Seeing the best in life's challenges

Responding to Criticism: This is How It’s Done

BULLY ALERT!!!  There are a couple of situations in the news recently that are examples of how hurtful criticism can be. We call this kind of behavior Bullying and it’s easy to just label it wrong and get angry and want to punish the bullies to stop it from happening again.  But the focus on punishment isn’t working in the quest to stop bullying.  Here’s an article about why.

Following are two situations where “fighting back” was handled in a different way.

The first situation involves Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman.  As the article says, the situation  “started with a sneaky and ill-advised online potshot, but it ended with an apology and a positively heartwarming lesson in tolerance and kindness.”  The story is here and I’ve copied the article from HuffPost below.

Over the weekend, a Redditor with the username “european_douchebag” posted a photo of a college student named Balpreet Kaur to Reddit. Kaur, an Ohio State student and observant Sikh, does not trim her facial hair in accordance with her religion’s beliefs.

Kaur discovered her newfound fame, when a friend showed her the picture. Despite having her privacy violated and her picture posted to the supposedly humorous r/funny subreddit for the world to discuss, the young woman’s response was dignified, graceful and generous.

“When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away,” Kaur wrote. “However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.”

The Internet, too, rallied in Kaur’s defense, with Redditors like “MisterMT” adding their own messages of support. “This is overall a great story – and Balpreet is about to become a global icon. Even better, she is someone who genuinely deserves her recognition. Wonderful stuff.”

Many took note of Kaur’s true inner beauty, while others hailed her as a role model.

“I had tears in my eyes, reading this post,” wrote “singhza”. “Balpreet you are an inspiration to everyone and esp the Sikh youth who think they are a misfit in the society if they conform to our religious symbols.”

What happened next, however, was in many ways more surprising: european_douchebag himself apologized.

In a response entitled “I posted the picture of a Sikh woman on here and I’d like to apologize” that popped up on Reddit yesterday, the man behind the furor issued a complete mea culpa:

I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

/r/Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.

Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am

Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.

Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.

Sometimes humanity surprises us for the better. This is simply one of those times.

The second situation involves Jennifer Livingston, a TV news anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin who responded to a viewer’s outrageous attack on her appearance on Tuesday morning.  The article (again on HuffPost) can be found here.

Livingston recently received an email from a male viewer criticizing her weight. Her husband and fellow news anchor Mike Thompson posted the text to the Facebook page for “WKBT News 8 This Morning.”

“I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years,” wrote the viewer, who said Livingston was not a “suitable example” for young girls. “I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Livingston addressed her bully on-air Tuesday, prefacing her message by saying that she has received words of support from “hundreds” of people and that the response has been “truly inspiring.”

“The truth is, I am overweight,” she said. “But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me… so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale.”

Livingston continued, “That man’s words mean nothing to me, but really angers me about this is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day.”

She said that bullying scared her as the mother of three daughters. “If you are at home and you are talking about the fat newslady, guess what?” she said. “Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.”

Livingston thanked the viewers, friends and colleagues who have stood up for her, and ended with these words:

“I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

The video of Livingston’s response is here also.

We would all agree that this kind of criticism, this kind of bullying is “bad.”  But we are each able to choose our reaction to it.  We can focus on the condemnation, but that just escalates the negativity and empowers the critic, placing the bully at the center of attention.  We can react as a victim, but then the bully wins, gets a satisfying reaction, and is empowered to create this kind of drama over again.  We can hide and hope the bully doesn’t notice us, but what kind of a life is that?

OR, we can be secure in who we are and refuse to be defined by the criticism of the bully.  We can understand the bully or the critic for who they are, someone who is insecure and who only feels powerful when they can manipulate others and get a reaction.

Which leads to the most important part of the lesson here.  How do we teach our kids to react to criticism?  How do we empower them?

Both of these women are secure in themselves.  Each personality shines in the face of her situation.  They reacted differently, but neither one focused on revenge.  Neither one acted like a victim.  And neither one ran and hid from their attacker.

Most of the anti-bullying strategies out there focus on punishment and how “wrong” the bully is.  This leads to an underlying lesson:  when someone criticizes you, you are victimized.  WE ARE INADVERTANTLY TEACHING OUR KIDS TO ACT LIKE VICTIMS, the OPPOSITE of what we really need to do – to EMPOWER our kids.

Izzy Kalman is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who is working tirelessly to get this message out.  His website,, has a wealth of information about how to handle bullying and how to empower our kids.  The truth is, we all encounter criticism throughout life, and knowing how to handle it is huge.  Izzy has written many articles that are insightful and helpful in understanding the psychology of the dynamics of bullies and “victims.”  In this article, Izzy says:

Consider what kids have been taught about bullying for over a decade. They have attended assemblies presented by highly paid ‘bullying experts’ who tell them about the horrible effects of bullying. They have been presented with school bullying policies outlining all the kinds of bullying that they should not tolerate. They have been told that words can scar them forever or even kill them. They have seen No Bully Zone posters plastered in school corridors. They have watched movies and read books about the pain of being bullied. They have participated in antibullying rallies and wear antibullying bracelets. They have been told that they are not capable of dealing with bullies on their own because the bullies are too strong, so their classmates and teachers must stand up for them against their bullies. Their favorite celebrities have embarked on highly publicized antibullying campaigns and assured them “It gets better.” They have been promised that tough new laws will protect them from bullying.

