Change Takes Time

One of the things that I don’t like about the coaching industry is that it sells the idea that you can have anything you want in life quite easily as long as you pay a lot of money for a given coaching deal. The expense is carefully reframed as “the investment.” Now I’m a life/executive coach, but I don’t change exorbitant fees (like over $1,000 per month), because I want my services to be accessible to people. However, there is a well-known coach who emailed everyone on his list last year to offer a “carefully curated group of top business professionals” to form a mastermind group for the “low” price of 10k per year. Not very much was even being offered for that price, except the opportunity to be surrounded by top professionals. I deleted the email, but I know a few people who were burned by this. And interestingly, a year later, there is no reference on the internet to the program that was offered at all, as though it never existed, after the coach himself pocketed a million dollars. The reality is that a lot of people think that if they pay enough money, they will be transformed, but it doesn’t work that way, because change happens over time and has everything to do with how much work a person is willing to do, not just in the short run, but over time to maintain the change.

Clients come to me after they’ve been burned by programs like this.  I don’t believe in fleecing people and promising the moon. I believe in working week by week on effective change. Period. I hate to break it to clients wanting a quick fix, but most change takes three months to see tiny changes, six months to see momentum, and a good year to solidify the habits associated with the change. Change is hard work and it’s not easy, which is why most people give up or don’t try in the first place. I have found in my own life and with friends and clients, that change doesn’t happen in a day or a weekend, no matter how inspiring the weekend. I know Anthony Robbins charges a lot for his intense weekend programs, but I wonder how many people are permanently transformed, and how many people could have the same or better effects reading his books and/or working with a coach? I have friends who have called after taking the intensive Landmark program (kind of like EST from the seventies), feeling transformed, but a few months later, they admit that it didn’t really do anything permanently for them.

The biggest obstacle for most people is that we have false expectations of how change happens. I’ve seen friends lose a lot of weight quickly, but the ones who lose it slowly over time find that the changes ultimately stick. And the methods aren’t very sexy: 1) keep track of portion size 2) write everything down 3) realize that sugar and junk and high fat foods should be occasional treats 4) exercise every day 5) get enough sleep and 6) lower stress. That’s it. Some people do better with more protein or less or more carbs or less, but nobody needs to adhere to the zealotry of various diet camps, like Vegans vs. Paleo, because foods work differently for each person and there is no one right diet. Ultimately it still comes down to: Eat less and focus on real foods, and exercise and move a lot more. That’s it.

As you seek your world stage, beware of the coaching programs promising you an easy solution to changing your life for a high “investment” of money. You don’t need to spend 10K for a weekend to change your life. You just need to decide that you’re ready to change, and then find the books and/or people who can help you. For some, it’s going to AA meetings, or joining Weight Watchers, or checking out Toastmasters, or getting resume services. For others, it’s finding a coach to have your back as you do the hard work of change. But just remember no matter what, that you can decide to permanently change whatever isn’t working. It’s up to you.





Watch Out for Spin

Last Monday, in Brooklyn around 12:30 in the afternoon, two mothers who are friends crossed a well-marked crosswalk at a light when it was their turn to walk. One mother, Ruthie Ann, was 7 months pregnant and carrying her 5 year-old daughter across the street. The other mother, Lauren, was pushing her 1 year-old son in a stroller. Later street videos show that even though the cars were initially stopped a few feet from the crosswalk, all of a sudden a white Volvo started to accelerate in spite of the red light, right into the people crossing, hitting the two mothers and both of their children, who were tossed like rag dolls into the street. The pregnant mother ended up lying facedown in the middle of the street with blood coming from her head. The other mother was able to get up and try to give CPR to her son who had flown out of the stroller, which ended up being dragged by the car. A medical resident happened to be there, so he did compressions while the mother screamed and blew oxygen into her son. Both kids ended up dying from their injuries but the mothers survived, including the unborn child. I can’t imagine what they are both going through right now as they try to come to terms with what happened, and try to heal their broken bodies and spirits.

