4 Reasons Why Our Planet Desperately Needs Women Leaders

8 03 2018

It’s International Women’s Day, and a perfect time to declare women as the solution to our planet’s woes!

When I wake up in the morning, I am driven by one thing, and one thing only. I want a better future. Not just for myself, but for my community, my country, and our planet. I am passionate about Sustainability, which is the delicate balance of improving People, Planet, and Profit: The Triple Bottom Line.


KellyWeger-FINAL-1As a sustainability specialist, I am all too familiar with the historical state of imbalance of these three critical aspects of the equation. We focus far too heavily on Profit, at the expense of People and Planet. The scales are starting to tip, but there is still much work to do in order to achieve a truly sustainable future.

The Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, and Profit 


Assuming that our economy has a pretty good handle on how to make a profit, I choose to focus my efforts on the remaining two-thirds: Planet and People. Together, finding a balanced way to improve and promote these aspects, will also naturally yield greater profits. I’ve seen this time and time again in my consulting work, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for dozens of companies, and it can work for you too.


Here’s the thing. We have so many different uniquely narrow passions, with extremely taxing battles to fight, that we tend to become myopic in our approach. A Social Worker is mired in emotionally draining efforts to literally save lives on a daily basis. An Architect is neck deep in detailed technological advances and complex interactions that can make or break a good building design. A Trans Equality Advocate is swimming against the tide of public opinion to simply dispel myths that plague and endanger hundreds of thousands of Americans. An Atmospheric Scientist is struggling to share decades of verified changes to our planet to fuel positive policy and personal behavioral changes.

map1_Tagxedo_comEach fight is absolutely critical to our community’s future success, yet they lack a sense of interconnectedness that is inherent to their separate paths. Each one of these individuals is fighting for the same thing. Sustainability. They are failing to unite in this common goal.


The term sustainability is broad, intentionally so. It is often defined “as the ability to meet our society’s current needs, while still allowing future generations to meet their own needs.”

Basically, let’s provide a positive future for our grandchildren by being aware of the long term ramifications of our choices today.


We have already seen cycles of unsustainable living, and their devastating impacts on People, Planet and Profit:

  • _90804563_d3e69c4d-f914-4ce4-9aac-1242b91af58dExcessive water use leads to decreased water tables, which leads to droughts, which leads to wildfires, which pollutes clean air, destroys homes and habitats, which negatively impacts humans and animals. Leaving people homeless, with expensive and lengthy cleanup.
  • Unchecked development with impermeable surfaces means there is less open land for rainwater to soak into, which increases stormwater runoff, which rapidly transfers oils and contaminants into the gutters, which overwhelms and floods systems, streets, and our basements. New infrastructure investments cost us millions.
  • Rapid consumerism leads to a throw-away society, where people purchase cheap items, use them once, then discard them, which means they go to a large garbage pile and get buried for the foreseeable future. Then they purchase the same item again, which consumes an enormous amount of raw materials and creates greenhouse gases in the production and transportation of that item every single time you buy it. Air pollution leads to atmospheric warming and increased  instability.

What if I told you that the solution to solving our sustainability dilemma lies in one particular focus?

The answer is women.


101445447-160002665It is no secret that women are still working in inequitable positions compared to their male equals. They get paid less. They are expected to be the one to leave the workforce when a couple chooses to start a family. They are increasingly starting small businesses, but fail to grow enough to hire employees. They are far less likely to be in leadership positions. Women make up just 4.5% of CEOs in Fortune 500. Women are TWICE as likely to live in poverty by age 75, because they aren’t able to put as much money into retirement. Women are at far greater risk of becoming homeless. So… what?


Why should we all care about empowering and advancing women in careers? If you care about our sustainable future, then you are deeply invested in women- or you should be, starting now.


DollarsCompanies make more money. By having at least 30% of leadership positions held by women, or the “C-suite,” companies add an average of 6% to net profit margin. Getting more women on boards also means that you end up with more women in leadership, known as the “pipeline effect.” 


So where does that magical 6% profit boost come from? Much as in nature, where mono-cultured crops develop major problems with devastating infestations of pests, diversity in the workforce also yields better resiliency and better products. Men and women have different values, and women tend to be more holistic, think more broadly, be more attuned to environmental and social concerns. They aren’t as likely to be focused on short term gains at the expense of long term failures. Where men take bigger risks and fail faster, women are more thoughtful and strategic about risks. The two balance each other out in a way that benefits the company overall. 


7398240996_bfc467485b_b1. Women care more. 

According to one study’s author, Lehigh University professor Corinne Post, “(Women) think about themselves usually in relation to others. Whereas men – either born or developed – see themselves more independently, as standing apart from others. For individuals who see themselves as more connected to others, it becomes natural to think about the implications for others.” Women have more empathy and concern for the well being of others.


getty_rf_photo_of_woman_reading_label2. Women dig deeper.

