My Bully Pulpit

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” (James Baldwin)

DSCN3317I don’t have kids. Every time I am moved to write about kids, I feel obliged to footnote that fact. I’ve never been in the trenches of raising them, of watching them take first steps and then fall on their butts, of witnessing them learn and grow and miraculously develop into autonomous little humans. I haven’t vicariously shared their wins, their losses, or their wounds—and felt these so deeply that I feared my heart would break.

Nonetheless, my heart does break when I read about the gauntlet of bullying so many children face on their journey to adulthood. I’ve written about bullying a lot, in this blog, and in my book.

For some kids, the pandemic offered a respite from bullying. Remote schooling provided a break from name-calling, playground taunts, and the accompanying shame and insecurity. However, remote schooling came with a cost—many costs. We’re learning that many kids are now lagging a year or more behind in academic skills. They’re reading at lower levels, and testing poorly in nearly every subject.

And it’s not just academics that have fallen behind. Studies are now showing that kids have lost a year or more in their social development. One way this is manifesting now that schools have resumed in-person learning is that bullying is back and often worse than ever. Continue reading

This Has To Stop

“Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.” (Karen Armstrong)

Welcome, Messrs. DeSantis, Abbott, and Carlson,Why do we tolerate bullies and bullying? The moment we see one person abusing or belittling another we should be stepping in. Are we just so accustomed to the bullying behaviors of a former president and his cult following that we shrug our shoulders and say, “what are you gonna do?”?

What kind of example are we setting for young people?

This week, the world saw astonishingly cruel public bullying toward a group of migrants by Florida governor and presidential wannabe Ron DeSantis. The Venezuelan families were in Texas, in the process of going through proper channels to seek asylum in America. In a cheap and sadistic play for attention, DeSantis used Florida taxpayer money to pick up migrant families in San Antonio and fly them in two chartered jets to Martha’s Vineyard. There, he essentially dumped them for the local residents and municipality to deal with. He sent a videographer along to record the Northern outrage that he was sure would ensue. DeSantis claimed he was “protecting” Florida by flying the migrant families to Massachusetts. He did not elaborate on how kidnapping people in Texas protects Florida.

Is kidnapping too strong a word? How about human trafficking? Certainly coercion. Continue reading

New Anthology Benefits World Central Kitchen

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)

I’m honored to have had an essay (“What We Do with Words”) accepted for publication in this lovely new anthology, published last week by She Writes Press.

Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis was conceived as a response by women writers and artists to the cataclysmic events of the last few years. Writing about the pandemic, Ukraine invasion, political and societal unrest, and more, authors address the vast range of human response to crisis in all its forms. They explore how we can find beauty, hope, and deeper interpretation—even when the world seems to have been turned upside-down, inside-out, and shaken.

The book is also intended to make a tangible difference. All royalties from book sales will go to support the tremendous work of chef José Andrés, his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, and their Ukrainian relief efforts.

If you’re interested in learning more about the book, or purchasing a copy, here’s a link to it on Bookshop.org, the wonderful discount retailer that supports independent bookstores. Of course, the book is also available through other online booksellers, and can be ordered through your local indie store. (As of this writing, the price is lower on Bookshop than on Amazon.)

Seattle Area Friends

If you happen to live in the Seattle area, please join me and seven other Puget Sound-area contributors on Thursday, August 11, at 7:00 p.m., at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Continue reading

You Will Do Stupid Things

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” (Rita Mae Brown)

LLV4Mistakes are a given. Over a lifetime, each of us does and says countless things that wound, that embarrass us or others, and that we deeply regret. It is to be hoped, though, that the stupid things we do in our teens and twenties aren’t the same stupid things we do in our forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond.

By the time we reach those later decades, we’ve not only grown beyond our earlier transgressions, but perhaps also learned to let go of the chagrin we carry over those mistakes from our youth.

The good thing about aging is that we get better at learning from our mistakes. Of course, we make new ones, fresh ones, whoppers. Unless we refuse to venture out or try anything new, we will still make mistakes. The only way to avoid them is to hunker down and sidestep all risk, which means also avoiding delight, wonder, and discovery.

Lessons Learned – The lesson for me is twofold:

Continue reading

Stop Comparing

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” (Oscar Wilde)

LLV1I have a friend who hates her hair. It’s lank and lifeless (her words), and the color is “boring brown” (again, her description). I consider her hair to be perfectly fine and never think about it until she starts bemoaning its inadequacy. When she meets someone, the very first thing she notices about them is their hair—and it’s always so much nicer than hers.

Another friend hates her teeth. When she laughs or smiles, she compresses her lips or covers her mouth, so people won’t notice her crooked teeth. I never notice her teeth, unless she draws my attention to them, and then I think they’re just fine. Imperfect teeth add a bit of character to a face (look at some of the finest British actors).

For me, it’s thigh-gap. For as long as I can remember, among the first things I notice about another person is whether there is space between their inner thighs when they’re standing or walking. I covet the notion of skinny thighs in skinny jeans. That’s because I’ve never had them and never, ever will. Even during those rare periods of my life when I was almost thinnish, my thighs were solid tree trunks, rubbing together like balloons in a Mylar birthday bouquet.

We notice and want what we don’t have. I have no particular complaints about my teeth or my hair, so I simply don’t notice what my friends always see first. Continue reading