What struck me about this story is how the news story has been spun. This is a story that touches on a lot of different issues: money and fame and race and religion and illness came into play. The driver who killed the children apparently has not be prosecuted because she is a white middle-aged woman who has a medical history of seizures, as if that explains anything. My cousin had seizures after the birth of one of her children, and was forced to give up her license. But in this case, the driver wasn’t even scolded. Her license ended up being temporarily revoked, after some public pressure, but that’s about it. If she had been a black man driving with a medical condition, they would have pressed charges. In addition, I thought it was strange how the press emphasized continually how the pregnant mom was a Famous Broadway Actress and the other woman was “a friend” and how both moms had Go Fund Me pages that had been set up, but the famous woman had twice as much money as “the friend”– with one accruing $414K so far and the other “just” $221K. While I appreciate that people want to do something supportive in a time of tragedy to show that they care, should enough money be raised to fund a new house? It kind of seems like trading money for a dead child to me. In addition, various celebrity publications have been writing about what Ruthie Ann Miles’ net worth is, forgetting that there are two dead children and a reckless driver who hasn’t been prosecuted. Instead, people have focused on how much the famous actress has and how much she’ll get from her Go Fund Me account.

There’s also the issue of the moms’ races– it’s interesting that one is Asian married to a white guy and one is white married to an Asian guy, both with Eurasian children, and no one mentions it, which I think shows how far we’ve come in terms of race. But what if these moms had been black women from the projects, or they were migrant workers carrying their kids after being in the fields? I don’t think there would be a story or a Go Fund Me page. Finally, the issues of religion is interesting too. Ruthie Ann is apparently very religious and believes that the two dead children are in heaven with Jesus, but the other woman is apparently really suffering mentally. I don’t know what her beliefs are, but I would think it would be hard to be friends with someone who has such religious certainty when you in fact may not share that. Not everyone believes that everything happens for a reason and that your child who was murdered is suddenly in the arms of Jesus.

Finally, while locals are up in arms about the crossing not being safe– I’m not sure why it’s not safe but another pedestrian was killed there last year– people continue to walk down the sidewalk and across the street while looking down at their phones, trusting that all the cars will stop. I was thinking about this story today, noticing how often pedestrians are walking and not looking where they are going. As for the woman with the seizures, her license should have been taken away from her years ago. People with certain medical conditions should not be able to drive, no matter how much compassion we may have for them, just as crazy people shouldn’t have guns.

To find your world stage, make sure you notice the spin on any news story. Notice how often there is an implied hierarchy of values: 1) Fame 2) Money 3) Upper class white (or Asian) 4) Mothers. The quicker you understand the spin of the story, the sooner you can see what our society values, and how easily we get distracted by money and fame and forget the more important story, which is that two innocent children were murdered by a reckless driver who never should have gotten behind the wheel of a car that day.


All the World’s a Stage

This weekend my 13 year-old son performed in his school’s production of Mary Poppins, playing the part of the little boy, Michael. There were over 40 middle school students performing, some of whom had never been on a stage before, and the cast only had rehearsals five hours per week for three months. With a few extra long rehearsals toward the end, it amounted to about 80 hours of rehearsal total, which is only two weeks time for a professional cast rehearsing 40 hours per week, and they usually rehearse at least six weeks. So there wasn’t a lot time and there were a lot of beginners in the cast.

And yet, when the curtain came up last night, I was more moved by this production than by professional ones that I have seen, because of the amount of heart and joy that went into this. Given that the cast was all roughly the same age (age 11-13), many of them were the same height, so my son who played a 7 year-old was actually taller than his mother, his older sister, and Mary Poppins. But somehow we believed that he was a little kid. The cast was a fabulous rainbow of races– with Mary Poppins half Asian and half hispanic; George, the father, half Asian and half white; Jane, the daughter, half black and half hispanic, and Bert, part-black. My son and his mother were the only two white leads. There were kids who could hit all the notes perfectly and those who had trouble with pitch. There were strong dancers and kids who looked at their feet. There were kids who really stood out in the chorus and other kids who were happy just to be a quiet townsperson or a toy who came to life. There were kids running lights and kids moving the sets on and off, kids who sold tickets, and kids who organized the costumes, props and sets with teachers.

What I loved about this is that during this show, you couldn’t tell which kids were popular, which kids were friends or not, or which kids were gay or straight. It didn’t matter whose family dislikes Trump or not, who was what race or what religion or spoke what language at home. It didn’t matter ultimately who had the most lines or the least, because in the end, the leads can’t shine if they are not well lit or don’t have their props, or don’t have smiling townspeople behind them. Every single person was essential to the success of the play and every student knew it.