Women are also less likely to have a sense of stubborn arrogance that can sometimes plague successful men. With their greater sense of accurate self-awareness and humility, women also tend to ask more questions and come more prepared to make an informed decision, which, in turn, tends to increase male preparedness over time as well. So, a board room filled with women and men benefits from overall better researched decisions. 


rainforest-woman-NATUREWOMAN05173. Women listen internally.

At an individual level, women are far more likely to be in tune with their bodies and minds. The best cure for stress is to pause and be intentional. Those who listen internally develop a better appreciation and love for the healing power of nature. You’ve experienced the physical relieve of escaping a long week with a quiet walk in the woods, or working with plants outdoors. Those who choose to be still long enough to reconnect with nature, are far more invested in protecting and restoring our natural environment.


Woman Giving Money4. Women give more.

Did you know that supporting small, women-owned businesses has a much greater positive affect on those around them? Women are far more likely to spread their profits among their employees, which can improve the overall stability of employment in that area. Instead of just one family doing better, every family connected to a woman-owned business tends to see an improvement in quality of life and financial stability over time. But many small women-owned companies struggle with funding to grow, and have difficulty overcoming this hurdle to grow their business and its positive impacts.


Women can improve the future for People, Planet, and Profit. Women often have a natural desire to nurture and protect other people, and our environment. If more women in business are given the support they need to succeed, it will not only improve the lives of people in their community, but it will likely improve the stability of neighborhoods and cities, create new passion for cleaning up our environment, and add jobs and income to our economy. Women truly are the key to the next jump in our Triple Bottom Line.

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Where do we start? First, we need more women on boards. Second, we need more women CEOs. Third, we need more equal opportunities for women in the workplace, and to enforce zero tolerance for sexual harassment and discrimination. Fourth, girls need to be educated and empowered. According to Worldbank, “Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children, should they choose to become mothers. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty.”


On a personal note: This is why I felt driven to co-found WomIN’s Fest. Our mission is to support, empower, and inspire women and girls for a better future. Through the next generation of women, we can achieve a more sustainable future for everyone. white-1342988_960_720


Berlin Spazieren Gehen

6 03 2018


While living  in Prague for the summer, for the first time in my life, I had foreign culture at my fingertips. On weekends, studio mates would plan quick excursions to neighboring countries. I had never been to any of them. With feverish abandon, I gobbled up every opportunity. Although our true purpose was to study the Architecture and develop our design skills, I was deeply afflicted by the travel bug that could not be denied.


Anywhere I was invited, I went. Some weekends we just went to the train station and found the cheapest ticket to anywhere.


An overnight train to Poland, switching trains in Warsaw to go to Krakow? Absolutely! My modest attempts at learning Czech actually paid dividends there, as I discovered that Polish language overlaps significantly with Czech, and I could still communicate the most basic needs. Krakow was a dull, dirty town, when we arrived at 4:30 in the morning to an empty station lit with orange lights. It felt appropriately depressing as a transition to go pay our respects and weep at the horrors of the Birkenau-Auschwitz holocaust death camp.

How about Hungary? Why not? Another weekend a fellow travel grrrl and I went together to Budapest. I studied the language book feverishly during our trip, struggling to make heads or tails of this unusually difficult language. The city, however, felt instantly familiar. I began to notice that most old European cities follow the same basic pattern of settling along a major river, infilling the river basin on one side with the old town, while across the river an elevated cliff was dominated by an old castle surveying the kingdom. We actually stayed inside the Citadel, overlooking the Danube as it gently embraced  the town square.

Berlin? Our studio professors organized an optional group trip to Berlin, where I had just explored intensely for 10 days a couple months prior. I loved Berlin, and was thrilled to go back to practice more of the only foreign language in which I actually could converse fluidly. Since most of my studio mates had never been before, they set off on a whirlwind tour of highlights, all of which I had not only seen, but studied immensely for a semester before traveling there.


Berlin_Eiermann_Memorial_ChurchAfter I revisited the few highlights that I enjoyed the most, I departed from the group to explore a bit more off the beaten path. It was thrilling and a bit scary to be completely on my own in a big city in another country! I walked the streets, already feeling fairly oriented in Berlin, and familiar with the major metro lines to traverse the city easily.


I wound up at a large open green space, a lovely respite from a long day of flanuering on foot. I found a park bench, and sat down to absorb the sounds of birds dsc03240chirping from the trees, and to watch the steady stream of locals moving thoughtlessly through their daily routines. An elderly man slowly walked towards my park bench and asked, in German, if he could sit next to me. I politely agreed with a smile, secretly thrilled to get to use my German.