Then they are confronted with reality. Despite society’s promises of protection and the comforting “It gets better” declarations, they continue to get bullied–and it’s only getting worse. The ever-present No Bully Zone posters are nothing but a lie to them. When the school authorities get involved against their bullies, their peers despise them even more, call them ‘snitches’ and want revenge.

Having been told year after year how destructive bullying is, they become even more upset when they are bullied. And when they get upset, they get picked on even more, because emotional upset is what fuels bullying. So the bullying gets worse, they become more desperate, and they are more likely to feel that the only way to end their misery is to end life itself.

We will never reduce bullying by continuing our current antibullying efforts.

We need to realize that kids who commit bullycide, as much as we sympathize with their misery and grieve for them, are not heroes and the last thing we want is for them to be role models. They are the kids who lacked the resilience and the wisdom to deal with their problem. We cannot continue to glorify them with magazine covers and laws in their name and expect bullycide to decrease.

The most reliable way to prevent kids from taking their own lives is to teach them how to deal with bullying on their own. It is not hard to stop being bullied, and our kids deserve to be taught how to do it.

And on a lighter note:  I have to add this video.  We can never underestimate the power of humor in the “fight” against hate.  Enjoy!!


Proud, or Protective?

This is a really good example of why I choose to remain anonymous when I write.  To my friends, it’s no secret who I am.  But I choose not to use my name, because I want to be able to write about people I know, without being TOO obvious who I am writing about.  It’s a fine line.  But I want the focus to be on the situation, and how we think about it.  I am not looking for notoriety for me, or for anyone else.

So let’s just say, theoretically, that I heard about a situation at a local festival.  Some have said this festival just doesn’t feel like it used to.  Stuff happens.  Parents don’t know whether they should let their kids go or not.  There’s lots of supervision by police, but still…

So, I know this kid who was there on a Saturday night, with a few friends.  The story goes, that he saw a younger kid who goes to his school.  This younger kid was being dragged along by a group of over 10 kids to a nearby park just outside the festival.  The group moving him along was asking him about his stuff – and he is a kid who probably had some good stuff on him.

Now stop, parents, and think about this scenario.  What if your kid was the one in trouble?  What if your kid was the one seeing this happen?  Do we talk to our kids about what to do in these kinds of situations?

Over the weekend, I was talking to the mom of twin girls who are 11.  She was telling me how she always tells them, “look, there are 2 of you, you should always stick up for the kid getting picked on.“  She said they talk about how other girls might not like that, but it’s the right thing to do.  Lesson:  There is power in numbers.

So back to my story.  The kid doing the observing is 2-3 years older (and bigger) than the group he is observing.  So, he goes up to the group and says, “Hey, what’s going on here?”  The kid in trouble runs away, and the smaller group, well, gangs up on the older kid, who covers his face, puts his elbows out, but doesn’t punch back.  Then a friend of the group comes up from behind and sucker-punches him in the nose.

The kid who has just been punched finds the cops, tells them the story, and they tell the offenders to leave the festival.  Several days later, the damage:  two slightly black eyes, but no broken nose.

So, parents, what’s your first reaction?  Are you proud or protective?

The proud parent’s take on this:  We live in the real world.  Stuff happens.  When you see someone in trouble, you help them.  You don’t need to escalate the situation.  And tell whoever’s in charge if there’s a problem.

The protective parent’s take on this:  Stay out of it.  Keep your nose clean.  Avoid situations where there might be trouble.  If there’s any question, don’t even go there. You are never going to that festival again!

As parents, we don’t want our kid involved in trouble.  We don’t want them hurt.  What if those kids had a knife, or a gun?  These are not easy situations, and I bet we all see both sides.

FYI, after the incident, the kid that was in trouble said that as he was being dragged along, he said a prayer, and then, out of nowhere, the bigger kid appeared.  He has been texting the bigger kid thank you’s ever since.

Now, I’ll admit it.  I’m a proud mom.  And I’m trusting God to take care of the protection issue.



Breastfeeding Wars


I have no hesitation in saying that I am extremely well qualified to weigh in on the “breastfeeding past infancy” controversy, thrust into the spotlight by the recent Time Magazine cover.

You see, I have three children.  I nursed #1 until he was 3, #2 until she was 2, and get ready for this: I nursed #3 until her fourth birthday.

Stop for one minute, and think about the assumptions you just made about me (or didn’t).  Do you find this shocking?  What assumptions did you make about my family dynamics?  How about my kids?

Why did I do it?  Well, it just worked out that way.  It felt natural.  My first two are 15 months apart, and my son had almost weaned himself just before my daughter was born.  Then came the experience of a new sibling, he saw her nursing, and still wanted to.  Was I going to push him away?  Of course not.  So there was much tandem nursing for a while.

Did I do it for me?  Well, no.  I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anybody, and I didn’t have an emotional need to fill.  It didn’t make me feel like a better mom.  It’s just what worked for my situation.  It was easier, to me, not to have to deal with bottles – I had total portability, which was a huge help when juggling two kids so close together in age.

