Category Archives: Random

Technology Means there are No Secrets

Those of you have been following this blog know I have a daughter (Charlie) who is 9-years-old. She is a super bright kid and always has tons of questions. We were driving to her dance studio earlier this week listening to the radio. (I love to hear her singing along). Suddenly from the back seat, I hear her little voice saying she has a question. I turned down the radio, waiting for yet another round of 20 questions with Charlie. She then asked, “What is Ebola?” Crap. OK, well I launched into my understanding of Ebola while stressing the points that Ebola is only diagnosed in people who have had contact with someone who has Ebola, nearly only occurs in Africa and is not something she needs to worry about personally. This, of course, did not satisfy her fully and we talked about medical treatments available to people who have been diagnosed with Ebola and what she can do to try and protect herself from getting Ebola (i.e., washing her hands and avoiding sick people). This made me realize there is no protecting kids today from potentially scary news and information – they learn about it from social media, the internet, friends, radio and TV. Information is everywhere. What we typically end up doing instead is clarifying potentially false information they have learned from others and allay their related fears. Another thing we can do is use this as an opportunity to have conversations with our kids about bigger issues.

I remember two years ago there was the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I thought I was so clever – I avoided the news on TV and radio while she was with me and made sure we didn’t discuss what had happened when she was around. Then (again driving home) she asked me if I had heard about the bad guy who shot “all of the kids” at a school. I asked what she meant and she explained a friend had told her there was a bad man who had walked into a school and shot everyone – all the students and all of the teachers. Hmmm, maybe I wasn’t so clever after all. So, I had to go back over the situation with her and explain what had really happened. We talked about why it had happened (I had no idea) and what she could do if she were scared at school. Interestingly, the magic thing that helped her to feel calmer was learning the gunman was dead and couldn’t ever hurt her or anyone else.

Remember in 2011 when Charlie Sheen was really off the rails? My darling daughter heard bits about it and wanted to understand what was “wrong with him”. This allowed us to have a great conversation about potential drug and alcohol abuse and how people can suffer with mental health issues. (I have no idea which – if any – of these were challenges for Charlie Sheen, but his crisis lead to great conversations.) Any opportunity I can get to reinforce the dangers of substance use and abuse, I am all over it.

The final example that comes to mind is the death of Michael Jackson. In 2009, Charlie was only 4-years-old, but was still aware of conversations about Michael Jackson’s death by news media, teachers and friends. She was confused about how he died. This was probably our very first conversation about the dangers of drugs. Of course, this conversation was held at an age-appropriate level, but key topics were covered, specifically the dangers of taking any drugs (or medications) in any way other than how they are prescribed by your doctor.

What is your takeaway message here? It is really difficult in this day and age of technology and social media, it is almost impossible to completely shield children from scary and overwhelming news and information. Rather than trying to pretend it isn’t happening, we should find a way to share it in as non-threatening manner as possible. We can even use the information to initiate conversations about important life lessons (i.e., drugs and alcohol, abuse, violence, relationships, etc).

Letting Kids Fight it Out

Isn’t it strange how we can quickly forgive people who do wrong to us, but really struggle to forgive those who do bad things to the people we love. We become so fiercely protective of our loved ones that we become ferocious beasts out to shield them from any pain. This is especially problematic when our kids come to us complaining about a fight they got into with a friend or a classmate. I am not talking about bullying here – that ALWAYS needs to be taken seriously, but rather when there is an argument or falling out among friends. All kids have them and, I have learned, they tend to get over them very quickly. The hard part is parents might not be able to bounce back as quickly and may have a hard time of letting go of their animosity toward the child that hurt their kid’s feelings.

So, what should you do if your child comes home complaining of an argument with a friend?

  • Talk with your child about what happened. Ask how they feel about it. Be open and receptive to whatever they want to share.
  • Ask how they want to handle it. Are they going to give it time to blow over? Are they going to try to talk with their friend? Do they want you to talk with the other child’s parent(s) about what happened? It is critical your child play an active role in deciding how to manage the situation. You are modeling for your child how to work through a social problem and how to act accordingly.
  • Help to direct your child to healthier solutions – more talking through problems and less punching the other child in the nose.
  • Give your child the support needed to follow through on their plan. Be open to discussing how the process is going for them.
  • If your child is ready to forgive the child and move forward in their friendship, stay out of the way. Kids have their feelings heard easily, but also tend to forgive quickly, too.
  • If a problem persists with a specific child or group of children, discuss with your child whether this is a relationship that should continue. Be prepared to set limits if necessary.
  • The big thing is to get out of their way. Let them handle it if at all possible. They are learning important conflict resolution skills.