We sat side by side, gazing contently, the only two people breathing in the moment. He started making some small talk, and quickly noticed my accent. “Wo kommen Sie her?” he inquired about my origins. I smiled, and he quickly followed up with “Russisch?” I couldn’t help but chuckle… “No,” I told him in German, “I am not Russian.” “Really? But you sound so Russian!” he exclaimed in disbelief. I had never heard that one before!


We had a lovely conversation, and after a few more minutes he said, “Wir sollen spazieren gehen,” which is a German phrase meaning we should take a stroll together, and talk while we walk. I loved the idea, but then I remembered that, however sweet this old man seemed to be, I was a single foreign woman, in an unknown location, talking to a stranger, and perhaps changing destinations would be ill advised. He continued to suggest this, and I felt bad declining. It felt like such a German thing to do, but, alas, I elected to be safe.


I often wonder what wondrous things this elderly man might have shown me on our walk, what stories he might have shared from his younger days. If he would have talked about the war, or the wall, and what life was like back then. He’s probably passed away by now, and I wonder if he ever thought twice about that Russian-sounding American young lady that he met at the park that day.

My ‘Test Road Trip’ from Hell

27 02 2018

Ever since the day we met, I knew I had a new road tripping buddy. Even though it was just the beginning of a long, cold winter in Michigan, and we had only just met, we began daydreaming about where we would go together the next summer. Bethany was equally adventurous, and we were elated by how many things we both enjoyed, and wanted to experience together. So, we decided to plan a “Test Road Trip.” Ya know, in case we got sick of each other after so many days…


My new best friend and I could hardly wait to begin our adventures, so when her friend, Kristin, invited her up to northern Michigan for her 40th birthday celebration, Bethany immediately squealed, “You should come with me!” Beulah is not exactly a short trip, but if we made it a long weekend, it would be a fun mini-adventure. Except, Kristin’s birthday falls on February 29th. May I now remind you that northern Michigan is prone to some pretty significant snowstorms in February? Yes, clearly this was a brilliant plan from the get go.


Lo and behold, as our trip grew closer, the weather forecast grew more ominous. Bethany wasn’t too worried, because she knew that her Swedish tank (aka “Volvo”) would have no problem in a few inches of snow. What she didn’t plan on, however, was that she was taking this road trip with a sustainability freak, who would insist on driving her own Honda insight Hybrid. For the unenthusiast, let me tell you briefly about this car. My “Silver Bullet” is a sporty looking 2-seater, with aerodynamic covers over the rear wheel wells, manual transmission, 2” clearance from the ground, weighs about as much as two women, battery-powered with a gas backup, and averages 65 mpg. So, yeah, obviously I couldn’t be seen in a 20-year-old, gas-guzzling Volvo, tank or otherwise.


Bethany (who I was learning is decidedly NOT a morning person), had not yet had any coffee when I convinced her of my sound logic for switching vehicles. We threw our luggage into the back hatch, and got ready to go. Just one small problem. Bethany had decided to buy an unassembled IKEA bookshelf and deliver it to Kristin for her birthday. It was in a long, thick box, and weighed as much as my car. We tried sliding it between the seats vertically, and it fit! But it came right up to the dashboard, completely blocking my view of everything right of the middle of my car, including my mirror, and my passenger. This would NOT do for a 6 hour road trip.


Being the problem solvers that we are, we pulled out some straps to tie the box to the top of my car, where I had installed a rack for mounting my bike carrier. The IKEA box sat snugly atop my car, functioning perfectly as a giant sail for catching wind! It was not ideal, but by this point we were well over an hour behind schedule, so I decided to roll with it. (Literally). Off we went on our first adventure!


Bethany had prepared some freshly juiced “Love Potion” for our journey, had consumed some caffeine, created a stellar music mix on CD, and was happily navigating. She had made this journey before on her motorcycle and had a favorite halfway spot where she liked to gas up, so that was out first destination. I was glad I was driving, because the weather was not cooperating, and the fierce gusts of wind were blowing my sail hard, tensing my arm muscles as I kept it between the lines on the road. As we got further out into the country, open fields of shimmering white crystals drifted over the highway, gusting and swirling into sudden walls of blinding whiteness before they disappeared into thin air. Fun!!!



I couldn’t wait to get to the halfway point.

The driving was too stressful for me to do anything but focus on the road, and I was growing hungry, and needed to pee. Our route looked quite different in the snow-covered terrain, Bethany noticed as she squinted at signs to try to remember which one was her exit. She knew it by sight only. I silently watched as my gas gauge dropped, which was especially alarming because our IKEA sail was depleting my battery as well. I began to worry as the distance between each exit grew further and further. “I think it must be this one,” she guessed, as we finally exited the freeway. “No… this isn’t it. Let’s turn around.”

“Are you SURE?” I asked.