Interestingly, we were not into attachment parenting.  Just wasn’t our thing.  When my two oldest were little, I had them on a schedule that had them eat dinner about 5:00 and in bed by 7:00. We could never stand to have kids sleep with us.  I just wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep.  Since I was home with them all day, I needed a break, and I also felt it was important that we had time together as a couple.

We did the crying it out thing (not pleasant).   When they were older and came into our room at night, we didn’t let them in bed.  We set up a spot on the floor (hoping that would deter them) and when that didn’t work, we got a couch for our bedroom and directed them there.

About #3:  she had me at my wit’s end when she was still consistently waking up at 3 a.m. at 18 months old.  At that point, the easiest way to get through it was to nurse her and get back to bed ASAP.  Nursing was also the only way she would let me comfort her in many instances.  It was just a personality thing.

Did we do it “right”?  Maybe right for us, but what works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

Enough years have gone by, that I guess most of my friends have no idea I did this.  Interestingly, people comment all the time that I have the most confident, independent kids they know. If I had to describe my primary parenting goal, it is to raise independent, confident, responsible kids who are prepared to thrive in the real world.  #3 especially, amazes every adult she comes in contact with.

Of course, at their current ages, if we had a discussion about this, they would be rolling their eyes and more.  I embarrass them a whole lot these days.  It’s just the phase we’re in.

It was always very interesting to see how people would react when they figured out I was nursing my kids so long.  It does make many people very uncomfortable.  Some would even make pronouncements about what kind of a person I was and what my motivations were, just based on my breastfeeding habits.

Well, I don’t fit into a neat box.  And guess what, most people don’t.

So my opinion is this:  if you don’t know a person well or at all, and don’t make an attempt to ask questions and understand his or her motives and life, PLEASE withhold your assumptions and judgments. Ask yourself why you feel the need to have strong opinions about something that you know little about and does not affect you directly.

An example of someone who is obviously very emotional and judgmental about this is Dr. Keith Ablow.  I am sure he has not spoken with Jamie Lynn Grumet, the mom, or her son, but he blasts her for all kinds of sins.  Really?

This “controversy” presents two different types of opportunities.  On the one hand, it puts an issue in the spotlight that can benefit from some discussion that leads to greater understanding.  On the other hand, it can just turn into drama, fed by accusations and judgments.  Collectively, we choose which of these opportunities to pursue.

As a busy mom, I just don’t have time for the drama.

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Jumping off the Cliff

Have you ever known something to be true and right, with all your heart and soul, but been afraid to act on that knowledge?

I’m talking about the kind of situation where you are at a crossroads.  A decision that will likely change your life forever.  Maybe in a dramatic way, maybe not.  Maybe right away, maybe the change will take some time.  But you have no doubt that it is the right move for you, it feels like truth.  And that after you jump off that cliff, there will be no going back.

I’m talking about when you care about something more than you care about the consequences.  Choosing truth, despite that fact that this truth might not be well-received by others.

One way to avoid putting yourself in this kind of difficult position, is to not let yourself care about anything that much.  If you remain detached, keep up that protective shield around you, you can stay safe and not get yourself in a sticky situation.  Do only what you are supposed to do (whatever THAT is!?!) and you won’t have to make waves.

I’m talking about something that you do despite the fact that you are afraid and sure at the same time.

I’m guessing this is how Sarah McBride felt before coming out as transgender.

That first brave act of stepping out into the unknown is the most scary.  It feels like jumping off a cliff.  A leap of faith.

Have you done it?

After, you realize that the world didn’t end.  You might even be surprised that the same people that liked you before still like you, and the ones that didn’t, well, they still don’t like you.  But everybody now knows that you are brave.  Mostly, YOU now know that you are brave.  And that is when you start to feel empowered.

Sometimes a big step for me, will seem like a small step to you.  That’s ok.  This is personal for each individual.  Most of these brave decisions will not be in the spotlight, and hardly anyone will notice.  But the person making the decision will have moved one big step forward.

I’m thinking about this in the context of the various responses from our elected officials here in Delaware, in response to the topic of gay marriage.

I don’t think Joe Biden surprises any of us, anymore.  Joe is not afraid to say what’s on his mind.  We know that about him.  And he gets beat up for it.  I wonder if he is afraid of the fallout, or even worries about that ever.  I think, bottom line, that he is just being Joe.  I give him a lot of credit for that.

Then there is Chris Coons.  I know Chris well enough personally to know that he is thoughtful, caring, full of integrity, and is not afraid to stand up for what is right.  Chris is a man of Pure Intent.  A rock.  Fearless.  It is absolutely no mistake that Chris is where he is today.  No one who has watched his journey over the last couple of years would deny that.

In Chris’s own words:

“This is an important moment on the journey to equality: the first time a sitting president has endorsed the idea that every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to marry the person they love. Period. For some, the question of marriage equality is difficult to answer. I respect that everyone comes to a position in their own way and in their own time.

“President Obama is doing the right thing. By coming out for marriage equality today, he is sending a clear message: LGBT rights are human rights, and the right to marry the person you love is intrinsic to what it means to be an American.

“President Obama may be taking a huge political risk, but some risks are worth taking. That’s what leaders do.”

