Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Meets Dr. Molly Barrow

I was having an early breakfast at the Inter Continental Hotel in New York several years ago. In the sunny upper floor breakfast room, a group of high powered strategists, all women, set at the next table. I had suffered with recent political decisions and was dismayed by the current voting trends. I stopped by the women's table to offer my services as a psychotherapist, gave them my resume and suggested I could be helpful with campaign strategy.

An impressive woman with steel gray hair and a dark suit turned to me and asked me if I minded answering a question. I replied I was happy to assist. She proudly introduced Nancy Pelosi, then Representative Pelosi... not yet our first woman Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi turned to me with her dark intense eyes sparkling, and asked me if I thought Hillary Clinton could be the next President of the United States.

I gulped. This was my opportunity to be a feminist, to be supportive and cast a vote for all women. For every male joke, violence act or domination that had gone too far, I wanted to help even the playing field. I wanted to join the well-heeled city women's discussion, to be part of the shakers and movers, to make a difference in the lives of millions by just one vote, to challenge the stupidity and cronyism in Washington, and to use my mind to defeat cruelty and prejudice. I wanted to say absolutely yes, Hillary will be a great President.

Then, I thought about the men that I had grown up with in Central Illinois. I could imagine them on the cafe stools in coffee shops, at Maid-Rites hamburger counters, and luncheonettes. They spoke of the mines, local gossip and traditions. Voting for a female President would be inconceivable to the kind of men I had known there. As I traveled the country, I saw shunning and ridicule, designed to humiliate and discourage women who struggled for equality from competitive, threatened men who believed in their own entitlement. No matter what these men might say in public, in the private voting booth, they will vote for their own kind, every time.

The women's faces fell as I replied "No, not yet." The undercurrent of chauvinism and prejudice has not left, but merely submerged in older voters, I explained. However, that was five years ago. What about now?

We were all programmed in prejudice before the powerful sixties broke apart old norms and stigmatization. Those who survived the sixties are old enough to take over the responsibility and carry the torch of freedom. But who actually goes to the polls? Not the college kids or Gore would have been a clear winner. Not the angry old hippies or Kerry would have been a shoe-in.

The younger men and women have friends of varied race, sexual preference and gender. The older people still stick to their own, fearful of the unknown. The ones standing in line to vote are the same ones who are sitting on the cafe stools wearing Caterpillar or John Deer caps. They value their votes and they make the effort to vote. But they vote with their mind set from the 1950's and that is how election have been easily manipulated by scaring traditional voters with words like Gays, abortions or scientific cloning.

What about the new kind of man who has emerged in our society? This variety of man was raised by strong women with more freedom who was himself more free to be an original, rather than a carbon copy. He is confident in himself rather than a role, like the man I had married. A man who could openly embrace his child, listen to an intelligent women on television speak about important topics or be proud of a wife who earned big bucks? Could this consciousness-raised gentle man vote for a woman? Does he vote?

If women and gentle men voted what happened to Kerry when he ran for office? He was a loving Dad, his wife was a dynamic leader and role model, but he lost, even with the following statistics:

Kerry-Edwards is preferred over Bush-Cheney among voters 18-29 years of age (59%-37%); 65 and older (49%-46%); women (52%- 42%); and singles (62%-26%).

Bush-Cheney is favored among voters 50-64 years of age (49%-46%); men (50%-43%); and married couples (53%-42%). ( Baby boomer men showed their muscle in the 2004 election, and voted for wise cracking George Bush, who would be cool to have a beer with. They voted for their own kind, one of the boys. Now our country is struggling and needs a grown-up, a leader.

What will happen in this rapidly approaching election in 2008?

"While she is winning wide support in nationwide samples among Democrats in the race for their party's presidential nomination, half of likely voters nationwide said they would never vote for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows... reported survey of 9,718 likely voters nationwide showed that 50% said Clinton would never get their presidential vote. This is up from 46% who said they could never vote for Clinton in a Zogby International telephone survey conducted in early March. Older voters are most resistant to Clinton—59% of those age 65 and older said they would never vote for the New York senator, but she is much more acceptable to younger voters: 42% of those age 18-29 said they would never vote for Clinton for President."

