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.






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.



Merry Christmas!

Wherever you are in the world and whatever holiday you celebrate, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas in as many languages as possible.

This season, remember that we are more alike than we are different, and that the answer to having peace in the world is to be a light for others. Practice love, show joy, extend kindness, and be of good cheer. As you find your world stage and claim your voice, use your gifts to brighten the world. It needs it now more than ever.

Wishing you all a very joyful season. With love and gratitude,

Melinda Stanford

World Stage Coaching




Your Turn

Dear readers,

I am home sick with a nasty cold/virus and have actually lost my voice, which is ironic, given that I write about helping clients to find their voices. Of course, my work is figurative, and the only thing that will help my croaking voice go back to normal, is less work and more rest. So this week, I’m letting my readers write for me.

This is where you come in. I have all these wonderful subscribers, some of whom are family or friends and some of whom are current clients. But, most of you I don’t know yet. I really would love to hear from you to get to know you, so I can write more of what YOU want to read.

Send me an email and let me me know a few things about you. THE FIRST 5 PEOPLE TO RESPOND GET A FREE 50 MINUTE COACHING SESSION.  Just email me at: with your quick answers and I’ll contact the winners. The only rule is that you need to be a subscriber who is not someone I have been in contact with recently– so no family, close friends or clients.

  1. Why did you subscribe to my blog, Your World Stage?
  2. What topic do you enjoy reading about most and least?
  3. What is your biggest dream and where is your world stage?
  4. What is keeping you from finding your voice?
  5. What is your favorite place on earth?

Here are my quick answers: 1) I subscribed to the blog because I want to get a copy of my writing in my email box to save! 2) I enjoy reading about overcoming adversity and I don’t like reading about taxes. 3) My biggest dream is to sing on stage with Yo Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall with my parents, my husband and kids, and Oprah there. 4) My biggest challenge– constantly setting boundaries with my kids and others, so that when I say no, it means no. 5) Favorite place ever: Walking down Georgia Lane, in Portola Valley, CA and taking in the pungent smell of dried grasses.

Wishing you all a very healthy, non-voice-losing week. Take a second to contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.



Me Too

After the news came out that Harvey Weinstein had been sexually harassing and/or molesting women for decades, a Facebook campaign started among women, with millions posting “Me Too” if they had been victims of harassment or assault. I wasn’t surprised that most women chimed in. Many shared horrific stories from “casting couch” job interviews to date rape. I felt incredibly lucky that my experiences in comparison were so minor. I was fortunate that I had an innocent and protected childhood and no one tried to harm me – thank God, although it’s amazing how many women, including former clients, have had that experience.

My first experience with creepy men was when I was in high school and would hang out at the community theatre production my older sister was in to watch the final part of rehearsal. There was a good-looking actor, clearly a playboy among the ladies, who was always complimenting me on my looks. I didn’t mind being called pretty, but his comments seemed menacing in a way that I didn’t understand. He would look at me in a sexual way, check me out all over, and then say in a deep, sexy voice, “Just you wait.” Every time I saw him, he said that. I knew that he was flirting with me, which I found strange, because he was over twice my age and not remotely attractive to me, but every time I saw him he made the same comment. I didn’t know what the words meant– I was an innocent 15 year-old– but I knew that the way he acted made me very uncomfortable.  He was, after all, almost my dad’s age. But I think from his perspective, he was a handsome 35 year-old and since he could have anyone he wanted, he figured he could have me too, as soon as I turned 18. I finally had had it and asked him one night, “What do you mean by ‘Just you wait'”? All of sudden, the normally suave and articulate actor started to stammer and stutter, and I knew for the first time that I had protected myself from something that was not okay. After that, he stayed away from me.

I also had a choir director I went on long summer tours with, and the girls in the choir, many of whom were very pretty teenagers, took turns sitting on his lap. I never felt anything inappropriate beyond that, but looking back, that was not okay. I realized even then that if you wanted favor with the good-looking thirty something choir director, you sat on his lap. Ten years later, I found out that he had been kicked out of the church for having sex with the minister’s daughter, one of the girls in my choir who was on those choir tours. It was unclear if he had really done it, since it was his word versus that of a troubled teen looking for attention, so who knows what really happened. But looking back, allowing young girls to sit on his lap, if they were pretty and good singers and wanted the better solos, was just plain wrong. I’m so grateful that nothing happened, but I learned early on that older men expected pretty girls to make them feel better about themselves, and that was sometimes the price to getting what you wanted.

Even though I was never assaulted, I did get a bit of sexual harassment, in the form of a good-looking associate at the law firm I worked out who told me that I should enter a wet t-shirt contest because I would win. I also had a record producer make it clear that he “wanted to make me a star” but apparently there were a lot of strings attached, which I wasn’t willing to go along with, like riding on his motorcycle and then “looking at his record collection” at his place. And I had a well-known voice teacher who was well into 80’s try to feel me up while I was singing, thinking it was all right since he was “important.” I never went back.