It’s totally OK with me that some people are not willing to take a stand.  I love how Chris says this in his statement.  It’s important to respect each individual’s right to make their own decision in their own time.

But at the same time, I want to celebrate those amazing individuals, like Sarah and like Chris, like Cory Booker, who are not afraid.  They inspire me.

Are you going to play it safe, or are you going to take that leap of faith off the cliff, too??

(I’ll tell you a little secret….. just like the baby bird…. when you are ready, and when you jump, you will find out that you can fly 🙂 . )


U.S. Sen. Chris Coons was the lone member of Delaware’s congressional delegation — all Democrats — to endorse the president’s statement favoring gay marriage.

“This is an important moment on the journey to equality: the first time a sitting president has endorsed the idea that every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to marry the person they love. Period,” Coons said.

Asked whether U.S. Rep. John C. Carney Jr. supports gay marriage, his spokesman James Allen said Carney “is proud to support Delaware’s civil unions law and he will continue working to ensure that same-sex couples receive the same legal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said he does not yet have a position on gay marriage or on proposals to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex couples.

“I respect the president’s announcement today and believe it will encourage more discussion,” he said. “As for me, I’ll continue to give this issue a great deal of thought.”


A Shining Star

Here is a wonderful example of how the world has changed.  The article below was written by a neighbor who used to babysit my kids, who is now 21.  Read the article, then I want to tell you about how Sarah’s world has responded.


The Real Me

by Tim McBride on Monday, April 30, 2012 at 5:10pm ·

This note has been a long time coming, 21 years, actually.

Today, I ended my term as AU’s student body president. Being president has been an unbelievable privilege for me. I have learned and grown so much over the last year, both personally and professionally. As proud as I am of all of the issues we tackled together as a campus community, the biggest take away, for me, has been the resolution of an internal struggle. You see, for my entire life, I’ve struggled with my gender identity.

And it was only after the experiences of this year that I was able to come to terms with what had been my deepest secret: I’m transgender.

For me, it is something I’ve always known, but had never accepted. It’s been present my whole life, from as early as I can remember. It wasn’t that I knew I was different, I literally knew I was a girl. I remember my friends dressing me up as a girl at four or five and just feeling a completeness that I didn’t feel as a boy.

Around the age of six or seven, I was watching a sitcom with my mom when a transgender character appeared. Until this point, I thought I was alone and that there was nothing I could do about who I knew I was. I remember asking my mom what “transgender” meant. She explained it to me, and my heart dropped; I knew “that’s who I am” and I knew I’d have to tell my parents someday.

At the same time, I developed my love of politics. And starting at six and seven, I wrestled with the fact that my dream and my identity seemed mutually exclusive; I had to pick. So I picked what I thought was easier and wouldn’t disappoint people.

As I got older, became successful in politics, and expectations grew, the pedestal that I was on made it harder for me to come to terms with everything. As the years passed, my golden handcuffs grew stronger and stronger. I had everyone and everything telling me that I could really make it in politics. “What a privilege,” I thought, “I shouldn’t sacrifice that.” I was also scared to disappoint the mentors who had invested so much of their time and provided me with so many opportunities.

To avoid letting myself and others down, I rationalized my decision: if I can obtain positions of power, make life a little fairer for other people, and make the world a little more accepting of different identities, then that work would be so compelling and fulfilling that it would make me feel complete and some how mitigate my own, internal struggles. I told myself that if I could make “Tim” worthwhile for other people by changing the world, that being “Tim” would have been worthwhile. I also thought that, on a superficial level, the perks and privileges of being an elected official would bring me some level of happiness that I couldn’t otherwise achieve.

Then I came to AU and I became SG President. As President, for the last year, I’ve experienced a mock elected official experience. I realized that as great as it is to work on issues of fairness and equality, it only highlighted my own struggles. I also realized that I didn’t care about the superficial things. I found no great happiness in the notoriety and the recognition. Finally, being the SG President gave me the confidence to disregard the petty things people say about me behind my back.

By mid-fall, it had gotten to the point where I was living in my own head. With everything I did, from the mundane to the exciting, the only way I was able to enjoy it was if I re-imagined doing it as a girl.  I wasn’t really living anymore.  My existence was experienced through imagination. The world was passing by in front of me, but I wasn’t engaging in it as the person I knew I was; my life was passing me by, and I was done wasting it as someone I wasn’t.

And with those experiences, and that new confidence, I couldn’t continue to rationalize to myself that it would get better by continued concealment. It would only get better if I came to terms with everything and began to live true to myself.

After confiding in two or three friends as I struggled through fall semester, I told my family and some of my closest friends over winter break. My brothers and parents greeted me with immediate support and unconditional love. Naturally, it was difficult for them. On one level, they had believed that they would never have to really worry about me, that I was pretty much set for life. This development rocked that sense of security and for the first time in my life, they worried about my safety, my professional opportunities, my acceptance, and my happiness. And on a deeper level, they felt like they were losing me.

Since that difficult first week, there is no doubt things have gotten better. My parents have seen that the child they know and love isn’t going anywhere. My friends have been nothing short of exceptional. My parents’ friends have embraced them and me. And we move forward as a family, closer than ever.