Over half of the 18-29 year-olds would vote for Hillary... but do they vote? Do they get up early in the morning, stand in wet and snow for hours to make their one vote. Young people made a lot of noise last election, but they did not "turn out" on election day when it mattered. Older voters do "turn out" and 59% say they are not leaning toward Hillary.

Historically, people do exactly what they did last time and will do again next time. What can sway the people out of their comfort zone into a new way of thinking? Perhaps it is too late for heavily brain washed people who are fifty-five and older. After eight years of tortuous political fiasco and the deaths of so many people will likely voters elect another Baby boomer male and cling to the perception of what an American president looks like or can we do something new, fresh and perhaps, smart?

Are there enough people who are younger and less programmed to escape the belief that Presidents are white males because.... they just are? And this time, will they actually take responsibility as an American and vote?

I have changed since Representative Pelosi and I spoke. Today, I think it is possible for the United States to elect an African American, a Latino, or a woman. We all may have evolved enough to look past the outside color and gender of a contender for the most powerful position in the world and see instead the capability and leadership within the person.

I think it would please Nancy if she knew that she was talking to a Baby boomer who loves Maid Rites and has a Caterpillar cap and could vote for any one of them.

What ever your political viewpoint, please remember to register and vote... for America.

"Honey, I'm Home!"

If you come home from work and walk in the door to find all hell breaking loose, what is the first thing to do to restore discipline and control?

Stop and Listen.

Take a few moments simply to observe. The screaming five-year-old might have just had her favorite toy snatched by the eight-year-old. If you yell at the five-year-old, you will reinforce the eight-year-old’s rotten behavior and the five-year-old will remind you of it on your eightieth birthday. Better to say nothing, than to accuse falsely.

Everyone Needs a Moment

If Mom or the Nanny has been in control, let them stay in control until you make the often-complicated transition from worker or boss to Dad. If you have a few moments to get into your comfortable clothes, take a shower or take a breath after a hectic day, then you may avoid taking out your stress on the wrong people. Discuss with your partner in advance the amount of transition time that you need, perhaps 10-20 minutes to change roles. Promise to take over the kids and let him or her have a necessary break from the family to take a walk or recoup their sanity before all the food preparation and bedtime rituals begin.

Just Hold It

Eventually school age children can learn to wait, but young children cannot hold in their emotions. Toddlers may have to be carried around when you first arrive. Young children do not know how to delay gratification and will annoy you so much that you may yell at them and break their hearts. Do not ask them to do what they developmentally cannot do, yet.

Spouse Comes First.

Spouses may have urgent issues to discuss. If you ignore your spouse, paybacks will be later and not good.

Ask your spouse what would help him or her the most and then ask the kids to help you. That way you are giving them both some time and energy. Reassure your spouse that you will set aside time to discuss whatever he or she needs in a few minutes. The absolute best thing that you can do for your children is to have a good relationship with their other parent. Fighting, yelling or shunning your spouse leaves big marks on your children.

Give Children What They Want

Needy children and spouses will compete for your attention. You may just want to relax, but that is not going to happen until they know you care about them. Children may have waited the whole day for your return. Take time to sit still and let them all talk to you, look each one in the eye, tell them you are happy to see them and you missed them. If you are affectionate, then give hugs all around and smile at them. If you try to bypass this step, your children will turn to misbehaving to get your highly desired attention. Better to give them attention before they start to act up. Tell them, “When you can quiet down, I want you to sit next to me so I can hear about your day. Who will be first?” Try to ignore the one who acts unruly and reward the one who is talking nicely to you. Ask the children to do for you, get you water, rub your aching feet, or fan you gently. They want to love you and after a hard day, you can benefit from their attention lavished on you.

Spare the Rod

You are tired, hungry and ready to spank. However, striking a child by any other name is still striking a child. Slapping a bottom or hand is not teaching good behavior, slapping a child only teaches violence. Be sure that is what you want your child to learn from you; someday you will be dependant on your children’s kindness and care, and that could be ugly. Millions of people raise children without hitting, screaming, spanking or grabbing them and so can you. Time-out is a consequence of not following parental rules and does make children modify their behavior. Older children respond to grounding and restriction of computer, phone, games and company. If you are crossing the discipline line to abuse, get some counseling.

The Washing Machine is Broken, Two Checks Bounced and We have a Parent-Teacher Meeting.