“Yeah, this is too soon, it’s coming up next.”

“Should we just stop and find a gas station here, since we’re already off?” I prodded.

“No, my gas station is way nicer. Let’s keep going,” she insisted.

Against my better judgment, I complied. After all, I didn’t want to argue on our Test Road Trip. I turned around, only to discover that the exit we had taken was one of those where there’s an off ramp, but no on ramp. Only a road to the previous exit, with no way to abort. So, there we were, driving 9 miles the wrong direction, only to then get back on the freeway and try again. We passed two more exits with nothing but an intersection in sight, and I was seriously starting to freak out. Here we were, my new best friend and I, preparing to become that story you hear on the news. That tragic one about two ladies found frozen in a snow drift, after they ran out of gas in the middle of a blizzard in northern Michigan with nothing but an IKEA bookshelf to burn for warmth. So sad.

I started thinking about all the warm layers I could put on, and mentally preparing myself for the long, cold walk from our abandoned car in search of help, when finally, like a beacon of hope, the gracious orange glow of a Shell appeared on the horizon. WE WERE SAVED!! I breathed an audible sigh of relief, trying not to pee my pants, and coasted into the gas station on fumes and prayers to the universe.



I looked over at Bethany, our eyes both wide with amazement, and we smiled at our success! As a peace offering, she offered me a sip of her Love Potion, reaching down at her feet to grab the sealed bottle. As she twisted off the cap, a superheated explosion of beet orange juice splattered all over the inside of my car with shocking thoroughness. Bethany gasped in utter horror as her brain processed the phenomenal fermentation that we had just witnessed. You could not have engineered a better volcano had you tried.


Unable to speak, we both opened our car doors to go find something to clean up the mess. That’s when I heard the soft THUD of my passenger door hitting the concrete bollard next to Bethany. “You have GOT to be kidding me,” I muttered, but I could no longer deal with this insane series of unfortunate events. I HAD to go pee.


When I returned to the scene of the crime, Bethany was still feverishly dabbing at the upholstery with water and paper towel. Thankfully, the seats were pretty dry, since we were still sitting in them when it happened. I could see in her eyes that she was terrified that she had just killed our friendship. That was it. The Test Road Trip served its purpose and all future adventures were no officially cancelled. But I walked over to her, smiled, and said, “I can’t even believe our luck,” as I reached down to give her a hug. What else could I do?


downtown-beulah-in-winterBethany offered to drive the second half, and I decided to take her up on it. My shoulders ached from the tension of fighting with the wind gusts and snow drifts. She drove us the rest of the way, and it grew dark as we approached Kristin’s house. There were two ways to get to her place, nestled high up on a hilltop surrounded by trees. We now had a good 6 inches of snow on the ground, and were strategically coasting through stop signs to keep enough momentum to not get stuck. We turned onto the less steep approach, and I gulped. “There’s no way we’re going to make this,” I thought.


To my joy and awe, we fishtailed our way all the way to the top, and could see her driveway! That’s where we finally got stuck. I didn’t care at that point, we were close enough to walk. I grabbed my bag, tromped through the snow to her front door, and waited for instructions from B. “She said she’s not home yet, but the door’s unlocked,” Bethany read from her phone. She reached for the door and a booming series of barks ensued. “Oh, uh, hi Chopper. Do you remember me?” her voice quavered. “Great,” I thought, “we made it all the way here to be eaten by a dog.”


“Is he friendly?” I asked, having grown up with large dogs that cans sometimes sound meaner than they really are. B thought so, but clearly had a fear of dogs, so I decided to attempt to enter. I asserted myself and commanded the dog to sit to get a treat, and shockingly, he listened. After befriending him enough to get in the door, we walked inside, threw down our bags, and collapsed on the couch.


B’s reunion with her friends was lovely, though I (the introvert) was meeting everyone for the first time. We had some tapas and wine and caught up with Kristin and Kate. We were so exhausted, we didn’t stay up too late before asking where we were sleeping. Kristin’s two little boys had twin beds downstairs, one decorated with Batman, one with Superman. Bethany chose Batman, leaving me with the latter, and we passed out from our crazy long day.


In the morning, I awoke with a cold nose, and burrowed my face beneath the comic sheets. “Was yesterday for real?” I wondered. “That was EPIC.”  I began making some grand analogies to the journey of Odysseus, and then the cold found me. It penetrated the rest of my skin, as I shivered myself awake. I’m all for energy efficiency, but this was a little ridiculous. Moments later, my loud thinking woke Bethany and she agreed, so we toddled upstairs to make some coffee and tea. When Kate and Kristin awoke, it was to the realization that they had run out of propane, which is how they heat their house. After some frantic calls, we learned that it would be a couple days before they could get refilled, what with the snowstorm and all. So we prepped the house for the cold snap, and bundled up. Later that afternoon, B & I curled up together on the Batman bed for a nap, sharing our body heat for warmth. This was probably the highlight of the test road trip at that point.