The last several months have really shown me a lot about my life. I learned what truly amazing family and friends I have. My news has been met, 100% of the time, with love, acceptance, support, and, in most instances, excitement.

In a similar vein, as difficult as this has been for myself and my family, the experience highlights my own privilege. From day one, I never worried about my family loving and accepting me. But for far too many trans men and women, the reality is far bleaker. Coming out oftentimes means getting kicked out of your home, your community, and your family. I also mentioned that this is the first time that my parents have had to worry about my safety, my job prospects, and my acceptance. But those worries are all too common for most families. I grew up in an upper-income household, in an accepting environment, and with incredible educational opportunities.

I say this not to diminish my own struggle and experience, but to acknowledge the privilege, support, blessings, and opportunities which have been afforded to me. I also say this to emphasize that this story is my experience and my experience alone. There is no one-size-fits-all narrative; everyone’s path winds in different ways.

Today is the next day of the life I’ve already had, but at the same time, the first day of the life I always knew I wanted to lead. Starting on Saturday, I will present as my true self. Going forward, I ask that you use female pronouns (she/her) and my chosen name, Sarah. Over the last several months, I’ve begun to quietly make the transition. A month and a half ago, I started hormones. I’ve told most of my friends and have secured an internship for the summer at the Victory Fund, an organization that works to elect LGBT people to public office and one of the largest political action committees in the nation.

I’d love nothing more than to remain friends with all of you. Below is a link to my new facebook. Feel free to friend me if we aren’t friends already and, please, do not hesitate to ask me any questions. I know this is new to a lot of people and I’m happy to explain my experience in more detail.

With every birthday candle extinguished, with every penny thrown, my wish was always the same.  I am now blessed with the opportunity to live my dream and fulfill a truth I have known since childhood. My gratitude is great to my family and friends for accepting me as the person who they now know me to be, and for letting me show them the possibilities of a life well lived.



PS I now know that my dreams and my identity are only mutually exclusive if I don’t try 🙂


I read this on FB yesterday.  Soon after that, my daughter called me to pick her up.  As I was driving down the street, I was thinking how I needed to tell Sarah’s mom how proud she must be.  Well, who is out walking her dog, but Sally.  I had the most wonderful conversation with her.    

Sally told me about how supportive everyone has been, of Sarah and of their family.  She shared a lot about how they reacted at first, and how she has been through so many emotions.  What really struck me is that their family is very honest with each other, very open and understanding, and obviously non-judgmental.  I told Sally how important I think it is that her story gets out there as well.  

Then my daughter texted me, “NVMD u don’t have to”.  Obviously, I was not in the car for the purpose of getting my daughter.

We’re going to be hearing a lot more about Sarah McBride.  Lady GaGa even tweeted the story yesterday!

This is just one of many situations where I observe how human beings are acting and reacting in new ways.  People are feeling a strong urge to be authentic, their true selves, and to shed that which is superficial.  Obviously, this is not an easy process in many cases.  People are letting go of their need to judge.  They are communicating with each other without jumping to conclusions, without agenda, without getting offended, without having to be right or to make others wrong.  If you keep your eyes peeled for this stuff, you will see it everywhere.  It’s the new paradigm we are stepping into.  And do you notice it’s the young people that are bravely leading the way?

I also observe that this way of being is contagious.  Once you let go of the old way, let it fall off your shoulders, everything gets easier.  There is more laughter, joy, happiness, contentment, and less worry.

Yet, many are used to the old way of being.  It’s comfortable.  Letting go of all the rules seems scary and chaotic.  What the heck is going on here?  The world has gone crazy!

Most of us are probably somewhere in between the old way and the new way.  (That’s why it’s called a transition.)  Sarah’s story is pretty “extreme” for lack of a better word — the situation is unique, not well-known, and is the kind of thing that usually is kept quiet.  I can tell you that this is a hard thing to wrap my head around.  Getting used to referring to her as Sarah and as she is going to take some time.  This is not something that is in my everyday sphere of existence.  I felt better that Sarah’s mom is still doing the same thing.  We just laughed about it.

Darkness (the old energy) is defined as the absence of light.  Light is love, understanding, patience, kindness.  Once there is some light, however small, darkness can no longer exist.  It doesn’t stand a chance.  The Bible uses the light analogy over and over.  The matches have been lit, the lightbulbs are turning on!


Sarah is a shining star for all to see.


Related posts on Meaning of Strife:

Beyond Right and Wrong

Judging vs. Evaluating

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Shining Like the Sun!

The Game of Life (Video Game Version)


Lessons from Cartagena

I lived in Cartagena from January to April 1978.  I was in tenth grade, and went there with three of my classmates as part of an exchange program.  I lived in Castillo Grande, went to school in Boca Grande, both near Laguito.  It truly was a different world, a completely different paradigm.

We attended an American school, with the kids of all the rich families of Cartagena.  The father of the family I stayed with was a plastic surgeon who specialized in hands.  The difference in lifestyle between the rich and the poor provided a very stark contrast.  I’ll never forget the cardboard shacks that were home to many Colombians.  The people I went to school with and lived with seemed never to give this a second thought.

