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Upton women celebrate 5 years of Life Makeover Group


Reprinted courtesy of the Upton Town Crier

By Bonnie Adams, Staff Reporter

Life is a series of changes, of course, especially as we get older. But for many women, perhaps nothing is as daunting as leaving the work place and becoming a full time mother.

Upton resident Jennifer Copley Downing knows this from personal experience. Before her twin boys were born six years ago, she had previously worked full time as a personal development coach and consultant for many businesses. Leaving that world and going into full time motherhood for a time was quite a seismic change for her, to say the least.

Gradually she started meeting other mothers in town and joining playgroups and the like but she still craved something more. She desired a way that would allow her to meet with other women (alone – without the kids) and talk about the changes and challenges of continuing an interesting and fulfilling life.

Jennifer decided to see if any local women would be interested in forming a “Life Makeover” group with her. The group would not be a support group, per se, but more as a way for women to connect and share their strengths and ideas in an effort to make positive, forward changes in their lives.

The basis of the group’s discussion would include information and exercises from the work of Cheryl Richardson, a nationally renowned personal development coach, who has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, among others. Jennifer had previously trained with Ms. Richardson and considered her a personal mentor. Following Ms. Richardson’s guidelines, as well as using other coaching materials, would be a way for the group to really stay focused on their goals, Jennifer felt.

“The mission was not just a group of women getting together and socializing,” Jennifer said, “but more as a way to help each other take action and improve the quality of our lives.”

After Jennifer put flyers out in mailboxes near her neighborhood, a number of women responded, intrigued by the ideas she outlined. A few women came in and out of the group at first, then after six months or so, a core of eight women formed, which still exists today, 5 years later. And to a woman these members – Jennifer, along with Kerri Cannistraro, Bernadette Denson, Carol Greer, Liz Kadra, Jean Houskeeper, Deb Lazar, and Lea Southwick – all say the impact of this group on their lives has been amazing.

All of the women in this particular group are mothers, and some of them work part time as well. Through their five years together they have helped each other thorough many life changes as individual members have dealt with births and adoptions of children, deaths of parents, moving into new homes, and making decisions on taking the next step of their careers. Together they have shared and encouraged each other so much that they now consider themselves now not just friends, but indeed sisters.

Meeting once each month, the women gather to share thoughts and ideas on a particular issue. They follow specific guidelines to keep on track, using the coaching materials. Realizing that each member has individual strengths and life circumstances they are careful not to offer unsolicited advice or criticisms but rather to share what has worked for them in similar situations.

“We are very action oriented,” Lea said. “We challenge each other to move forward in a positive way.”

“The group makes you think about your priorities and setting goals in your life,” Bernadette said. “It gives you accountability but also a ‘cheering section’ and people who are there to help you celebrate your victories.”

“We brainstorm on ways to deal with things. But we’re all here for self growth and to support each other in a nonjudgmental way,” Liz added.

Topics have included things such as family relationships and boundaries, what your standards are, building a time reserve for yourself without guilt, self care, integrity and money.

“You never know what life is going to deal you next, of course,” Carol said. “But by doing certain exercises (with the group) you can stay focused and raise your awareness of how you are living your own life.”

One fun and extremely productive action they have done is “Zapping your tolerations.” On occasion they would all meet at a member’s home to help her “zap away” at a chore or project. While a few watch the kids, the others get busy helping the member clean a basement, paint rooms, organize cabinets or get a home ready for a new baby.

“It’s a way to get done something that has been on your list that you can’t tolerate any more. With everyone’s help, it gets zapped!” Deb said.

Jennifer said by sharing their experiences in this Town Crier article, she and the other women are not looking for kudos, but are instead eager to share what they have learned.

“It’s really easy for others to form this type of group,” she said. “We have gained so much; we’d love for others to get the benefits of forming a group like ours, as well.”

Since the women have been together for so long, they are not seeking new members for their particular group. However, Jennifer said she would be happy to help others kick off one of their own and share her knowledge with them.

“I was personally looking for women like myself when I started our group,” she said, “but that’s not a requirement. Men and women of all ages have formed groups bringing different life experiences to one can be very empowering and rewarding.”

“It’s all about supporting each other as you work towards improving the quality of your life,” she added.

For more information on how to start a group one may contact her at copleyconsulting@charter.net. She also recommends checking out www.cherylrichardson.com for more information as well.

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