Now that I’m a coach and work with many female clients who are 30 and forging their careers and navigating love and relationships, it’s disheartening that nothing has changed. Even though there is greater awareness about sexual harassment and assault, women are still having to twist themselves into pretzels to get along and not offend, which is so diminishing and exhausting.  I see so many women who make statements that sound like endless questions and who apologize constantly, to make themselves seem smaller and less threatening.  I recently had a gay male priest at a church we used to attend, accuse me of being “deeply unhappy” just because he disapproved of a political comment that I made. Shame is a great poison– don’t attack the idea, but instead diminish the woman. But standing up to that is what makes it stop. I told him, “Why exactly would you think that I’m deeply unhappy just because you disagree with what I said?” And like the handsome actor from my teenage years who stuttered when I confronted him, this priest did the same. What he couldn’t say was that he felt better about himself if he could diminish another person. He clearly wanted women to stay quietly in their place. That might have been allowed in 1817, but not 2017.

To find your world stage, reclaim your voice, which means speaking out against harassment and abuse and belittling and shaming.  Go to and sign up for my free PDF called “5 Key Ways to Find Your Voice” and try the action steps suggested. It’s time we start speaking up and claiming our very own world stage. We don’t need permission to know that we are allowed. It’s time.







Politically Correct?

There has been a growing trend toward political correctness and claiming victimhood that is disturbing. I just read recently that many districts across the country are insisting that student as young as kindergarten are being asked to pick which pronoun they would like to have used for them. How many of us knew what a pronoun was at age 5? Children in some schools are now being referred to as “scholars” since the school doesn’t want to use the words “boy” or “girl.” Can you really call a kindergartner a scholar? At our local school, the new principal transitioned from female to male and decided to make the curriculum shaped around gay politics and gender identity, even though this doesn’t apply to most of the students. The middle school students are not reading any literature, because that would mean dipping into the white male canon, which is not politically correct. Instead, they get to choose their own beach reads to use as literature, classics like Marie Antoinette Serial Killer.

At our local high school, every student is asked to list their preferred pronouns, even though many feel uncomfortable with this and it doesn’t apply to them. In contrast, my daughter’s private school admitted a transgender boy last year and helped him to assimilate, not by alienating everyone else, but by insisting on kindness and manners. The transgender boy changed in an empty office, since neither locker room was appropriate for him or for his peers, he dressed like all the boys, and he was treated like one of the boys. And that blanket of kindness and inclusion was what changed him and made him feel safe. He was not offered 1 of 64 different genders, as public schools now educate kids about. He was not allowed to push his agenda every day or make everything about him. But he was accepted for his new identity which made all the difference in the world.

Yale University, my alma mater, has now caved into student protests to keep students from wearing “upsetting Halloween costumes”– these are young adults, not toddlers.  They have broken stained glass windows that they found offensive. They have protested until the name of one of the residential colleges, named for a pro-slavery senator, was changed. They have resisted learning Shakespeare and other “dead white male writers,” and insisted on covering up a gargoyle that was offensive, of a colonist and his gun, standing next to an Indian with his bow and arrow. The gun was covered up but the bow and arrow wasn’t. Freshmen are no longer freshmen– they are now called first year, which is confusing because that is the term that graduate students use. (And yet, most females I know refer to each other as “you guys.”) I wonder how long it will take until Yale gets rid of giving the degree of a “master” since that is offensive too.  I’m sure pretty soon students will push to have the name of Yale changed, since he was a slave holder too.

Harvard’s newest venture is that it is banning men from its coed gym six hours per week because a handful of female Muslim students don’t feel comfortable exercising in front of men. To be clear, this is not in violation of their religion to exercise with men; they just don’t want to have to wear the head scarves while exercising.  he fact is that there are women’s only gyms in the town of Cambridge and there are also women colleges that they could have chosen. So these men are barred from working out some of the time to please six Muslim women. Students have been up in arms, writing, “What if black people don’t want to exercise near white people or gay people near straight people or gymnasts near football players?” What if someone needs to work alone in a crowded office because they are bipolar and need quiet and isolation? Should they be accommodated?

