I Lost Ten Pounds!

This post has nothing to do with weight loss. The scale is not even in my bathroom anymore. It never had anything nice to say. This post is about a conversation I had this week with a sweet friend. I would describe her as a divine gathering of stardust. She is the kind of person that the moment you meet them you just know they are special and you want to know them more.

Anyway, she asked how I knew to start this blog. That was a fantastic question. The truth is, I wanted a place to tell the truth. I wanted a place to gather my thoughts and observations about my life experiences. I also wanted to talk through some of these things with a community of people.

I was never concerned with how many people actually read my words. I just wanted to lose the weight of the thoughts in my mind. When I share a truth about life experiences, it feels like another pound of pretend is off my back. It feels like “well now that’s out there” and I am free from pretending like it’s not part of my story or part of what I value.

Elizabeth Gilbert opens her memoir Eat, Pray, Love with the quote “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth” I get it now. I get that telling my truth has nothing to do with you and it has everything to do with me. I am a bit more free with every truth I tell.

We live in a culture that shames our scars. We are expected to be fine or okay all the time. These expectations are devastating for a lot of people. Life is hard for us all in one way or another. No one gets out without a few scars. Too many of us spend so much time adjusting our images to hide our scars and our stories to make them more palatable to the masses. I have no desire to be palatable and every desire to be real.

My husband’s poppa asked me early on in our relationship “You are real, huh?”

Yes, I am real, I’m messy, I’m scarred, I’m held together with string, I’m confused most of the time, I think rodents are particularly funny, I would only eat pizza if I were single, I love with an exhausting intensity, I care so much, and I’m beautiful.

Love.

 

I Never Needed A Makeover

A friend of mine is in town for the week (I love her ) and we were talking last night about a time in my life when I (significantly) lacked confidence and what that felt like. Honestly, I think we all struggle with confidence from time to time but there were times when I thought that I was just not good enough at anything.

This post makes me so sad for the person I was.

There was a time in my life when people would tell me how to dress, how to do my hair, or what I should act like or talk like. My laugh was too loud and my opinions were too much. When I shared these stories with my friend, I could see her sadness and that made me sad. It’s just not nice to tell people that how they are in the world is wrong. I never needed a makeover, I was good enough, what I needed were people that love me just the way I am.

If I want to wear sneakers with a dress, I will do just that.

If I want to laugh out loud, I will do just that.

If I want to share my opinions on issues that are important to me, I will do just that.

I was doing a training with adolescents last week and a table of young women were asking such incredible questions. One young lady asked why I did not have children and I answered that it was complicated. She looked confused and made some guesses that were sweet but incorrect. I summed it up like this:  it takes a lot of courage to live a life true to yourself and some people will never understand or agree with some of your life choices and that’s okay. If you pause and consider your life honestly, you will know what an honest life for you looks like for you. It’s scary but it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

When I was in first grade I wore fake glasses without lenses to school because I thought they looked cool. This is who I am.

Why is this such a radical way to be in the world?

If you are struggling with confidence and the people around you are always picking you apart, you don’t need new clothes, you need new people.

Love.

Words Are Things.

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” 
 Paulo Coelho, Brida

I wanted to take a moment to consider the words/phrases/ideas/thoughts that have washed over me and shaped me.

The Good

You only live once – Trina

Trust yourself – My grandmother

My Dear, you have to learn how to take care of yourself – My grandfather

Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth – The opening quote in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s okay to be sad sometimes – My husband

What are your values, what is really important to you – Josh

Most people won’t remember this – My mother-in-law

I am so proud of you – My brother

Cry yourself to sleep all you want, you’re not going to that party – My mom

Don’t cheat, people won’t want to play with you if you lie to them – My dad

Think critically about this. It’s never simple – Dr. Krishnakali Majumdar

You have to always be examining your own biases and prejudices and how they influence your thoughts and behaviors – Dr. David Pilgrim

You have to use laundry detergent, not just fabric softener! – My sister

Don’t forget the spiritual aspect – Kevin

The Bad

Are you going to eat that?

You eat after 8pm?

Are you going to have another glass of wine?

What will your boyfriend think about this?

Shhh, your laugh is too loud

You’re too opinionated

You care too much

I think you are acting this way because your parents divorced

You grew up in a home with a lot of conflict and you don’t know how to communicate (that’s why my son hit you)

Relax

Calm down

Everything happens for a reason

Your writing is awful

I should give you the “I like to show a lot of skin award” – Middle School Teacher

I don’t know why you feel that way

You’re crazy

You don’t have kids, you don’t understand

Your husband wants kids and you won’t give them to him?