Yoga is a Metaphor

I am super into yoga. I am surprised to say this as I have been a runner for the last 20 years and rarely ever even stretched after my daily runs. I viewed stretching as a waste of time and avoided it like the plague. That all changed when my body began to hurt. I reached a point when daily running without stretching was leading to hip pain, back pain and knee pain. Yippie for aging! Anyway – so I started to go to yoga occasionally so I could become a better runner. Slowly, but surely, yoga sucked me in – hot yoga specifically. Before I realized it, I was taking a yoga class instead of running. It was taking the place of running rather than supporting it. I explain all of this to share the epiphany I had in class last night.

I take a number of different classes each week offered by a variety of instructors. The hot yoga classes I take lead you through a variety of poses and movements in a specific order, the same each time no matter the instructor. The difference is the focus of the instructor. One instructor is focused on flexibility. She looks to push us to deepen our stretches. Another instructor might focus on developing strength. The classes might hold our planks and other poses longer. Another instructor is focused on relaxation and meditation. His focus in on maintaining our breathing and clearing our minds. There are probably countless other ways an instructor can lead a hot yoga class and each one can use the same sequence of steps in completely different ways.

Life is the same. Many of us go through the same steps in similar sequence each day – we get up, maybe exercise, go to work, care for our families, spend time with friends, and take care of our responsibilities. Though we do much the same things every day, the meaning we subscribe to them or the purpose we derive from them alters our experience. Determine what you are working toward and move in that direction. You are only in a rut if you do not have a goal in mind. Is your focus developing your career or caretaking for your family or improving yourself? Whatever your goal – focus your energy. The same steps become something different depending on your goals.

Bullying in the Workplace – It’s not just for children anymore

Bullying is not always limited to children. It occurs among adults as well. There are definitely situations in which the bullying is physical, but it is often psychological or social in the non-child world. Workplace bullying is the most common bullying complaint I hear from adult clients. An additional difficulty can be the struggle to prove workplace bullying is occurring. Workplace bullying includes:

  • Being omitted from workplace related social events
  • Others leaving the room when you enter
  • Skipping or arriving late to a meeting you schedule
  • Ignoring or giving the silent treatment
  • Refusing to acknowledge good work
  • Being treated rudely or disrespectfully
  • Refusing to help when asked
  • Spreading rumors or lies
  • Yelling, shouting or being confrontational
  • Lying
  • Ignoring phone calls or emails
  • Mean pranks
  • Greater workload than others
  • Denying raise or promotion without reason

Examples of workplace bullying:

A client informed me her boss regularly yelled at her in front of the other staff. She called her stupid, incompetent and untrainable. My client’s perception was that she was assigned nearly double the workload of her coworkers and was harassed when it was not completed.

Another client reported there was a “clique” of coworkers who ostracized her. They laughed and poked jokes at her whenever she shared at a work meeting. They would delay their responses to her work-related emails and often “forgot” to get needed information to her. Her bosses either did not notice or did not care about this behavior.

A male client shared that his female boss would often flick him in the head when upset with him. She would laugh at him when he asked her to stop and would ask him what he was going to do about it. She was significantly smaller than he was, but had the power in their relationship.

If you are experiencing workplace bullying, what can you do about it?