It scares me how focused we are these days on our needs. Dog owners who plead that they need “comfort animals” on flights are flying their dogs for free, and others on the flight with allergies are made to suffer. One woman with strong dog allergies was actually dragged off a flight recently because she wasn’t carrying the right documentation to show that she could fly safely with her allergies. Gay men have rallied against Mother’s Day, arguing that it’s not for women anymore, when in fact there is a Father’s Day for them. I just read that some gay parents are trying to get rid of the words “woman”, “man”, “mother” and “father” because they are not inclusive enough. And now that some states have laws that anyone who feels they are female may use the female locker room, there are incidences happening where men are coming in, not even dressed as a woman, insisting that they feel female, and then showering alongside entire female swim teams. When asked to leave, they remind the pool that it is illegal to ask about their identity. Bathroom stalls are a different thing since there is inherent privacy there, but a locker room brings up privacy issues. One lawyer who deals with sexual predators wrote that these kinds of people will take advantage of these new laws.

Finally, many students today want free education and government hand-outs like food stamps for graduate students, until they start working and realize how much of a chunk of their pay check is taken out. As long as someone else is paying for them, that’s great.  But once they have to pay, it’s a whole different thing. As my dad taught me, “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

To find your world stage, be the person who is open minded, in a world of polarized views. You will stand out for not needing special privileges, for not insisting that everything be about you and your needs. People will be drawn to you because they will realize that for the first time, they can exhale. And when you read about more and more entitled people insisting on special exceptions for them, please speak up. We need more people saying NO to this. Enough is enough.







You’re Gonna Miss This

Last summer, my husband and his three siblings gathered for 48 hours to be with his parents, given that their dad had experienced some health scares. It was a special gathering for everyone, particularly since in this case, it was just the original siblings—no spouses or children. They realized that they hadn’t all been together in their original family form for almost 30 years, since the older siblings started getting married and having babies. It made me realize how special our time is with our kids while we have them, because once they go off to college and then marry and have their own families, it’s never quite the same. I remember when my kids were babies, and I was endlessly nursing the little one and reading to both of them, balancing them on my rocker as their little bodies squiggled to see the pages. An older friend of mine who had teens at the time, said, “I would give anything to have those days again.” Even though I was exhausted from the constant diapers and tantrums, I got what she meant. This was a sweet time in our lives, when our little ones were so happy to snuggle up on our laps and devour the next picture book. I remember when my son Will would flap his arms in excitement as a baby every time I read Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? He loved that book so much, just as my daughter loved Mo Mo Goes to the City so much that she literally tried to eat it, by pulling off the tabs that moved the images and putting them in her mouth. I remember taking my kids on “nature walks” through our neighborhood with special buckets to pick up treasures. What I loved was how unhurried those days were. We lay on our backs to watch the clouds moving and would hug trees since “trees need love too.”

As my kids got older, my son wore capes for years to keep away bad guys and my daughter dressed up as princesses. (Just for the record, I would have been fine with the roles reversed.) We had a lot of tea parties and the kids dressed up all the time in different costumes. And then it was play dates and special snacks, and performances in the basement and clubs formed, like the Clementine Club, in which anyone could join if they were in 1st grade and loved clementines. There was learning to read, and discovering best friends. Then sleep-overs and soccer games and school plays. And now that my kids are 14 and 12, I love having their friends over, hearing about their lives, and enjoying the sound of loud laughter emerging from the basement, while the kids play Wii or shoot nerf guns. My job is to provide endless food and catch a glimpse into their lives. Getting to know my kids’ friends, who are smart and interesting people, makes me feel hopeful about the world.

The reality is that ever since my kids were babies, their lives has been expanding every year to include more of the world that doesn’t include me or my husband. We don’t really know what goes on at school, beyond what our kids and their teachers tell us. It’s their world, not ours. Camp is their own world, just as their activities are, as it should be. And increasingly the best way to find out about their lives is to take long car rides without electronics. Even on short rides, they start talking about their lives, even if I do have to listen to awful R&B-infused pop in the background as they are talking.

There’s a good country song called “You’re Gonna Miss This” which takes a teenage girl who can’t wait to grow up, through learning to drive, then her first apartment, then babies, and always wishing for the next stage. The chorus of the song is: “You’re gonna miss this/ You’re gonna want this back/You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast/These are some good times/So take a good look around/You may not know it now/
But you’re gonna miss this.” I love this sentiment because it echoes what I’ve tried to remind myself throughout my life. I’m going to miss this so I better pay attention.

As my husband and I get ready to take our kids to Portugal and Spain, we are grateful for the opportunity to hang out with our kids without distractions or friends or interlopers. It will just be us, a rental car, a few hotels, a map, food and alternating time on the beach with time seeing ruins and castles. This is why my husband and I feel so strongly about international travel, using our miles to take our kids to different countries. When we’re in a strange land, we have to rely on each other and we connect in a way that is harder to do back home with so many distractions.

To find your world stage, remember to savor what season of life you are in, whether it’s college, or your first job, or the early married years or being home with babies, or living with teens, because whatever stage it is, it will go by too fast, and someday you’re gonna miss this.

HPIM2664.jpgMy two children and I about 10 years ago.