I think about what our society and our greater world would be like if we realized that, like a play, we are all necessary and important, and that it doesn’t matter if our doctor is black or white or Christian or Muslim, but that he or she can help to heal us. Same with the teacher or accountant or firefighter. We waste so much time trying to make ourselves better than others, making the point that we are the lead and others aren’t, but we forget that we need all the players of life, just as in a play, to make our lives work.

To find your world stage, remember that as Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.” Every single actor and designer and crew person is essential on the stage, as they are metaphorically in real life. Let’s forget how we’re different and start to notice not only how alike we in fact are, but also how much, in the end, we need each other.





Don’t Have the Time

When my neighbor was dying of cancer, she wrote in a blog about the fact that she had put so much on hold, like having fun and spending time with her young kids, because she was working long hours to build her career. She was one of those ambitious high-achievers who had a plan and checked everything off her list, thinking that if she worked hard enough that everything would fall into place. She thought she had all the time in the world to focus on her career. Many people can relate to that. It never occurred to her, however, that she would get aggressive breast cancer at age 37 and be dead three years later.

There were two things that struck me about that. One was how often smart, hard-working, talented people feel that they can control their life path, as if hard-work somehow keeps bad things from happening. I did everything right in my pregnancy with my son, for instance, not even taking a Tylenol when I had a headache, but he still was born with capillary malformation and required years and years of skin procedures with anesthesia. I eat and take good care of myself, and yet still managed to get an inflammatory eye condition six years ago that has baffled doctors and left me, on bad days, feeling hopeless that I’ll ever find a solution. I started to blame myself, thinking that maybe I wasn’t eating healthfully enough, until I heard about a friend’s relative who ran marathons and ate kale (which I don’t like) and died of a brain tumor before she was 40.

The other thing that struck me about my neighbor was how fearless she was once she knew she was dying. She wrote that she used to be scared about not doing well on an exam or in her work, but then would say, “What’s the worst that can happen?” But when the worst that can happen is that you will die a slow horrifying death in a year or two after many painful treatments? That’s terrifying at first, and then ultimately freeing. When I knew this neighbor, it was almost entirely after she had been diagnosed, and she was the most present, joyful mom, having friends over, playing in a teepee with the kids, doing arts and crafts, baking and going on trips. One of my favorite song lyrics is from Me and Bobby McGee: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” There’s a lot of freedom in no longer having the time to care what others think.

But what if you didn’t have to be dying to become fearless? I often tell my clients, who are worried about what people will think, that they just have to keep forging ahead, since you don’t want to look back on your life and wonder why you didn’t try that new career, or leave the bad marriage, or take that trip. I have clients who keep thinking that they aren’t talented enough or educated enough to get the career they want, when from my vantage point, they are all those things and more. And I’ve said before, there is no Permission Fairy that you have to wait for.

I used to have a real fear of failure, so I found myself playing small, until I realized that I needed to take risks. If I wasn’t doing things that scared me, then I needed to do more. I got my second CD out, I pulled my kids out of school for 6 months to travel the world, I got certified in coaching, and I started a coaching business separate from my vocal coaching/music business. I got clients from all over the world and coached people on their business and their relationships and their health and their creativity. I started performing. I started setting more boundaries, like the fact that I don’t want to have traditional Christmas for a number of years and would rather travel with my family instead. And you know what, the sky didn’t fall in. I reminded myself of the famous quote: “What you think about me is none of my business.” It was tempting to wait until my eye pain had healed or to wait until the kids were at better ages (whenever that is), but there will always be a reason not to do something. The fact is that none of us has the time to wait, even if we get to live healthfully into our late 90’s as both my grandmothers did.

Anne Lamott wrote in Operating Instructions about her first year of parenthood as a young mom, during which her closest friend was dying. At one point, Anne tried on a dress for her friend, but found herself asking if it made her hips look too big. Her friend said to her: “I really don’t think you have that kind of time.” It wasn’t that her dying friend didn’t have that time. It was that Anne didn’t either. None of us does.

One of the things that is good about living in such a terrifying America right now is that citizens are FINALLY waking up. We didn’t wake up after 20 innocent 1st graders were murdered, or after many other massacres, but somehow after the recent Florida shooting, we are waking up and we are mad. I received messages from both of my kids’ schools about their active shooter drills that they run regularly, and I’m grateful that I don’t have tiny children at this point who are living in this kind of fear. Once you get to a point where Congress is just out to make money and pay back their donors, where housing is so expensive and good jobs are so few that the homeless and drug-addicted are growing exponentially, and that children are getting massacred with machine guns, then it’s easier not to care what the neighbors think. We don’t have the time to waste. Now is the time.