Are you some sort of lesbian?

Stop talking already

Summary

Words are powerful. What we say matters. I am not innocent; I know I have injured people with my words. The aforementioned phrases, both good and bad, left a permanent imprint on me. They shaped my experiences and I carry them with me.

What phrases shaped you?

Love.

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”

― Maya Angelou

 

 

The Bully Is Calling From Inside The House.

“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

Bullying is serious issue plaguing schools. It is also a complicated area of concern. It is curious to me that we address bullying in schools, but we don’t connect that behavior back to what is happening in the home. In my experience, children who bully are often experiencing one or more of the following:

1) Being bullied/abused/neglected in the home by parents/caregivers

2) Witnessing bullying in the home (e.g., parents calling each other names or acting violently towards each other)

3) Listening to their parents verbally bullying friends or family in front of them (e.g., that idiot, what a slut, he can’t do anything right, your sister is a bitch, your brother is a moron)

4) Viewing bullying on the television (pick any news channel)

5) Watching their parents or older siblings laughing at Vines or YouTube videos that include mocking, teasing, and/or physical mistreatment

6) Being bullied by an older sibling, cousin, kid on the bus, etc.

The lesson the child learns: The people that I love and that love me and take care of me think this behavior (bullying) is appropriate (and even funny). They find a vulnerable kid in the classroom and act according to what they witness playing out in the home.  What is worse, the vulnerable kid they target might also be experiencing bullying in the home, but instead of acting out they retreat inside their own heads.

A child learns more by watching the people in their world than they do by listening to directions. We need to do a better job connecting the home environment of the child and the behaviors of the child in school if we want to fully address and eventually eliminate bullying. For example, an adult cannot make fun of homosexuals (condemn them, say they are going to Hell, call them sissies) in the home and then scold their child for doing the same thing at school. Moreover, the parent sometimes sides with the child in private, saying that people are too sensitive. Imagine how confusing that is for a child. The child does not know if bullying is bad or good.

Many people are incredibly self-critical (I am not good enough, I am fat, and I’m dumb) and critical of others (my boss is an idiot and my coworker is a bitch). Complaining and criticism begets complaining and criticism. When left unchecked, this outlook leads to misery, anger, and resentment. And, it is often paired with “It’s not my fault I’m unhappy, it’s that idiot I have to work with (or I’m married to).” The child adopts these same thoughts and beliefs (spillover). And, the child learns that their happiness is not their responsibility and/or they do not have the power to make themselves happy.

When I am working with children, I hear these adult expressions coming from their mouths and I know exactly where they are really coming from. Frequently, adults do not appreciate how closely children are paying attention to the events occurring in their world. I promise you, they hear and see it all.

Why do I feel so passionately about this? Children are impulsive. Their brains are not wired to think long-term. So, bullying leads to suicide. My message to all the adults who think political correctness is for wimps: Your children can hear you. Be nice. Be nice to others. And, for pete’s sake be nice to yourself!

What to do if you find out your child is bullying another child? Compassionately and kindly explore what is happening with your child. Ask a lot of questions. Find out who and what is influencing this behavior. Be willing to take responsibility for how your own behavior may be influencing your child. Be willing to adapt the culture in your home and other places your child spends time to be less critical and more safe and compassionate. Be willing to get other people involved in the conversation to help support efforts to eliminate this behavior.  Most importantly, intervene immediately and take the problem seriously.

What not to do? Don’t criticize your child for being a bully. This only shames them and perpetuates the problem.

Spare the rod, spoil the child is not healthy parenting advice. At all. Ever.

“Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person”

Love.

Addicted To Fear.

“Then she told herself to stop her nonsense. If you looked for things to make you feel hurt and wretched and unnecessary, you were certain to find them, more easily each time, so easily, soon, that you did not even realize you had gone out searching.”
Dorothy Parker, The Portable Dorothy Parker

Are you watching the news right now? Please, turn it off. Humans are sponges and we’ve been absorbing the gross fear and negativity that the media is shoving down our throats for years. I am not encouraging ignorance. I am merely suggesting some moderation.

The 24 hour news cycle is destructive to our psyches because fear is addictive. Our brains are wired to seek out problems in the environment. When we turn on the news we are stimulated by the bright colors and sounds and we are sucked in by the the fear machine. We talk about it at work. We call our friends and share our fears. We beg them to be fearful with us. We want them to be safe. We are scared. 

Pause. Breathe. You’re safe.

