch At The Shop.

This book is a truly a call to honor ourselves by stopping for lunch. Not a long lunch, and not a lunch out. Peter describes ways to stop and eat homemade food, and to make it a ritual and opportunity for connecting with your community of co-workers. He describes his daily lunch in his office with his co-workers. Their focus on coming together for lunch is incredibly brief each day, but packed with ritual, connection, and sustains them as community.

Peter owns the shop Peter Miller in Seattle. His leadership to make everyone pause for a connection and healthy food has had a profound impact on the culture of his business.

He gives step by step instructions to be intentional and truly thoughtful about each part of the lunch, focusing on simplicity, connecting to those nearest to you,  committed to touching the senses, and making the experience worthwhile.

As I continue to recover from workaholism, and set boundaries, I am learning to make soups and inviting people to enjoy lunch with me.

I encourage you to find a way to hold boundaries around eating a healthy lunch each day and sharing it with others.

A home for your soul

Your first task is to find the place where your soul is at home. Marsilio Ficino, 15th century philosopher

I believe when you focus on your boundaries and make a true connection to your Yes and No, you are making a home for your soul with you.

An Independent Bookstore in Business for 40 Years

Josh has owned Moonraker Books in Langley Washington for 40 years. To read more about this independent woman and her independent bookstore, click here.
I am so honored that she is the first store to carry my book. Thanks Josh, for supporting independent authors. Every writer from Whidbey Island has a book in her store.

A bra with boundaries

My daughter Aliza sent me this inspiring story of an 18 year old girl who is setting boundaries on the bra industry. Go Megan Grassell ! Read about Yellowberry

Book Release Party in my Pajamas!

Transform Your Boundaries book went live on Kindle last night at 1:12 am.  I truly hope this book helps people.

The Transform Your Boundaries workshop is highly interactive and I encourage you to be interactive with the book and journal along with the chapter questions. I’d love to read your journal notes. Feel free to share them with me. I got so excited about the journaling aspect of the book, I included blank pages for your thoughts in the softbound book. In the ebook, you will find the journal questions at the end of each chapter.

The journaling aspect makes this book great to use in discussion groups such as; book clubs, family read for adults, recovery groups for adults, office book read,  and therapy groups.

Thank you for spreading the word, buying the book, and telling others about it.-Sarri

Defy Limitations

I met with a  colleague to schedule my workshop for the professionals at her company. She said, "Sarri, the irony is that I think of you as someone who has pushed boundaries and changed things in many areas for the last 25 years. Isn't it ironic that you are doing workshops on boundaries?"
I understand exactly what she is saying.
The truth is that we do often limit ourselves with how we deal with our boundaries. Sometimes we can feel stuck or exhausted by the way we manage our boundaries.
Often boundary work may involve, ironically, defying limitations we impose on ourselves.