If you are the one he is coming home to, and you love your children, shut up. Let the man get in the door and see his children, relax and de-stress. Only if someone is bleeding, should you meet your man at the door with a bunch of negative comments that when added to work and traffic, could cause him to stroke out. That anger will likely be diverted to noisy, happy children who will feel blind sided by mean Dad. Almost all things can wait until the next business day. Keep your bad news to yourself until you set a time to discuss family issues after the children are busy elsewhere and you can listen quietly to each other. Otherwise, he will just boss you around and not ever get the details. You will be mad and frustrated and end up taking care of everything yourself anyway. Transition time is sacred.

So pick up the toddler, kiss your spouse and let the games begin.

Conversation Control

Do you passively wait for a good opportunity to jump in to the conversation? Do your good ideas remain unspoken thoughts because you cannot get a word in edgewise? Do you allow your competition to steal your Conversation Control?

Conversation Control is an artful dance of words, gestures and body language that steers the listener in the direction that the speaker wishes to take them. Certainly a rude and manipulative speaker has no intention of giving you the floor. But, are you losing Conversation Control with everyone - even your dear friends and family? How did this happen?

Repressing the rebellious was once the design and purpose of schools when the English and religious leaders granted education to the people. The limited learning provided some facts and memorization, basic math and English but reserved the philosophy, critical thinking and science for the elite. Rote repetition left over from the English school system still reigns as an early elementary mind-numbing practice in America. American schools have a basic flaw. The initial school design was to be is administration-friendly rather than child-friendly.

Any assertiveness is considered a problem for the school system and is punished right along with aggression. The removal of creative classes of art, dance and music to barely an hour per week creates more strain on the children.The most passive, inhibited and frightened children are rewarded and praised. The normal, active child is too often labeled attention deficit and medicated into a stupor to be sure that the school runs quietly and efficiently as mandated by the state. Rebel teachers are also quickly removed as any deviation from the norm may reduce federal and state funding. The schools become slaves to funding and more of a house of discipline than joyful learning.

Children in school must give up both negative aggressive behavior and essential assertive behavior in the current American school system. Take a happy-go-lucky, curious, vocal child and place them in hard metal chairs in rows of thirty five children. Force them to be quiet and sit still, eat, drink, urinate and defecate when the teacher chooses for seven hours. If a child tries to act like a normal child, they are sent, as in the Victorian age, for an emotional caning at the Principal’s office.

Reports of the terrorists training camps reveal their schools teach extremely young boys to be completely compliant to their commanders. The children are kept at their desks for long hours with few breaks and learn anti-American propaganda. Soon their spirits are broken and they become machines for the commander’s bidding, who often uses drugs to help control their minds and convince them to sacrifice their young lives for a better life after death. Meanwhile, the commanders live on. Most Americans would call that child abuse.

Repressing normal excitement, curiosity and exuberance in American children often results in high levels of rebellion, self medication with drugs and alcohol - just to stand it or a high drop out rate. Those students, who endure and suppress their assertive qualities, do well within the system, object to nothing and receive their diplomas. Once employed, however, they may sit at their desks waiting to be told what to do.

Often severely taken advantage of by their employers, these passive new workers do not object to extreme conditions, poor treatment, low pay or verbal abuse. Any attempt to speak out can be easily quashed by the more aggressive. These workers are serving the needs of great companies and organizations as worker ants. Sometimes as late as a decade, or worse case, a lifetime, they may begin to awaken and resent their no-progress jobs. They are in pain and want change but have been well-trained to just take it. They have not learned to take Communication Control.

In a wider arena, powerful men in government act quickly to stop assertive conversations that object to their questionable decisions. Misread as strength by many Americans, their policies of intimidation, threats of impending doom and destruction, and stacking of the Congressional deck can successfully silenced the public “watchdog” media and opposition. American adults must object strongly to any attempts to force a return to passive elementary school behavior that enables the Administration to lead Americans where they want to take us, rather than where we vote to go. Americans, as a nation, should never lose their Conversation Control.