Fear makes us reactive and defensive. Fear causes people to use the primal part of their brain when problem solving as opposed to the logical rational part of our brain . This leads to poor decision-making.

In small doses fear is the emotion that helps keep us alive. When we are healthy, our fear safely guides us through life. However, we are absorbing fear through every pore in our body by watching the news, scrolling through social media, listening to talk radio, and reading online. Then, we get angry. Fear tells us we are under attack. So, we end up in needless arguments or barricading ourselves in our homes.

Why do we buy so many guns after a mass-shooting? We do so to protect ourselves. But, how many guns can you use at a time if you were being attacked? The stockpiling of arms is fear based problem solving. Frankly and kindly, life is not like a Die Hard movie and most of us aren’t trained military or law enforcement. We are vulnerable even when we’re armed, no two ways about it. I would prefer not to spend my time here scared, worried, and angry.

Please, turn off the TV and step away from the computer. Take a vacation from the news this weekend. Hug and kiss the people you love. Play with your dogs and sit in the sun. Even better, watch a Pixar movie. I firmly believe Pixar is the best thing about this country. Soak up some love this weekend. The fear will be waiting for you on Monday if you want it back.

Image found here. 

My GPA Was A Lie!

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.– Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Emotional intelligence accounts for 80 percent of career success.”
Daniel Goleman

I spent a better part of my time in school chasing the perfect grade point average. Embarrassingly, I once (successfully) negotiated a grade increase much like Cher did in the movie Clueless. I was certain that if I reached the perfect grade point average my life would be smooth sailing. My life has not been smooth, but I doubt that has much to do with my inability to maintain a 4.0.

Once I started graduate school, a realization struck me in the form of a check sheet. I was invited to help with the admissions committee and was presented with the criteria for admission to the graduate school. The GPA requirement was not a 4.0, it was much more reasonable, and the check sheet included other background areas, such as: volunteer work, employment experience, and the personal essay.

Because I loved school so much (and did not want to adult yet), I set out for even more graduate school. I was even admitted to an exclusive program without reaching the “acceptable” score on the required standardized test. During interviews, one professor thought it was problematic, but the others were not concerned. I was later told by a faculty member that my tendency towards neuroticism was going to kill me if I wasn’t careful. This was his area of expertise and I did my best to chill out.

Now more than a decade into my career, not one person has asked to see my GPA. I used to provide my high marks on my resume/CV but was told by a friend that was also a manager that “it really wasn’t necessary to do so.” (nobody really cares).

I recently came across a study that put this all in perspective.  Thomas Stanley, PhD discovered that there was no correlation between grades and professional success. In fact, “The average SAT score for the sample was 1190.  Their most frequent grade in both high school and college was “B.”  Their GPA in college was 2.9.  They typically did not qualify for admission to an “elite” college or university.”

So, grades don’t matter as much as you think. What does? John Mayer (the researcher, not the singer) found that emotional intelligence was a far better predictor of success than grades, IQ, and standardized tests.

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

EQ is a combination of five different markers defined by Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Self-Regulation
  3. Internal Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

To be fair, tests and grades are still important in assessing mastery. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with talented and brilliant people. It is not that I wish I would have done poorly or been less focused on grades. I just think we can do a better job of creating a culture that forces young people to also achieve high marks on emotional intelligence. In fact, it appears if you are kind, you just might be more successful.

Notable exceptions to the kindness equals success equation are Steve Jobs and Donald Trump. Although, there might be more to success than money.

“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”
Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition

Love. 

 

Guest Post. As A Christian, I Feel Heartbroken All The Time.

Author: Una Henry

Opening Facebook is becoming more and more of a chore. The second I open it, I instantly regret it. I cringe as I read through my newsfeed. Social media has given us all instant access to a wide audience for our opinions, and the loudest opinions seem to have their origins in anger and fear.  Freedom of speech also means the freedom to think before speaking: to think about the repercussions of your thoughts; to think about the audience to whom your speaking; to think about whether your thoughts even need to be said.

I feel as though my Facebook feed is divided into two groups. The people I grew up going to church and Bible college with, and the people I’ve met since my undergraduate studies. I struggle because one group talks about how people are hurting and we need to help them, while the other oscillates between talking about nothing and talking about the things that make them angry. Sadly, it’s only a minority of Christians who seem to care about those who are hurting. In fact, supposed Christian leaders in our government are making moves to keep out those who do not share their faith.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, I watched as most of the people in my friends list changed their profile picture to reflect the French flag. However, I did not feel united in solidarity with these people, I found myself angry at their hypocrisy. I found myself angry that they cared about the deaths of people an ocean away, while ignoring the deaths of people of color in their own country. I found myself angry that if I tried to talk with them about this, I would be painted as “anti-cop”, “anti-patriotic,” or perhaps most hurtful to me, “ungodly.”