  • Acknowledge the abuse:It is abuse, and you are being abused. Acknowledge that you are being bullied. Often the first step is to find your worth and take the first step of acknowledging your situation. You deserve better, so let go of denial, anger, and excuses for the bully’s behavior.
  • Assess the relationship:Is this a person you must be around? What do you get out of the relationship? One easy way to stop bullying behavior is to no longer be around the bully. It is also worth thinking about what you want out of this relationship, so that you can articulate that later.
  • Decide you will take action:Once you have acknowledged the abuse and you have assessed your relationship with the bully, you can decide that you want to take action or not. You know what your life will be like if you take no action – you are being bullied and that likely will not change. Deciding to take action gives you a sense of empowerment that has been stripped by the bully.
  • Document the abuse:It is critically important that you document instances of bullying and abuse. What was said or done? When? Who was there (witnesses)? What happened? How did you feel? These are important questions that will not only help you see the severity of your situation, but give you some leverage should you consider legal options to stop the abuse.
  • Set boundaries:This is possibly the hardest step. Figuring out what you want is half the battle. The other half is to articulate what you need and what you want, to your bully. Setting boundaries can be an expectation of how you want to be treated, where and when you will be in contact with the bully. It is critical that you stick to your boundaries.
  • Confrontation:Confrontation is the final step in managing a bully. This is when you articulate your needs and expectations, establishing those boundaries. Take someone with you who you trust, to back you up and provide moral support.
  • Address the difficulty directly. This can feel scary, but calmly approach your bully to clarify the situation. Sometimes simply calling attention to the dynamic can cause the bully to back off
  • Discuss it with your boss or HR if you cannot resolve it yourself. Stay calm and rational as you explain what has been happening. Specifically address any negative impact on your job performance.

Date Rape is Rape

I work with a lot of teen girls and young women and, sometimes in the course of getting to know them, I learn they have been the victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives. Now this might be the reason they have scheduled an appointment to come and see me, but many times it is not, but is part of their history they want to share. Sexual assault is terrible, no matter the circumstances, but I have grown increasingly frustrated with hearing, “It was just date rape” or “Well, it was someone I knew” as if this somehow lessens the trauma of the experience or reduces their right to complain as compared to women who have experienced “real rape”. Gah! This is so frustrating! Rape is rape whether the victim knows the perpetrator or not, whether she was grabbed in a dark alley or not, and whether there was additional physical violence or not. Rape is rape.

I want to point out the many ways a victim of date rape may suffer differently than those who are the victim stranger rape (is that even the right term?) Don’t get me wrong, both are terrible, traumatic, life-changing experiences, but I want to highlight how the lesser considered event has its own unique challenges to overcome:

  1. Date rape leads you to doubt your own ability to separate the good guys from the bad guys. This person had enough of your trust that you were hanging out with them. You felt safe enough (frequently) to be alone with him. He violated that trust and treated you with nothing short of contempt and violence. Many women lose their ability to trust themselves when they feel they can no longer trust others.
  2. Others may minimize your experience. The tried and true statements about it being “just date rape” minimizes your experience and may reduce the amount of support your receive from others. You may feel you need to prove to them just how deeply you were impacted by what happened to you. It can be frustrating to feel people just don’t understand how hard it is.
  3. You may be confused about what actually happened. I hear this a lot. Women need time to come to terms with what happened to them and may even be tempted to deny what happened. Acknowledging your sexual assault (even to yourself) may feel like pressure to act – to do something about it.
  4. Some people will blame you for this happening to you. You led him on. You were a tease. You wanted it. This sucks. They are terrible. I am sorry.
  5. He may blame you. He will likely deny any rape occurred. He will say the sex was consensual and without any signs of physical injuries (which may or may not be present), it becomes a “he said/she said” situation. All too often, this is why these crimes go unreported.

If you take anything away from this rant of mine, please let it be this – rape is rape whether the victim knows the perpetrator or not. If you, or someone you know, are sexually assaulted it is a traumatic experience. You did nothing wrong. It is always 100% the perpetrator’s fault, whether you know him or not.

My Life’s Soundtrack (So Far)

I like music. Very rarely I might even love a song or become slightly obsessed with a band for a period of time, but, overall, I like music. I don’t, however, LOVE music. I seldom attend concerts and hardly even purchase new music as soon as it comes out. Every once in a while a song sticks with me and I’ll make the heroic effort to purchase it on iTunes and download it to my iPod so I can listen to it on my morning run. I am far from an aficionado. Still every once in a while a song will come on unexpectedly and will transport me to another place and another time in my life. Ever have that experience? Here are a few that seem to highlight periods in my life:
Darling Nikki by Prince. I was young when this song was released and my best friend, Shannon, and I were obsessed with the somewhat naughty lyrics of this song. This was well before the days of Google and we listened to the song over and over again (on cassette tape) until we had them all sorted out. Anytime I hear this song (which isn’t often enough), I am 10 years old and sitting out in the sunshine with my best friend.