After the recent school shooting in Florida, where another 17 students were mowed down by a disgruntled student with an AR-15 weapon, President Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Later he stated: “Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families. To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain.” And then he went off and played golf. This is the man who received 30 million dollars from the NRA and was quoted as saying (and I paraphrase): “You were good to me, so I will be good to you.”

There have been over 10 school shootings in America in the past six weeks alone, and guns have been fired in schools 18 times since 2018 began. There were 58 shootings since the beginning of the school year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group. Of the 13 worst school shootings in America’s history, only three happened in the eighties or nineties. The rest were all within about 10 years, with five happening in a little over two years: Dec 2015-Feb 2018. The biggest two happened in the last two years as well with the Las Vegas and Orlando shootings.  (See The Guardian Feb 15, 2018.)

So I’m guessing thoughts and prayers aren’t working. We can’t really leave this up to God when we have mostly Republican congressmen receiving huge gifts from gun advocacy groups. According to, Republicans received 5.9 million in gifts and Democrats about 100K in the 2016 election year, with top donations going to congressmen like Paul Ryan, who personally received $336K.

I’m thinking that instead of thoughts and prayers, that hearing this might be more helpful: “I’m sorry that my greed and my need for power made me accept blood money that is now killing your children.” That would be a start. And then outlawing and buying back all semi-automatic weapons, that are not helpful for self-defense or hunting, would be the next thing to do. But it begins with the word Sorry. Or how about “I’m sorry we cut taxes for corporations and billionaires and won’t have enough money to feed the poor, but at least we’ll be giving them food they don’t want or can’t eat in little boxes somehow delivered to their front door?”

I’ve been thinking about this issue of apology a lot lately in my conversations with clients. So many of my clients, who are smart and talented and hard-working, would benefit from hearing Sorry from emotionally abusive parents, in two cases, who never heard what the client needed as a child, so these clients struggle as adults to believe that their needs are valid. Or how about another client hoping that her father will stop negating the choices she is making, by constantly trying to steer her to another path, even though she’s doing great? Or how about my friend whose husband has been emotionally abusive for years– what if he apologized and got help? Or the friend with the husband who has been cheating for years? “I’m sorry I betrayed you and it’s not your fault. I’m going to get help” would go a long way.

I’m kind of tired of thoughts and prayers. After bouncing around a lot of churches over the years, trying to find our “church home” we finally gave up, after the last very liberal minister tried to convince me that hiding illegal aliens was more noble than giving to the Americans who are starving and homeless in our own backyard. I think it felt sexier to him to get caught up in the Sanctuary Movement, even though it was against the wishes of many parishioners. As I said to my kids, “If every American was fed and clothed and safe and warm and had a good job, then we could give amnesty to all these new poor people who snuck in illegally. But if we can’t take care of our own– all the Native Americans who were here first and all the African Americans whom we stole and forced onto ships– then we have no business hiding foreigners. Hearing a Sorry from our minister might have allowed us to stay, but in the end, he felt like he was part of the Underground Railroad, saving people who didn’t belong here and forgetting that he was abandoning all the ancestors of slaves in our own neighborhood.

As you think about your world stage, remember to listen not just to what people say, but to what they do. Learn to follow the money to understand people’s actions. If it’s not about money, it’s about power for so many people sadly. But if you can stand up for what is right and expose the hypocrisy of all the greedy, power-hungry people offering thoughts and prayers, as opposed to real life-changing solutions, then you will be on your way to claiming your world stage.









Stop Fixing

This week it seems that many people I talked with were in some crisis or another. My daughter is still recovering from her concussion, my son is trying to navigate middle school politics, another friend has a daughter with a concussion, and one friend is in a toxic, emotionally abusive marriage that she can’t easily leave due to children. I have a friend who hasn’t found a job in three years of looking and the money is running out. I have clients who are struggling with bad relationships as well, or are lonely or struggle to ask for what they need. Many are scared that the world is falling down around them and that their dreams are out of reach.