Hate is being spread throughout this country in the disguise of patriotism and faith. Therefore, when someone tries to call that hate for what it is, they are labeled as “unpatriotic” or “ungodly.” This makes fear, anger, and hate unassailable, for they stand on a foundation that cannot be questioned without defaming the character of those who dare question.

As a therapist, I understand the virtue and purpose of anger. It serves to protect us from hurt and fear. But anger is a sword. It can be used to protect or used to hurt others. It’s easy to get angry. It’s easy to stay angry. Letting go of anger; that’s a real challenge. It is a challenge to which it seems few are willing to rise.

When Jesus was asked which of the 10 commandments was the greatest he replied:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

It seems that people are ignoring the second by claiming the first. As if to say, “my priority is God and my faith, and as you do not share that faith, I owe you nothing.”

Be brave. Do the hard thing.  “For whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:31-46

 

 

Guest Post: Don’t Smile Until Christmas

Author: Kathy Eaton

Don’t smile until Christmas…

I am not sure where this piece of advice originated from but ask any teacher about it and they will probably laugh and say they have heard it. For a girl who grew up being able to locate her mom in a room by listening for her infectious laugh, not smiling in the classroom was an impossible option. I found that consistency and compassion are the greatest tools in my toolbox. Many students have complicated lives in and out of school that impact how they interact with their peers and teachers. Teaching that “perfect” lesson plan rarely goes as expected and the greater your connection is with your students, the smoother your ride is over the bumps.

Connecting with students is why you will see teachers helping out with after school activities, sporting events, field trips, and many other adventures. They see it as an opportunity to learn more about their students and see them outside the classroom. A teacher’s day is not over when the classroom door closes, and if you have ever sat at the dinner table with a teacher you will have evidence to support this. There is no way out, just listen!

Something that has always been special to me during my career in education are the stories that shape educators teaching philosophies. Each story is unique and I wanted to share part of mine:

While working on my Masters in Education a member of my cohort, Sarah, gave us a unique opportunity to hear Dr. Maya Angelou speak to Jackson Public School teachers at the local high school in Jackson, Michigan. Her message that evening was to inspire teachers to reach out and connect with their students. She talked about how different the life of a student could be with even just one advocate on their side. There was a point in the night where I experienced a sense of tunnel vision, her melodic voice seemed to be speaking only to me and validating why connections are so important in teaching. Dr. Angelou spoke about the challenges of educating students, many of whom had struggles at home that inhibited them from being fully present in the classroom. She said in order to be effective teachers need to find ways to connect to their students and asked each member in the audience to “be the rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.” I had read that quote from her before but hearing her speak it to an audience of educators with so much heart and compassion was inspirational. To this day, her message is a cornerstone of my teaching philosophy.

Teachers open their classroom door to a number of students each and every day. They can see who is having a rough day, who may need extra help, and what lesson may not be going as well as planned and needs to be adjusted in the moment! We have an education system that puts a lot of emphasis on test scores even though teaching is so much more. So, next time you see a news story about test scores, remember that is just one number on one day of a student’s life; the whole story happens on the other 179, or more, of the school year.

Now you know the whole story behind why the “don’t smile until Christmas” advice was not an option for me…I was following the inspirational message from Dr. Angelou to “be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Be kind, hug a teacher (ask permission first!)

“Great teachers empathize with kids, respect them, and believe that each one has something special that can be built upon.” Ann Lieberman

“When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.” Dalai Lama

Guest Post! Don’t Fret Yet: The Planet Isn’t Actually Shrinking

Author: Jared Sipes

“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” – Socrates

In 2005, I was barely into my 21st year of life. I didn’t know anything about the world I lived in, outside of a mild beginning of interest in U.S. politics. And then I made my first trip outside of the U.S. Germany, to be exact. When making plans with the person I was going to visit, they also mentioned a visit to Prague. I told a coworker, who said, “Oh, the Czech Republic, huh? Cool!” I agreed, “yeah, definitely!” What I didn’t admit, was that I had never even heard of the Czech Republic before. I was a product of a small-town public school that didn’t put much stock in teaching kids about the world and focused more time on practical things and when it came to social sciences, tended to focus more on the American side of things, and I was never curious enough to seek out any additional information. I thought I didn’t need to. I thought it didn’t matter.