The party was held next door, at Kristin’s parents’ home, which was empty because they were gone on vacation, and had heat. B & I moved over to their garage apartment for the night, grateful for a backup option. The party was amazing! I met so many new people, and had so much fun hearing all their old stories about B. And at the end of the late night, I got to lay in bed and stare up at the stars through a skylight, and make a wish on a falling star.


And, yes, my wish came true.



Hypnosis in Prague

22 02 2018


Nervous and excited, I waited in the airport for my second overseas trip of my life. Just 2 months earlier, I had my first foray into Europe. The taste of travel lingered on my lips, a pure, crystalline addiction so sweet that I instantly craved for more.


Before I knew it, I was granted a scholarship to study abroad for the summer, packing up my apartment, and fervently studying a Berlitz Czech language book. One year earlier, I didn’t even know what country Prague resided in.


Together with just over a dozen others, I landed in this strange city with smoke-filled accents and endlessly winding city streets that left me dazed and disoriented. Four of us shared an apartment up on the hillside, a short walk from the zoo. It was a quiet neighborhood, with a small corner grocery store and a large open green space close by. The ‘Letenska Plan’ park used to be home to a giant statue of Stalin’s head staring down at the city, but by the time I arrived his head had exploded and been replaced with a massive metronome sculpture. I quickly learned to stifle my awe at the seemingly mile-deep escalator to get to my metro stop, ‘Hradcanska.’ I fumbled to understand why I was the only one standing bag-less at the grocery store checkout, grateful for the stranger who pitied my naivety and gave me one of her bags. I taught myself how to order “voda bez bubbly” in order to get free tap water.

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In short order, my routine afforded me a quick familiarity with the city of Praha. I checked off the touristy things, like the 1400s era ‘Karlov Most’ (Charles Bridge), and dining in a below-grade, brick-arched cellar restaurant. I began to easily orient myself on crooked streets by the landmarks and proximity to the town square. I didn’t need a map most of the time, though I always kept one in my satchel just in case. We didn’t have cell phones yet, and I relied 100% on my rudimentary Czech language skills and the kindness of strangers.

One afternoon I was preparing to go into studio to work on my design project. I needed to sketch out a few more ideas before I could start building my model, so I decided to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather and go sit at a park bench along a small riverside stretch of green. I stared out at the gently moving water, listening to the birds, with the murmurs of Czech-speaking crowds a fuzzy distance away, filtered by my English ears. I pulled out my sketchbook and pencils and began to draw the scenery before me. I felt so connected to this place, which inspired my artistic side. Dappled sunlight filtered through the trees and kissed my bare shoulders. I felt like my heart was bursting with joy and an unimaginable sense of contentment.

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After a little while, I sensed someone observing me. A young man in his twenties stepped closer and smiled. “You seem so at peace,” he beamed at me. I was caught of guard, but replied, “Oh? Yes, well it’s a gorgeous day!” He asked me about my artwork, and sat down at the other end of the bench to get a closer look. He seemed nice enough, asking innocent questions, and sharing a joyful attitude.


Then it got weird. He started cooing about how “pure” my soul was, about how he could see into it through my eyes. The creepiest part though, was not that I felt like I was being hit on, it was that I FELT like he was actually seeing inside my soul! Without my permission, yet without any physical contact, I felt completely violated. My head felt suddenly dizzy, buzzing with strange thoughts, like, maybe I was being hypnotized?!? Was I about to be abducted into a cult? I had no idea what was happening, but it freaked me out in a way I had never felt before.


While this man had technically done nothing illegal, I stammered an excuse about needing to get to class, and hastily left. Was I overreacting? What just happened? All I knew was that my eyes were streaming tears the entire way back to my studio, and my sobbing left me struggling to breathe. I had no idea why I felt so scared. I took a few minutes, back against a cold brick wall, to try to calm myself before entering our building. With bloodshot eyes, I tried to explain it to my female classmates, who comforted me, though I don’t really know what they thought of my story. I still don’t know what that was, but it certainly left an impact on me, all these years later.


You don’t have to have a reason. You don’t have to wait for something bad to happen. No matter what, always listen to your gut instincts. I hope that all women will learn to trust themselves more than some external logic when it comes to their own sense of safety.




Thoughts and Prayers… Again

16 02 2018

I am so sick of this conversation. Every American is, I’m sure. But not nearly as disgusted and ill as the parents in Florida right now, or all the THOUSANDS of other victims and survivors of annual U.S. gun violence.


It’s never the right time. Someone is always grieving. But “Thoughts and prayers” are not enough. WE NEED TO SERIOUSLY HAVE A TALK.