In addition, it seems like everywhere you turn, there is bad news these days. This winter is one of the worst flu seasons since the Swine Flu of 2009. 4,000 people died from the flu in the third week of January this year and 63 children have died. The government was actually shut down because of a fight among parties about the rights of illegal aliens, and yet we are ignoring our American citizens, many of whom are addicted and/or homeless. The number of Americans who died from an opiod overdoses in 2016 (64,070) surpassed the total number of people killed in the entire Vietnam War (58,200). (CBS News, Oct 17, 2017) This is higher than the number of AIDS victims in a given year at its peak in 1995. In addition, 2017 was one of the hottest years on record and the six hottest years have been since 2010, according to CNN, and yet our administration denies that global warming exists. There are endless scandals in the White House and cover-ups for sexual abuse and domestic violence and a pedophile was almost elected to the Senate. And there are all the refugees fleeing violence, from Syria to Myanmar too.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. We are not made to take on endless stress and worry. Those of us who are caring and competent and good listeners can find ourselves drained from constant problems and others needing support. So this week, I decided to be more like a turtle, to pull myself in and focus on self-care and the most pressing needs of my family and my work, and do little else. We know how important it is to protect ourselves in obvious ways– like wearing a seatbelt or a helmet or locking our doors, or looking both ways before we cross, not to mention washing our hands a lot during flu season. But how do we protect ourselves energetically when everybody seems to have a problem or need something, when we become the dumping ground for everyone’s needs? The answer is to stop fixing. It doesn’t mean that you stop caring or wishing others well. It just means that you stop helping to solve others’ problems, which is a big tenet of coaching as well. Letting clients come to their own solutions is empowering, whereas fixing on any level can be enabling and doesn’t serve anyone. So this week, I took three large steps back energetically from solving the world’s problems and helping everyone who needed it. And it felt amazing.

To find your world stage, remember that you can inspire others and point them in the right direction, but you can’t save them. It’s up to them to do that work. And sadly, the world will always have problems, there will always be sad stories, and there will always be things we can’t control. What we can control is taking care of ourselves and being responsible citizens, who vote and recycle and avoid drugs and try not to fix. And if we do that, we can look up and rejoice in the wonder of so many things, like music and nature, and be glad once again to be alive.



The Problem with Denial

I just saw a riveting documentary called There Is Something Wrong with Aunt Diane about the Long Island mother who drove the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway in July 2009, with 5 children in her car, killing 8 people: 5 of the 6 in her car (her son survived) and 3 in another car. Her blood alcohol levels were found to be twice the legal limit and she had a large amount of marijuana in her system. And yet, her husband hired a lawyer to contest these medical facts, to prove that Diane wasn’t drunk. He said, “She was the perfect wife and mother.” That statement alone should have given people pause, because no one is perfect, and extreme perfectionists like Diane– the kind who was known for ironing even her kids’ play clothes after working a full-time job as the primary breadwinner– those are the people who need some kind of outlet for the unrelenting stress. Not only was she over 200 pounds, she smoked pot every night, according to her sister-in-law, so that she could relax. And she was the one who put a full bottle of vodka in the front seat of her car for the trip home, even though she was driving kids. And yet no one in her family was willing to put two and two together.

I read the memoir by the mother whose three girls were killed by their Aunt Diane, called I’ll See You Again. It was beautiful and heart-wrenching, describing the hell of losing all of her children, but the whole book was a denial of the test results and DNA, which were run multiple times, which showed that Diane was drunk and high at the time of the crash. The mother of the girls, ages 8, 7 and 5, couldn’t bear to believe that her husband’s sister had killed their children, or even worse that her husband knew about his sister’s problem with alcohol. Neither of those is something you want to know. So instead, for her survival, she chose denial.

One of my friends confessed to me a few years ago that he had been a raging alcoholic for many years and had driven drunk multiple times and even blacked out while driving. (I realized after the fact, that one of the times I was in the car.) There was one time when I caught him with slurred speech and he tried to brush it off as medication he was taking. I actually went through the trash bins to try to find evidence, but addicts are good at hiding. I never smelled anything, but then again, as he later told me, vodka is what seasoned alcoholics drink because there is no smell. The point of all this is that my friend held down a job, raised kids, was very responsible, and seemed very high- functioning. And his spouse, who also drank too much, was very happy to help him hide and enable. This was probably the same with Diane. I think her husband knew, but to confess that would mean lawsuits from the three adults killed in another car. So it’s better just to lie.