Sometimes by Depeche Mode. I think I wrote the lyrics of this song out nearly 1000 times. I wrote it on notebooks, homework assignments, even on my shoes. The question of whether you could ever really be understood by someone else really spoke to my adolescent angst. Somebody by the same band is a close second for me.

Obsession by Animotion. The song about the guy I just couldn’t get out of my head. Whenever I happen on this song (it is on my iPod, so I hear it fairly often) I am transported to those days when I liked someone so much I was driven to distraction. I was also too young to have a clue what to do about it.

Alive by Pearl Jam. Anyone who knew me the first few years of college knew I was obsessed with Pearl Jam and had every intention of marrying Eddie Vedder one day. The marriage was never to be (what a pity), but I could probably pick any song off the album Ten and it would bring back college memories long forgotten. The angst, the depth, they were and are amazing.

The Dance by Garth Brooks. I spent a summer with a number of friends following Garth Brooks around a little bit. We attended a number of concerts (often flirting our way into the front row) and had a fabulous times just being girls together. It was a wonderful time not about meeting or keeping boys, just enjoying each other’s company.

American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The band that played at the bar where I worked in college (Shout out to the Foster Kids) played this song each and every night they performed. It was always the time we girls would run out on the dance floor and celebrate being young, happy and together. I cannot hear this song without getting a huge smile on my face and singing along.

I’ll Be by Edwin McCain. “Our” song with my husband. We loved this song when we were dating and it helped us bridge the miles during the year we were dating long distance (this sucked by the way). We also danced to it at our wedding. Brings back all types of warm and squishy feelings about him.

Shot Through the Heart by Bon Jovi. Unusual choice, right? Especially since it was important to me in the 2008 (24 years after its initial release). My daughter was 2 or 3 at the time and became obsessed with this song and would request it every time we got in the car – a welcome reprieve from The Wiggles, I dare say. What I loved so much about it was it was her first mainstream (not for kids) song and she totally destroyed the lyrics. She would sit in her car seat belting out, “Shocky the heart!” It was such a happy time in our family.

50 Ways to Say Goodbye by Train. The song Charlie and I always sing on our way to her dance competitions. It is fun and fast and she always giggle when I screw up the lyrics. (Sometimes I do it on purpose.) It just puts us in such a good mood which is important when it is super early in the morning and she has to go on stage with a smile and a bit of sass.

F**ckin’ Perfect by P!nk. I have to be careful when and where I listen to this song. I totally picture it being something I would say to my daughter and inevitably get choked up thinking about the insecurities she will undoubtedly face and how the world may make her feel like less than she is. (I want to kick everyone’s ass at that point.)

This is all I could think of off the top of my head. What about you? What songs make up the soundtrack of your life? What did I miss?

Blog Reactions – Yikes

I have been having interesting reactions to this blog so far. Some have taken the posts in the nature in which they are intended, to be interesting and lighthearted. These people will send laughter-filled comments and well-meaning barbs. Others have gotten angry or hurt or angry and hurt. This was never my intention. I was commenting about it to a colleague the other morning and she said something that really resonated with me. She told me I had better get used to it. I was confused, which she could tell by my expression. She clarified, “Your book is coming out. People are going to react to it in a number of ways. Some will love what you have to say and some will hate it”. That really resonated with me. I hadn’t really thought about the specific reactions people might have to what I have written. I was so focused on getting the book done, not necessarily what would happen next.

When I was in final editing for my book (Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl: Quotes, Advice and Inspiration for Women by Women), the various people who were reviewing the book had a number of reactions about the contributors I included within the book. The objections were to various individuals, either because of their histories or lifestyles. One example is the editor who asked me not to include Jenny McCarthy because she had appeared in men’s magazines and specifically had taken nude photos. I understood my editor’s concerns, but this wasn’t what the book was about for me. Jenny McCarthy provided amazing advice I wanted to pass on to my readers. I did not want to limit who was able to participate. There are women of various sexual orientations, ethnicities, races, religions, backgrounds, and careers. Some may have made “mistakes” in their pasts, but it is not up to me to decide whether or not their behaviors were mistakes or not. They may have no regrets. I was looking for diverse women offering positive advice. I did filter out a few contributors to the book, but these were not based on my value judgments about their lives, but whether what they said was appropriate for me to share with my readers. (Maybe I’ll have an NC-17 outtake book some day in the future).