According to Gallup, in 2017 over 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with our federal gun laws, and believe they should be MORE strict. This is the highest it’s been since 2004. Yet our nation’s lawmakers are petrified of pissing off the deep pockets of the gun lobbyists, many of whom represent only the extreme minority of the otherwise rational, compassionate, law-abiding gun owners.


With two factions screaming at each other literally EVER time we have a massacre, nobody hears anything but the extreme rhetoric, refusing to listen to a calm conversation about how to improve our situation. This problem is not going away. In fact, it’s grown exponentially since 1966. 


One thing is for certain, unless you think it’s okay for children and innocent adults to be murdered, then you agree that SOMETHING has to change. This is such a basic fact, there really should be nobody who disagrees. The disagreement comes when we start assuming HOW different groups of people think that the change should happen.


Are there Americans who think guns should be outlawed, 2nd Amendment be damned? Sure. Are there Americans who think the government is trying to turn us all into slaves and we need an armed militia to protect our rights? Yup. There are extreme positions on both sides- can we agree on that? Awesome.

The number of Americans who were “against a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles” dropped 11% from 2016 to 2017.


The reality is, most Americans are actually very moderate in their views. Over 70% of Americans agree that citizens should be allowed to own handguns. It’s the lobbyists and far-flung wings of media that spread fear and paranoia by making you think that everyone is out to get you, and any attempt at a rational compromise is just a sneak attack to further their own secret agenda. This is simply not true. In fact, even gun owners are starting to realize that something needs to change.


Think about it. As Americans, we all agree in our foundation of freedom to pursue happiness and liberty. So, as long as nobody else gets hurt by your individual actions, in most cases we agree, to each their own. It’s when others get hurt that we start realizing that we need rules in place to protect the masses. This is why seat belts and speed limits were invented. This is why we have rules about operating a vehicle, including licensure and insurance and alcohol limits. This is why we have to take off our shoes at the airport. Nobody said, “All shoes should be banned at all airports.” No, that would be an overreaction. Is taking off your shoes an inconvenience? Sure, but it’s worth it to provide an increased sense of safety and security to the masses.


So why is it so difficult to say, “Let’s just brainstorm some ways to improve how we handle guns and ammunition?” If 24,000 married couples can manage to find enough compromise to get a legal divorce every single day, I think we collectively have the ability to sit down like rational human beings and hammer out some compromises on guns. Is every husband and wife 100% satisfied with how their divorce turns out? Hell no. But they find a balance that is fair and equitable, and protects the children. We simply need to put our society’s children first. 


A staggering 86% of Americans in 2015 reported that they support “a law which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases in the U.S. using a centralized database across all 50 states.”


Are the root causes of gun violence simple? Absolutely not. There are so many factors that go into this, just as there’s no single reason a couple chooses to get divorced. It all piles up in a burdensome heap, and eventually becomes too much to bear. It’s simply easier to escape than to stay. So why do we focus on the weapons themselves? These solutions are cheaper and easier to implement.

Let’s not forget about the other factors that need to be included in the bigger discussions on continuous improvement:

  • Weapons- Mass shootings would be less likely to occur at all, and have significantly fewer victims if they were fist fights, or knife fights, or even pistol fights instead of weapons capable of killing dozens at once.
  • Mental Health- nobody who commits murder is perfectly healthy. Yet we live in a society that focuses on punishment instead of treatment.
  • Gender- Almost all gun violence is perpetrated by men, and mass shootings are no exception. What can our society do to encourage men to resolve their issues with tools other than violence? What are we teaching boys about dealing with their emotions?
  • Security- Instead of focusing on the cause, some have focused on the responses by implementing new security measures at schools, churches, etc. While this helps calm those shaken by tragedy, will we ever reach a point when every single place is safe from an attacker?
  • Rights- Our forefathers believed in a right to bear arms. They used guns to hunt and for personal protection.  These guns were never capable of the rapid fire slaughtering of today’s weapons. Today many enjoy guns for the fun of shooting them at firing ranges, and 60% of gun owners have them for “personal protection.” How do we protect our rights to collect and fire guns safely?
  • Restrictions- In the past 50 years, the majority of weapons used in mass shootings were obtained legally. How can we make it so that it’s harder for people with evil intentions to obtain weapons and ammunition? Are the background checks good enough? Are there mental health loopholes that need to be patched?


Clearly, this is not a problem that can be fixed in a day. We need a multi-pronged approach to truly solve this ongoing catastrophe. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t start SOMEWHERE.


Here’s just one idea of a basic compromise that could help:

How to save shooting victims


Remember, our country is strongest when it is UNITED in an effort to help society. Don’t immediately think you know what someone on the opposite side of an issue is going to say. Even if you disagree, respect their opinion enough to ask them “5 Whys.” This is a common part of root cause analysis. If you reserve your opinion long enough to genuinely be curious about how someone came to take their position, you might find a common core belief that you both share, and a true conversation can begin.