This story fascinated me because it’s so easy in our busy lives not to notice what is going on with the people around us, or to be in denial about our own lives. I have clients who struggle to see their marriages clearly, or to realize how lonely they are, or how toxic their jobs are, or how much they are enabling others’ bad behavior. We all do it to some degree. It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we only need to lose a few pounds, when it’s really more like 20 pounds, or to think we don’t have a problem with alcohol but we can’t go a day without a few drinks, or to believe that we don’t have a spending problem, when in fact the debt is enormous. We also enable our family and friends when we don’t speak up. A former neighbor sent angry videos and emails to the whole neighborhood a few years ago, which was very strange behavior for this up-standing soccer mom, and no one said anything. Most people didn’t want to pry and needed to assume the best. I knew something was off and actually showed the strange videos to my daughter to make sure she never played over there, since I didn’t know if the mom was drunk or high or mentally ill, but none were a safe situation. It turns out she was bi-polar and going through a long manic stage. Thankfully she never drove my kids anywhere and ended up getting divorced and moving away, but one of her closer friends should have stood up to her and confronted her about what they saw. No one ever did.

As you seek your world stage, a big part of moving toward what you want is getting honest about what you’re in denial about. It’s not fun and it’s not easy, but asking the hard questions is so important for creating success. You have to be willing to step on the scale, add up your debt, notice how much you drink or smoke, and look at how happy your relationship really is. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you realize that something is wrong. It means that you’re a flawed human who is courageous enough to really look at your life, which is the first step toward making change. It also takes courage to notice what our friends and family are up to and to speak up if there is a problem. The fact is, denial can hurt or kill people and/or their dreams. Today, make a decision to really look at what is going on. It may be scary, but it’s the key to moving forward.






Be Willing to Walk

One of the best things I have learned as a parent and as a person, is not to give too much importance to any commitment, whether a school or an activity, in case the situation sours and you have to walk away. I think about this dynamic often as a parent in a competitive cut-throat world, in which parents push their kids relentlessly to succeed. While my husband and I work hard not to push our kids, many of the parents around us do. It’s hard when your child has made the team or the orchestra to walk away, even when the coach or director is badly behaved, but it’s essential to be able to.

When my daughter made it into a highly regarded youth orchestra, which hundreds of kids audition for, we were so excited for her. But when I sat through the first rehearsal and heard the conductor actually threaten bodily harm to one of the sweet little violinists because she couldn’t play the passage right, I was horrified. I looked around at the other parents watching and they were all smiling. When I asked a veteran parent about this, his answer was, “They get amazing results from the kids and it looks great on the college resume.” He didn’t seem to care that the conductor was abusive, given that she screamed: “If you don’t get this passage right, you will wind up in the hospital and I will wind up in prison.” The next week, I watched again, and the conductor was just as terrifying, so I told my daughter that we were going to walk away. Nothing was worth this kind of abuse. I called the school and they gave a full refund, although they reminded me that most parents don’t complain about the behavior because their kids improve.

Last spring my son auditioned for a competitive choir in Boston that sings with orchestras and opera companies. The director really liked him and wanted to groom him for great things. The problem was that month after month, the rehearsals were long and intense and there were many performances and demands outside of rehearsals. My son’s voice was starting to hurt from overuse, since he is one of the leads in Mary Poppins at his school right now. He was starting to get insomnia and other stress-related ailments from being over-scheduled. He was being groomed to sing a solo with a professional orchestra, but he doesn’t really like classical music. And the director seemed particularly interested in the few boys in the chorus, inviting them privately for ice cream with him, which we refused to let our son do because we thought it felt creepy. So, we walked away.

I think of all this because of the recent trial for the gymnastics doctor who was found to have molested hundreds of girls over 20 years, often while the parents were in the examining room. A lot of people have commented that they don’t understand how the parents didn’t know. But I totally understand that. They didn’t want to know because the stakes were too high. When your daughter is poised for huge success, you don’t want to be the person who blows the whistle. The gymnasts didn’t tell because they wanted to be one of the five who made the US team. But I get it because I see it everyday in my town, with parents who are so invested in their kids’ success, that they aren’t willing or able to speak up before it’s too late.

In our town, parents allow their kids to play on multiple soccer or hockey teams from a young age, and the kids’ muscles are strained from repeating the same sport over the over. We wouldn’t let our kids try out for travel soccer until they were older since we had a babysitter who had had two major surgeries from soccer before she was 16. A boy in our neighborhood had his leg shattered last fall from a collision on the field, I believe from years of overplaying. But when I ask parents why they allow coaches to insist on more and more practices and then games that are sometimes four states away, the parents shake their heads and say, “It’s an arms race, but if we drop out or speak up, we lose.” So as a result, everyone loses.

