This column is usually dedicated to encouraging and walking beside the parents and guardians of teenagers. Though it may not seem like it at first, I believe the message conveyed will still be beneficial to not only the original target audience, but for each and every one of us.

Two weeks ago I would have told you that though I may not enjoy change, I can take it and keep moving. I probably would have boasted about how used to “going with the flow” I can be, and my better half would probably be shaking his head in

disagreement behind me.

Then, the storms of Sunday, April 26, swept through Stephenville, Dublin and the

Cross Timbers area. As stated below, I am the executive director of Choices Clinic & Life Resource Center. The roof of the Choices Clinic location was ripped off that

evening, and our clinic was flooded.

Suddenly, the plans of my week were completely taken away, and our team was shoved into survival mode. Late nights, tired bones and over active brain power for

decisions became the plans for the week. My life and the lives of our staff and volunteers were taken over by a completely unplanned disaster.

There were moments when I wanted to sit down and cry my eyes out, but there was no time for that. We all had to do what needed to be done for Choices and our clients.

Saturday morning my body stopped me. After an extremely grueling week, my body could not take another step or move another muscle, and I was halted with a

horrible stomach bug. This is what my body does. I go until I cannot take another

step, and my body betrays me (or protects me) and forces me to stop and rest. After 30 plus years, one would think I would be better at identifying the meltdown that is coming and divert my efforts to stop it by resting in advance. However, I don’t always respond well. Instead, I go too long and too far without rest, like a lot of you reading this column.

Do you remember the pre-flight instructions on each plane? The flight steward says in case of a drop in cabin pressure the oxygen masks will drop down. They then explain that you must put the mask on your face first before you can help any

minors or others needing assistance.

Did you catch that?

You must take care of yourself first. If you go straight to the other person, you may pass out due to lack of oxygen, and two people are left without assistance. If you make sure you are breathing first, then you can effectively help those around you.

This beautiful reminder will stay in my mind, and I will continue to try to take better

care of myself. It is a “one day at a time” kind of thing, but being aware of the need is a big step in the right direction.

Where is your oxygen mask? How are you taking care of yourself? As for me, I think I will book a massage this week.

Ashley Graves is the executive director of Choices Clinic & Life Resource Center. She has been mentoring teens for over 15 years, and has a passion for guiding them towards healthy life choices. Ashley may be reached at