For those affected in this weeks massacre, I am so sorry for your loss. Nothing can bring them back. I only hope we can prevent others from suffering as you are now.



New Year Traditions… Let’s Break 2018

1 01 2018

I am a fan of tradition. Traditions are the ways that we tell stories, share history, and impart morals with our community’s next generation. This is why we celebrate the arbitrary day of the year- not Winter Equinox or anything physically significant- but New Year’s Day. Long ago, our great-great-great-great-to-the-nth-degree-ancestors decided that this was the beginning of a new year and the end of the old. Similar to Loi Krathong in Thailand, and other cultural celebrations, we bid adieu to all the horrible BS that was the year past, and welcome in the promise of something better.



As part of my tradition, I like to end the year with a clean slate. Literally. I take a hot shower and scrub every square inch of my body to be rid of the filth of the year. I even trim my hairs to have fresh, clean ends. I also like my house to have a fresh start. So I tidy, wipe, scrub, sweep, and deep clean as much as I can. This year was particularly satisfying because I am pre-menstrual, and cleaning is extraordinarily satisfying this time of the lunar cycle.



On New Year’s Day, our tradition is to have a few friends over for a casual, day-long gettogether. Folks bring food and drink to share, we sit around, talking, laughing, eating, playing games. We have REAL conversations about how to make our lives and the world better in the new year. We set our intentions. There’s no drumming or chanting, but our non-ceremony is still very serious in that we believe that the first day of the new year should be focused and intentional about where our priorities set.


During my cleaning frenzy, no dust was left untouched this year. I actually MOVED objects to wipe with my almond-scented cleaner. For realz. Chopper dog thought we were playing a game, I was moving so fast. He scurried around my feet, excited at the prospect of whatever was clearly coming next! MORE CLEANING!!



I was so efficient, that I had our trusty robot vacuum working simultaneously. Merf (we named him after a Dirty MERF that was being proposed for our city when we adopted him) was working away, humming in the next room, while I kept Chopper out of his path. I was thrown from my frenzy when I heard his needy beeping start up. Merf acts like he is dessicated of attention. “Clear my path!” he shouts, like he’s the only one doing anything worthwhile. I rolled my eyes and stopped what I was doing to walk over, knowing what I would find. This happened no less than 5 times, before I gave up and took him to recharge in his bedroom (aka docking station).


At one point, I was moving so fast, that the carved wooden statue of weeping Buddha slipped from my grasp and leapt off the shelf, down onto the stoic IKEA shelving unit. You know, the one that my sister-in-law, the interior designer, said, “If you ever decide to get rid of that, I want it. They don’t make them like that anymore.” Yeah… that one.


Buddha crashed into the top surface, then disappeared into the abyss between the bookcase and the wall. It all happened to fast, but when I looked down to find him, all I saw was this massive dent in my faux wood shelf. Buddha broke it. Buddha BROKE it. It’s like Buddha was saying, “Fuck 2017! We are not going to just sit around and whine about this shit anymore! 2018 is for making a move and letting our resistance be known!”


IMG_5154Well, I may not be religious, but my wife is. And clearly her Buddha was speaking to me. So, just in case I was getting exhausted, burned out, weary, or frayed at all ends… let it be known. I will NOT sit quietly and let the world crumble around me. I will NOT accept things that I cannot change, because I know that TOGETHER, WE can change things. I may not be able to move a mountain on my own, but when we move together, we can make anything happen. 2018 is going to be a year to remember. Let us restore ourselves, and then let us rise up in resistance. 2018 will be ours. 24796699_1858683254214290_8876786741059340184_n




A Gentle Reminder (Part Two)

18 12 2017




The first temple that we visited was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was a simple, neighborhood temple, one of dozens in the area. It wasn’t for tourists, and there were no signs in English, but the intensely brilliant colors and gold leaf coating the building drew us in. There were no monks there at the time, but there was a large tree trunk wrapped in giant swaths of colored fabric, and the base of the trunk was protected by a short wall, painted with colorful depictions of religious characters. It was topped with burning incense, candles, and several imperfect, white lotus blossoms that looked like they had fallen from a nearby tree after a squirrel took a bite. It was stunning, and yet completely commonplace.

The next temple we visited was a true destination- the Golden Temple. It was a breathtakingly beautiful complex with layers of intrigue. We slowly meandered up a steep set of stairs lined with little huts selling trinkets and items for offering to Buddha. At the very top, the temple unveiled itself, with four distinctly sculpted walls framing in the courtyard with ancient stories. I frequently stopped to admire the ornate architectural details and the gilded sculptures. And, yes, I DID bang the gong that hung from its own pagoda- it was taller than me!