I hope readers (of this blog and the book) will enjoy what I have to say. I hope they will be interested, but also find something new to take away from the experience. I am working on growing a thicker skin, so I can allow their reactions to be heard without taking it personally. Still a work in progress.

Confessions of a Dance Mom

I have a confession to make – I am a dance mom. No,.not one those whackadoos on Dance Moms, but I have a daughter who competes in dance and I am her mom. Fortunately, our studio is nothing like the Abby Lee Dance Company, but then again we aren’t on TV either. Some of their behavior definitely has to be scripted for ratings – at least this is what I tell myself so I do not have to worry about the future of civilization. I wanted to explore the different breeds of dance moms I see each day either at our studio or out and about at competition. Again, this is in good natured fun. The women I have the privilege of co-dance momming with are lovely ladies, but each has unique ways of navigating the competition world. I like to think of them as different breeds of animals.

The lioness: She is all about being the leader of the pack and this goes for her child as well. She wants her child to be in the most competitive of groups at all times and will not accept loss. She is the mom who can be heard muttering, “Second place? What is WRONG with her?” Nothing but first place is ever acceptable. Her child practices more than any other and makes sure everyone knows it. She wants to best for her child and thinks the only way for this to happen is for her child to be the best.

The fox: She is clever and devious. She is a master at working behind the scenes. This mom knows all of the secrets everyone else is keeping, but no one knows hers. She is often making side deals with teachers and other parents, but you never know which ones she is going to honor. She is always looking for the best possible arrangement for her child and has no qualms about trading up and breaking her word. She wants the best for her child and will do anything to anyone to make it happen.

The sheep: the follower of the pack. This mom is typically found following behind the lioness. She seeks the protection of a stronger, dominant leader. This mom is concerned her child is “not good enough”, so she wants her to be seen with a child who is “the best” and hopes her child will be viewed as better than she actually is. Riding the coattails of a more advanced child is the way this mom hopes to get her to the top.

The monkey: She sacrifices everything for dance – school, friendships, time with family. Outside interests are not encouraged because there is never enough time. She is not interested in anything that will not support her child’s dance “career”. If this kid doesn’t become a professional dancer, she may be doomed to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” for the rest of her life.

The turtle: She disappears into her shell. This mom is never at the studio. She is either busy with her career or other kids or she is just not interested in dance. She has no idea what is going on in her child’s classes, what the costumes look like, or even where/when the next competition might be. This is often a point of pride for her – she loves that she cares so little.

The poodle: She spends and spends and spends to garner the affection of dance teachers and studio owners alike. She will provide expensive gifts, but it is not only money she spends, it is time, too. She will plan parties, pick up their laundry, run their errands, and pay for endless number of private lessons. She seems to fear her child will not be accepted on her own merits, so this mom tries to buy their way into the inner circle.

The grumpy cat: The mom who is never satisfied. No matter what happens at the studio, she is displeased. If her child does not get a spot on a team, she is upset her child was left out. When she gets a spot, this mom is upset about the expense or whether her child is highlighted enough. Costumes are never nice enough or are too expensive or are too revealing. The choreography is either too easy or too difficult. She never likes anything. Ever.

The bear: This mama is all about protecting her cub. She diligently watches out for any possible slight or transgression. Beware if you harm her little one, this mama’s bite is definitely worse than her bark. Her protection can be overpowering and may stop her young dancer from standing on her own two feet. Ideally this mama bear will allow her cub to leave the den, but will always keep a watchful eye.

You have now explored the wonderful animal kingdom of the dance mom. Most dance moms have bits and pieces of many of these animals. Qualities of these animals are healthy in moderation, it is when they are taken to the extreme they are detrimental. These creatures are not exclusive to the wonderful world of dance, but also exist among a variety of other extracurricular activities – baseball, soccer, gymnastics, swim. Did I miss anyone? Your suggestions are most welcome and additions to the animal kingdom are always possible.