At the time, we had running water only for a short time in the morning.  No hot water.  We came home from school midday to eat lunch and take a siesta.  The pace of life was much more relaxed.  I learned that when you slow down, have a less stressful life, and take a siesta, you need a whole lot less sleep.  The food was great – I gained 10 pounds.  (Our maid was a very good cook, in my opinion.)  We had plenty of beach time.  Instead of using a towel, you would just lie down on the sand.  I came home with darker skin than a light-skinned black kid on my school bus.  One of my favorite memories is watching the pelicans dive into the water.

We went to the discotheques with other kids from school.  No drinking age.  No big deal.

Going to church was a big deal.  We’d stand outside and socialize the whole time.  There were lots of Sweet 16 parties.  The girl I stayed with was obsessed with life in America, which she had learned about by reading Cosmo.  Her idea of the life of a teenager in America was pretty skewed.

The experience of living in Colombia is a big reason I question everything.  Most people live their life on auto-pilot and don’t ever consider that all those assumptions you take for granted aren’t universal.  Once that concept is shattered for you, you can’t go back.

I can tell you that Americans don’t have a clue about the cultural differences between the U.S. and Colombia.  The recent Secret Service scandal illustrates a lot of interesting issues.  Americans can’t help but interpret and judge and moralize about the situation with their own American bias.

This article from the NY Times is really interesting.  Americans look down their noses at “the prostitute,” but do you know that what she was doing was legal, and when the police got involved, they were on her side?  How does that one sit with you?  Observe your own bias – do you judge the woman?

Interesting, the Secret Service guy in question wasn’t doing anything illegal, he was just cheap (and got drunk).  How many cheap guys do you know that get drunk?  Did his actions reflect poor judgment?  How many of us always have perfect judgment?  How many times is something considered “OK” until someone gets caught?

So now, his life is ruined, he has disgraced his Country, there is massive outrage.  Why are we so quick to cast stones?

I’m not saying that the whole situation is just fine.  But it doesn’t affect me directly, so why should I get emotional and judgmental and angry about it?  Why do people feel they have to contribute negative energy when situations like this occur?  Why not get thoughtful, rather than emotional?

I know I’m a broken record, but….find the lesson, turn the experience into wisdom.  We don’t have to turn these things into more drama.

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The Reality Distortion Field

When I read Steve Jobs’ biography over Christmas break 2011, Chapter 11 hit me like a ton of bricks.  I know this Reality Distortion Field very well.

As described by Andy Hertzfeld, “The reality distortion field was a confounding mélange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand.” (p. 118)   Apparently, Jobs consistently insisted that impossible tasks be completed in impossible time frames, and somehow, through sheer will, the impossible would be accomplished.  The phrase had been adopted from a series of episodes of Star Trek, “in which the aliens create their own new world through sheer mental force.”

The biography is a great read, and very meaty.  It is at once the history of a company, the life story of a very interesting human being, and the tale of how our world has changed.  All fascinating.  For me, Jobs is a perfect case study of a human being who came into this world with a consciousness well ahead of most of the rest of us.  He felt that the rules did not apply to him, and he had a very strong sense of what he wanted to accomplish.  His path was also fraught with many challenges and obstacles.  In the end (as he left this world), just look at the impact he and Apple have made.  Go back 20, even 10 years, and where the company is today is stunning and unexpected.  I used Macs in the early 1990s, and I know very well how they were positioned in the market at that time and how they were viewed by the establishment.  Everybody knew that the IBM compatible PC was the way to go.  Ha!

I know this reality distortion field because I am the mother of a similar human being.  The Jobs biography speaks very little about how his childhood affected his parents, but I can only imagine how busy he kept them.  It is also obvious that they believed in him.

Steve Jobs was a pioneer.  When we look back at what pioneers accomplish, hindsight allows us to appreciate and idolize them, but we tend to forget how tough the process was when everyone thought they were crazy, arrogant, and impossible to deal with.

The thing we have to remember is, where pioneers go, more will follow.  Kids today come into this world as different animals.  We want to diagnose them, drug them, control them in any way we can, to make them act like kids “are supposed to act.”  Well, maybe kids were supposed to act like that 30 years ago, but it’s not the way they are built today.  They are not the same type of human being and all of our efforts are only going to frustrate us and hold them back.

Parenting these kids is a whole new ball game.  I have read more parenting books than you would care to imagine.  I understand that my kids are here to teach me lessons that I would not get if they were “easy”.  I have learned so much and grown so much because of them.  I have been amazed at their wisdom and what they are capable of when we trust them.

Instead of viewing kids as flawed, what if we looked at them as pioneers?  As wise, powerful beings who will push us, teach us, help lead us forward?  What if we strive to enable them, rather than tether them?  Stop holding them back and making them “wrong” and start appreciating them for who they are?

I feel for these young pioneers, because the world does not understand them and tries to beat them into submission.  Our educational systems are designed for the child of yesterday.  We no longer live in yesterday.  No wonder kids are acting out, parents are out of their minds, and teachers are exhausted.

How much longer will we try to force that square peg into a round hole?


Interested in more thoughts on our educational system and how it can better serve today’s kids?  Take a look at David’s blog Eduspire.  He has lots of interesting things to say about educating our kids.