There was a large area in the center for honoring Buddha, and rows of people seated on the cobblestone floor, praying. I watched Bethany make her offering and receive her blessing. I was nervous, because I am not Buddhist, and I didn’t want to offend. It reminded me of attending a Catholic mass as a 12 year old, with my best friend, and how disappointed I was when they told me I wasn’t allowed to take communion like everyone else because I was not baptized. As I watched the elderly monk lean forward and grasp her two hands in his, a smile never left his peaceful face, and I knew that, even if I faltered with the customs, my heart would be received with love.

images (2)As soon as the monk finished tying the knot on my wrist, he paused, closed his eyes one last time, and placed his palm over my pulse. Seconds later, we exchanged bows, and I got up to leave him seated on the stone. The monk’s presence was palpable. He filled the courtyard with a sense of love and calm, and when he directed that energy into me, I could genuinely feel it. The string on my wrist served as a simple reminder of this love and kindness that we all aspire to be vessels for.

By the time we made it to Cambodia, my wrist was graced with multiple strings of various colors, each one carrying not only a blessing, but a memory. It was not until Cambodia, however, that my heart filled with the most memorable encounter, with a most amazing monk.


424389_412929122123051_1929217999_nThey say that you can get ‘templed out’ in Asia. That was not the case for this grrrl! Having studied many of these ancient temples in architectural history classes over a decade earlier, it was a dream come true to get to see them in real life. Such is the case for Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom, the two most well-known temple ruins in Cambodia. (You’ll recognize them from Tomb Raiders and Indiana Jones movies). Little did I know, these are just two of dozens of temple ruins in the area! It was a feat to see as many as we could in just 3 days, without becoming so utterly exhausted and overheated that the adventure becomes a chore.

312484_412884435460853_1548089458_nWhile on a 2-day ‘slowboat’ down the Mekong River just a week earlier, another couple, traveling generally the opposite direction as us, had told us about their strategy for experiencing Siem Riep. Get up early, hire a tuk-tuk for the day, explore the temples, drink water and snack until the afternoon heat becomes unbearable, then go back to town for  good lunch with A/C, then go sit in the pool to relax and recover from the heat of the day. For just $24 a day, we stayed in a stunning 5 star hotel with an infinite pool, and did just that!

On our very last day, we had worked our way out to the far flung, less visited temple ruins. There was one, the story goes, that was actually designed by a woman. Unlike the more popular destination temples, which are being constantly maintained and rebuilt, these ones were truly crumbling into history. Walking through the temple, it felt like being on a disaster recover team. Every time I ducked under a threshold into a new space, I was in awe at how these massive and mesmerizingly beautiful columns were simply strewn about, fallen and broken. It seemed as if a herd of behemoth brontosauruses had been chased through here, massive tails thrashing about, toppling over everything in their path. The rooms with fully intact columns were far more rare here, yet even the scene of crumbling disaster was something to behold. The voluptuous female figures carved into the stone now rested horizontally, after a few thousand years of standing in perfection.

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As we reached the heart of the temple, we ascended to the top, climbing over stubborn weeds and ancient steps worn down from time. I stepped into a dark tower, following the trail of sandalwood whispering with the breeze. There, half in shadow, half in light, was a figure seated on the stone floor, leaning onto one extended arm. Wrapped in robes, the bright light reflected off the dingy white stones onto her dark, shaved head. Her face was as wrinkled as the ocean, and her eyes shined like stars. She must have been in her 80s or 90s, but her energy hit me like a heavyweight champion. Never had I felt such a powerful force emanating from a person! She was… indescribably awesome. The scene burned into my mind, and I was so thrilled to find this woman. It felt like our entire journey led us here.


As we boarded the plane in Thailand, I looked down at my wrist. The strings were powerful, but that last one was simply amazing.


One year ago, it felt like our country was crumbling. I started to wonder if, someday, thousands of years from now, they will uncover us deep in the jungle, and wonder what happened to our civilization. What led to their demise?

15697343_1397671346982152_6921785271375302890_nI was devastated and depressed, and the timing could not have been better for the trip we had planned to go to Sri Lanka. There, after wrapping up my conference, we immersed ourselves into the Sri Lankan culture and wilderness. It was there that I got up at 1am to hike the pilgrimage to the top of Sri Pada, to be at the temple on top of the world and watch the sun rise.

Today, one year later, I look down at the white string tied to my wrist, and I can remind myself that the sun always rises. There will always be a tomorrow. There is always hope.

IMG_4736 (1).JPGThis blessing may bring me luck, or it may not. But it serves its purpose. I am reminded daily that life is too short to focus on the negative. I need not want for anything. I am truly, completely blessed, and I work to keep reminding myself to share my love and light with others who may need it.



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