The fact is, we don’t always choose right. The preschool we chose for my daughter was like Lord of the Flies, with bigger kids bullying little kids, terrifying my girl. We walked away from a lot of money to go with the more orderly school that had rules that everyone had to follow and she ended up thriving. We walked away from the pediatrician who was rude and condescending to us, when my son had a medical problem that this doctor didn’t know how to fix. We walked away and found a great team to help him and never looked back.

To find your world stage, remember that if something is wrong, you do need to speak up. And if the situation doesn’t change, sometimes the best thing is to walk. Nothing is worth getting hurt or abused– no gold medal or Ivy League school or accolade is worth that. Keep your eyes open and notice when something isn’t right and speak up. In the end, you can either try to please others and get along, or you can please yourself and stand up for what is right. In my mind, that’s an easy choice.









Silver Linings

I’ve always been an optimist. I believe that most people are caring, and that in spite of all the misery in the world, life is fundamentally good. I try to focus on the beauty of the seasons, the joy of holding a new baby or a squiggly puppy, the wonder of seeing life through a child’s eyes, the excitement of discovering a new city or hearing beautiful music. Even though I’m not a huge fan of winter (I don’t ski and I hate being cold), I love the hush of winter and the look of snow falling through a window. Even though it rains a lot in spring, I am a huge tulip lover and am mesmerized by the explosion of color after a dull, dark season. Summer is swimming in lakes and sunshine and shorts and fresh berries. And fall, with its glorious color and crisp air and apple picking, is magical.

And yet, it’s easy to forget those things when life gets tough. In the last three months, my son had an emergency appendectomy, and then two months later had a laser treatment for a skin condition he’s had since birth, which leaves him bruised for weeks, often with his eyes swollen shut. It was one thing when he was a little guy and we could hide him from the world, but now that he’s in middle school, it requires a whole new level of courage returning to school even with faded bruises. Now that he’s finally healed, my daughter had a snowboarding accident on a school ski trip earlier this week and has been home with a concussion, with dim lights, no technology and no visitors– not easy for a teenager.

My husband reminds me that our house didn’t burn down, we are not dying of cancer, and we don’t live in parched places of Africa where there is no food and water. That is true, but still. On top of this, my son’s down jacket was stolen, and the attic has a leak from various winter storms, so in spite of a lot of roof work over the years, our 80 year-old house is going to need even more repairs. The good news is that it’s not fall of 2016, when the entire family passed lice back and forth for two months until we finally got rid of them, and then my daughter broke her finger, which took four months, two doctors, one physical therapist, one occupational therapist, and a lot of driving to heal.

But as all of this was happening, I thought of the silver lining, which is that my son had an amazing team at Children’s Hospital for both medical procedures, and we live near one the best hospitals in the world. We were 20 minutes away when we needed emergency attention and not in the middle of the Sahara, as my mom actually was when she traveled through Africa with her parents as a preteen. The good news about my daughter was that she was wearing a helmet that saved her when she fell back hard against the icy snow and blacked out. The ski patrol said that this saved her from very serious injury, and we will always be grateful. (In fact, we are keeping her helmet for our memories, given that she can’t use this one again, to remember what it did to help her.) And, I have a client and a neighbor who will now wear helmets because of this.

There are other silver linings too. Because Americans have Trump in the White House, we are slowly waking up to the fact that we need to be citizens and not consumers, and that we need to get off our devices, turn off the Kardashians and march. Because my daughter was home and had to be unplugged, we made art together and I read stories to her, which is something we haven’t done a lot of in years.

I’m starting to hear from more of you– which I love!– that you’re wanting to make changes in your life, to get in shape, to learn more about yourself and the world. The world becomes a better place when we take care of ourselves, because then we have more to give to others. One of the lessons I’ve learned when I’m under stress is to make sure I have time to sleep, eat well, and exercise. It allows me to be more patient and present.

To find your world stage, don’t forget to find the silver lining. It doesn’t mean going around with rose colored glasses on. You have every right to feel bad when things don’t go well. But as soon as the crisis passes, or even if/when it doesn’t, it is a great spiritual practice to ask what is good about this. I don’t believe the oft-used slogan of “Things Happen for a Reason” since there is never a reason for so many things, like children dying in wars or suffering from hunger. But, I do believe that there is a silver lining that we can see if we really look. And finding that lining allows us to endure the next time things are hard.