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Planned Parenthood: Just Sayin’ No

Yesterday’s blog post by Ryan Holiday, regarding Planned Parenthood’s rejection of a $500,000 donation by Tucker Max, provides a great example of the way the “Old Energy” paradigm is clashing with the “New Energy” paradigm.  The situation illustrates a lot of the concepts I’ve been reading and writing about.

For anyone who hasn’t been in “my loop,” let me get you up to speed briefly.  I’ve been writing about how the world is shifting, how the masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves and our society are balancing, how we can move away from judgment and the mentality of “right” and “wrong”, how each person has their own unique perspective on the world that “just is”, and how some of the crazy behavior we are seeing “out there” might be explained by this shift.

I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with me on this stuff.  I write primarily as an outlet for myself, and I share knowing that some might find concepts here that they find interesting to think about, and others might find nothing at all.  I have no ego attached to either case.

I’m not going to repeat too many basic ideas here, so if you want to dig, feel free to read some previous posts.  Whatever works for you.

So, here’s the basic story:

Ryan Holiday, a publicist/marketing guy, works for Tucker Max.  Tucker has a big tax liability, and asks Ryan if he has any ideas.  Ryan suggests Tucker make a big contribution to Planned Parenthood, get a clinic named after him, generate lots of good PR.  The guys figure that since PP in Texas is having a rough time financially, they win, too.  The problem is, Tucker has made some not-so-nice references to PP and their clients, and PP decides to refuse his offer.  Ryan and Tucker are not happy about this, and make a fuss about how stupid Planned Parenthood is (which, aha! brings them more publicity).

And here’s my perspective:

The Old Energy paradigm, which is weighted toward power, materialism, and control, totally explains this scenario.  This paradigm is dominated by masculine energy.  Money talks, especially when the target is poor and vulnerable, and the fear of scarcity rules.  Judgments are made about who should do what, and the approach is competitive.  There is an attitude of “I know what’s good for YOU.”  When power does not get its way, it has a temper tantrum, intended to create doubt and fear.  Marketing = Manipulation.  There’s lots of discussion about who should have done what, and who is right or wrong.  Drama is created, and the Old Energy LOVES drama.  (Some refer to this as the third dimension.)

In the New Energy paradigm, masculine and feminine approaches are balanced.  No choice is right or wrong.  Each person or group is allowed to make its own choices and those choices are respected.  (One is ALLOWED to say “no.”)  Sure, they may have to deal with consequences of those choices, but that’s the concern of the one making the choice. It’s the ultimate in personal responsibility.  There is acceptance of “what is”, no fighting reality.   (This is how a fifth dimensional world operates.)

This shift from Old to New is subtle, but it’s happening.  Just look at how the world has changed in the last decades.  And 2012 is the tipping point for the shift.  It’s going to get harder and harder for those who play by the Old Paradigm rules to navigate their way through the world.  It’s going to be increasingly frustrating, and we’re going to see a lot of kicking and screaming.

And (hooray!!) it’s finally going to “work” for those who approach the world the New way.  Those whose intentions are for the Greater Good.  Those who operate from Love and Compassion.  Those who respect others without trying to control or manipulate them.  The Old Guard will still regard us as weak and naive, and they will continue to convince themselves that they are “right”.

Our time has come, finally.

Ryan and Tucker, you should know that the New Energy will not make you “wrong”.  It will respect your right to make your own decisions, to ask for what you want, and to conduct yourselves in any way you desire.  It’s all good.  The New Energy will not judge you.  Just don’t be surprised when the New Energy neglects to get involved in the drama and ignores you, or when you don’t get the kind of reaction and cooperation you expected.  When you encounter the same roadblocks over and over again, when you get stuck and you start asking yourselves “Why isn’t this working?” just remember that you will be presented with the same lesson over and over, as many times as you like, until you learn whatever it is that life is trying to teach you.  Hey, it’s all part of the adventure of life.

To the reader:  Do you want to be successful going forward?  If what I am saying has any truth to it, it might be a good idea to learn about how this New Paradigm is going to work.  Here are some people who are talking about this stuff – do a little research and decide for yourself what YOU think:


Tom Shadyac – writer/director of Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Patch Adams, etc.

Lynne McTaggart – author of The Field and The Intention Experiment, about the science of connectedness and consciousness

Lenore Skenazy – author of Free Range Kids, who writes about parenting without fear

Lee Carroll – author and channeler of Kryon’s messages about the shift

Ernie Fitzpatrick – LRC Houston, a spiritual community with Christian roots

Izzy Kalman – expert on handling bullying




Joe Paterno’s Final Exam

Let’s talk about Joe.

First, I have to vent about a pet peeve of mine – the oft-repeated explanation that we called him JoePa because he was a father figure.  Umm, no.  If you went to Penn State, you know the cheer – “When I say Joe Pa, You say ‘Terno. “ Yes, it’s just the first two syllables of his name.  Yes, I guess you could say Joe was a father-type figure, but that’s just not why the nickname, people.

I also don’t think it’s accurate to say that Penn Staters idolized Joe.  That’s not the right word, because what Joe always stood for was the opposite of idolizing.  We ADMIRED him, and greatly, specifically because he was someone who would NOT be idolized.  He valued hard work, honesty, humility, doing the right thing as best you could.