Before I go bandying about throwing around superlatives about the life-changing experience that travel to a foreign country can be (and which likely everyone has heard before), I will say this: it is not necessary to travel to learn about the differences and similarities in the world around us. I’m personally never one to berate those who don’t have a passport or don’t express interest in international travel. It’s expensive! It’s overwhelming! It’s different! But it’s not that different, really. And this is why informing yourself and having a global perspective of your life is important.

Let’s look at the concept of Globalization, which by definition is “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.” What this means to you, Ordinary Citizen, is that we as a planet are growing closer by the day, so why not try to understand that world a bit more, especially when it is easier now than it has ever been in history? You can find newspapers, magazine articles, and blogs from around the world detailing every bit of news everywhere – and just like travel, it can be overwhelming.

However, knowing these things, knowing about other countries, cultures, political systems, and societies, not only can make you a better person, it makes you a better global citizen. If you seek information on your own, you’re less likely to rely upon an “article a friend posted on Facebook” and can instead fight misinformation, and offer a different perspective from those who may not have thought otherwise.

I know this is a lot to ask, and it’s hard for a lot of people to relate to people, places, and things that they consider to be “foreign” – but I have a feeling (and maybe a bit of knowledge from my own personal experience) – that the more you dig around, the more you understand, the more you’ll see that we’re all not so different after all, and you’d be surprised how much better it feels to be able to relate to someone else’s experience, rather than point out our differences.

We go on and on about our differences. But, you know, our differences are less important than our similarities. People have a lot in common with one another, whether they see that or not.” – William Hall

What’s Up With That Kid?

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Once upon a time, I worked with at-risk youth and their families. Before this experience, I was naïve to the suffering of children in my own community. Working with these incredibly resilient families tore me from my ignorance and thrust me into the daily trenches.

This is not an explicit call to action but if you feel persuaded to support at risk families in your community, I encourage you do so.

I want to address the attitude some adults hold regarding children that demonstrate “poor social skills.” If you remember, Tell Me About Your Mother, we talked about how children will do whatever it takes to get the attention of their parents because they need to do so to survive.

Kids need their parents to regulate their emotions. The developing brain renders children incapable of saying “Hey I need your attention to thrive and make sense of my world.” They are only capable of communicating their needs by demanding your attention through their behavior. They do this with the hopes that you will comfort them or at the least acknowledge them.

Let Me Provide You An Example

I would like you to imagine, for a moment, that a young girl lives in a home with an overworked and exhausted mother (or father). The young girl goes to her mother for affection and attention and is brushed aside. The mother is exhausted from trying to manage on limited finances and maintain a household. She does not have the attention to give.

The young girl still needs attention and now tries a different strategy. Maybe the young girl remembers that the last time she made a mess or cried she was able to get her mother’s attention. “Aha” the young girl thinks. The young girl starts to cry and the mother comes to her. Maybe after awhile the mother learns that her daughter is “just dramatic” and does not need attention every time she cries. The young child still needing attention and affection now has to try a different strategy. Maybe the young girl throws a tantrum and is inconsolable (remember she needs a parent to regulate her emotions). Maybe mom responds negatively but negative attention is still acknowledgement.

Imagine it goes on this way for years. 

Now imagine that the same young girl goes to school. The young girl learned through interactions at home that if I cry, scream, and tantrum I will get attention. The young girl may use these learned skills in the school environment.

Is this child acting out? No, this child has adapted to her environment to get her basic human needs met. The child does not know that she does not need to act that way with all adults. How could she know? Some children learn that they do not need to act that way in school or with every adult (or peer). This usually happens by way of a compassionate and patient teacher or school counselor. Other children may not adapt as quickly and as easily in the academic environment. Imagine how confusing this is for the child.

The mother in this story is not a villain. She is overworked and exhausted. She is spread too thin with too little support. The teacher in this story is not a villain if she loses her patience and struggles with compassion. She is also overworked with thirty kids that have thirty different needs staring at her every day.

What is the solution: Support, Education, Patience, and Compassion.

Is the situation hopeless? No, although it feels that way. We can do better. We must be patient and compassionate with ourselves. We need to do a better job of supporting all families.

This example does not attempt to capture children struggling with developmental disabilities or any other social impairments/challenges.

Parents and their children can benefit greatly from professional support (e.g., therapist, psychologist, school social worker, pediatrician, occupational therapist) to learn healthier interpersonal skills. This does not mean you are a bad parent, it just means you need support. 

Love.

“Every child deserves to be born wanted and loved”