Remember the Dream Again

A year ago, I wrote about Martin Luther King and what a hero he was, not only to black people but to all of us. I am re-posting this again this weekend, because it is more important now than ever. Americans have spent a year feel assaulted by the bully we have in the White House. We already know that Trump is sexist and racist, but his horrible comments this week about not wanting people from s*** hole countries is disgusting. I feel ashamed to be American, and I can only imagine what Martin Luther King would have thought. I hope that we all find the courage to start marching in protest against all the dismantling that has been done already, from our environment to foreign policy.  It is ironic that these comments were made on the eve of MLK Day, given that this day honors a man who stood up for the poor and the oppressed and who understood the power of language to unite or to tear down.  He cared about justice and building a better world for everyone, not about making more money at others’ expense. In honor of Martin Luther King, here is the post I wrote exactly one year ago, celebrating one of my heroes. May we all remember that freedom is not something we can take for granted, and we must fight for it every day.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and none of it was planned.  The night before, King asked his aides for advice about the speech, as to whether he should use the “I Have a Dream” line, which he had used a few times before.  His advisor, Wyatt Walker, said, “It’s trite, it’s cliche.  You’ve used it too many times already.” The next day, King did not plan to use it.  He wanted something as powerful as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address but just couldn’t seem to nail it.  When he reached the podium, it was almost 90 degrees and the crowd of 250,000 people had been standing in the heat for hours.  King was 16th on the program, almost at the very end.  As Norman Mailer wrote, “there was… an air of subtle depression, of wistful apathy which existed in many. One felt a little of the muted disappointment which attacks a crowd in the seventh inning of a very important baseball game when the score has gone 11-3.” King delivered a rather staid address, reading from his notes, but it clearly wasn’t as passionate as other speeches he had given in the past.  As he neared the end, Mahalia Jackson, who was behind him, having sung earlier, cried out: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” King paused, put down his notes and decided to preach like the Baptist minister he was, and the rest is history:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… I have a dream that…one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” (The Guardian: Aug 9, 2013.)

Over 50 years later, some of the dream has come to fruition, like having a black president in the White House the past eight years, but racial tensions continue, with white cops killing innocent blacks and blacks retaliating.  Most recently in the news, there was a very sad and disturbing story of four angry black teens kidnapping and torturing a disabled white teen to seek revenge on all white people.  The ordeal was videotaped by the teens and posted to social media because I guess getting noticed for their hatred was far more important than not getting caught.  Still, it makes me so sad and angry that all these years after the Civil Rights Movement, there continues to be more racial hatred and violence.  Dr. King would be so disheartened to see this, and yet I’m sure he wouldn’t be surprised.  Racism is taught at home and anti-racism has to be taught as well.  Children don’t just grow up knowing the importance of not judging by the color of one’s skin. It has to be taught.  Children aren’t born racist.  Babies love all colors; they love people who play with them.  It is adults who teach them to be mean and judgmental and afraid of people not like them.  And we should be ashamed.

My family is fortunate in that we can afford to live in a town that is very racially and religiously diverse, with 30% Jews and many Asians and African Americans.  My son’s classroom last year was 50% non white, his teacher was Indian-American and his aide was African-American.  The year before, his teacher was Costa Rican. My daughter’s school is an international school with 75 countries represented. At her birthday party, half of all the girls spoke another language as their first language.  My husband’s best friend is Japanese, and our kids have grown up thinking that “Crazy Uncle Dave” is somehow blood related, even though we are pale white people.   My kids know that discriminating against people because of the color of their skin is like choosing friends because of the color of their tennis shoes– it’s pretty random and unfair. But not all parents teach this.  Some white children are taught to hate and fear blacks and visa versa, and that’s sad, because the cycle will never end until all of us learn and teach the right thing.

As you begin this new year, committed to finding and living your world stage, remember the brave preacher that one hot August day, who had a dream that someday black children would be equal to white.  This is also a man who took a chance, against the advice of his aides, and put his speech down, knowing he had no other words to read from, and followed his heart in order to inspire a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people looking for direction and hope.  Remember to ask yourself how you are helping Martin Luther King’s dream to live on in the way you live your life.  And ask yourself what your “I Have A Dream” speech is, and what would happen if just once, you lay down your notes and spoke from your heart.  You might just make history too.