I think it’s just very difficult for those outside the Penn State community to understand how deep and meaningful Joe’s integrity was to all of us.  On the surface, the tailgates, the face paint, the cheers, the obsessiveness of fans, well, the behavior looks just the same as all the other sports fans out there.

I knew a lot of the football players in the early 80s, since I lived in Centre Halls for 4 years and we ate in the same cafeteria.  These were guys that I’m sure weren’t any different from any other group of athletes of college age.  A variety of personalities and backgrounds…some I have very fond memories of and others I thought were jerks.  I remember how they would make fun of the coach, imitating his high voice.

My point is, the football program wasn’t some fantasyland where everybody thought the coach could do no wrong, where the players were all put on a pedestal.  They weren’t a group that seemed untouchable.  Rather, they were a group of regular human beings who happened to have athletic talent, coached and mentored by a man who pushed them to do their best on and off the field.

My favorite inspirational example of what was made possible in this atmosphere was the friendship between Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner.  They were roommates and two of our best players.  But what you have to understand is, back then Penn State was not exactly a place where blacks and whites mixed easily.  I actually remember being pretty surprised when I got there, at how backward race relations were at the time.  But Todd and Curt were close, and their friendship served as a really nice example of how we could and should get along.

I was not really good friends with them, and I doubt they would remember me.  But I was friends with another player, Guiseppe Harris, and one night we were walking home from fraternity parties in a group that included Todd and Curt.  As we passed Skull House, we saw this girl hovered over a guy passed out on the front lawn.  Turns out she was a nursing student and he was in bad shape.

It would have been very easy for the star quarterback and star running back to keep walking.  But that’s not what happened.  Curt went and got his car, and we all squeezed in and took the guy to the hospital.  We waited until they said he would be ok.  That was 30 years ago, but still when I think about their lack of hesitation in helping some stranger they didn’t know, who could easily have puked all over the car (he didn’t), I feel great admiration.  This is the kind of character that Coach Paterno modeled and promoted in his players.  This is why I loved the football program at Penn State.

So now, take the life’s work of a man who did the very best he could to work hard, do the right thing, mentor young athletes, and make a positive impact on his school and community.  Seemingly a perfect life.  Then add Jerry Sandusky.

A friend of mine just yesterday shared a quote from the movie Red Tails.  It goes like this:

“Experience is a cruel teacher.  It gives the exam first, then the lesson.”

The way I see it, we were given a very tough exam this fall, through the events that affected the last few months of Joe Paterno’s life.

The exam was all about integrity and abuse, judgment and forgiveness, right and wrong, and how we react to the sometimes horrible reality of life.

So, what’s the lesson?

Well, it’s easy to avoid the tough work of figuring that out, and to just conclude that this was a really BAD exam.  Any prof that would give that kind of exam should not be in the teaching profession!  What a horrible exam, no one should be subjected to that kind of thing!  Who approved giving that exam!  Get rid of that guy!  This situation just should not exist!!

Can you see how easy it is to focus on where to place blame, rather than focusing on learning the lesson(s)?

The other attribute of this kind of exam is, you grade your own.  If you are up to the task of learning the lesson, the first step is to examine your own reaction (NOT someone else’s!) to the situation.

If you read about Coach Paterno’s reaction in recent interviews, you can see that he was reflective and thinking about his own actions and what he would have done differently.  He was working on the lesson.  He wasn’t avoiding the lesson by looking for someone to blame.

I am in awe of what Coach Paterno sacrified in the last few months. Like it or not, we were forced to take the exam.  Let’s not waste the opportunity to learn from the experience.

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David Lynch on Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain

Well, I just learned how to insert a link properly….I think….

David Lynch on Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain

A friend posted this video of David Lynch … he says:

If you have a golf ball size consciousness, when you read a book, you will have a golf ball size understanding…when you look out, a golf ball size awareness…and when you wake up in the morning, a golf ball size wakefulness.

But if you could  expand that consciousness, then you read the book, more understanding; you look out, more awareness; and when you wake up, more wakefulness.

It’s consciousness, and there’s an ocean of pure vibrant consciousness inside each one of us and it’s right at the source and base of mind, right at the source of thought, and it’s also at the source of all matter.

The film I AM talks about another aspect of this.  In that film, the author Lynne McTaggert is interviewed.  Her book, The Field, is an amazing explanation of the science behind the study of consciousness, and it is written in a way that is very understandable.

When these concepts are first encountered, they may seem a little wacky and foreign.

Another analogy that comes to mind…think of it as kids who are all in different grades in school.  As a first grader, there is a simple understanding of math.  It’s where the child is in their stage of development.  As they grow, they learn more and more, they understand more and more.

There is no judgment associated with a child being in first grade.  It’s more important for that child that they are placed appropriately, learning the math concepts that first graders learn.  We don’t push them to do fourth grade or tenth grade math.  The high schoolers don’t look down on them.  They are in the right place for them.

Conversely, the first graders don’t get mad at the seniors, who are taking calculus.  They just know that that is what you do when you get to that stage.  There is nothing “right” or “wrong” in this process….each child is just where they need to be.  The only concern would be, if the child stagnated in the process and stopped learning.  Then, we would want to help that child overcome whatever hurdle was keeping them from progressing further.

Just food for thought… 🙂

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