Years of hunched submissive shoulders may feel some pain and ache as they straighten and push back to raise ones head high enough to see, really see. Each individual has an inherent right to exist, find their voice and vote according to their values. In the collective conversation, you may even have to interrupt. People who have hearing loss may try to talk over you, so for some people you may have to speak loudly and clearly to be heard at all. Your opinion may be wrong or you may be right, but be sure your opinion counts. Let no one steal your assertiveness, freedom or pursuit of happiness, or that of your child’s. Let your voice be heard at home, in the school system, at work and politically, with your vote. Take back your Conversation Control and hold it dearly.

Missing Someone So Much It Hurts? Try The Brokenheart Stomp!

Things looking bleak?

When milestone days approach, a holiday, a birthday or deathday, do your emotions tumble downhill as you struggle with lonely, depressing efforts to hold back your feelings? Is the one you really want with someone else, or did he or she pass away, yet you hunger and yearn for whom is missing? Do you have to push away painful memories just to get through the day and that takes all your concentration and energy? The pain of heartbreak can be acute and overwhelming. Your grief keeps you focused on the pain when you think about them. Maybe after fifty years you only remember the day someone died or your first love's face as he left you. The grief blocks all the good memories that lie beneath waiting.

Would you like to try a quick fix for an enduring heartache? You have memories of these people that are yours to enjoy, too. If you can just get past the grief, even temporarily, you might recapture lost moments of joy.

Take tonight to be alone and set the stage for memories of someone who was once precious, but is now missing. Light some candles, get out the worn photos, drop the fake smile from your face....finally, and allow yourself to really feel the pain. Step into the murky water of your tears and despair and wail and cry, for say, ten minutes. Then, take the next ten minutes to crank up some rhythmic music and express the pain physically. Boldly and wildly move your body in an expression of your hurt. Next, gradually change the dance to a joyful or silly one, like the chicken dance. The physical efforts release brain chemicals. Hopefully, no one is watching this cathartic gig but if someone is, explain that you dance for your health.

Grief held inside is poison. The act of grieving is about releasing the toxic thoughts and physical ramifications of those thoughts. Faking it, smiling when you could split apart in pain or pretending you do not care is not fooling your organs. Get the pent up rage, despair, guilt or envy out of you. Just talking about it or ignoring it will not release grief as well as the Brokenheart Stomp. The change from a grieving movement to a happier movement will send a powerful signal to the mind that you are trying to recover from grief.

Purging grief is a detox cleanse that allows you to recover joy and balance to your mind and gut. You NEVER have to stop feeling love and longing for what you miss, but you need to periodically fall back deeply into your sadness, feel terrible and then release it quickly just like a cramp in your foot. When the pain begins to build up, try shaking it out and then laugh loudly long before you sincerely feel happy. Our bodies respond to the emotion we act out, so act out a joyful dance.

Loving someone - even if it does not last - can become a source of experience and strength to treasure, if you learn to release the grief regularly. Grief can last years, but your nervous system needs a break frequently. The Heartbreak Stomp may shorten the pain by grieving the feelings out just a bit while you laugh at your antics. Take this opportunity to remember the good and bask for a bit in positive memories of having loved someone dearly. Eventually, the pain will go and the good memories will heal your heart and last forever.

Trust Again?

Are you suffering with a deep gut ache wondering if you can trust this person? Does trust require a restriction of inquiry? Have you locked yourself into a damned if you ask and potentially damned if you do not ask quandary? Are you willing to risk damaging your relationship and hurting your partner’s feelings? Will your inquiry prompt the inevitable response? “Now since you do not trust me I might as well do what you have accused me of doing!” How can you proceed with out making a mess of your relationship?

Runaway feelings and emotions so characteristic of falling in love or the excitement of a start-up company can make you put a person on a pedestal. Do you prefer to view the world and your partner through the rose-colored glasses of trust until proven unworthy? The silent trust deal says you do not ask your partner to prove their trustworthiness and demands that you know without asking. You bestow trust upon him or her without proof. If one invests carelessly too much of their lives into the relationship and is betrayed, the extradition can be difficult and involve a wide circle of friends and family. Initially more pleasant and less work, this attitude is fraught with risk and vulnerability. Most people remove their rosy glasses after their first heartbreak.

On the other hand, do you choose a position of mistrust until you acquire proof positive of the ability to trust demonstrated with consistent behavior. This requires a holding back of your feelings. To lead a life of bitter disappointment devoid of the uplifting flight of heart that comes from just believing in someone or something is also risky and unprotected. Opportunities for love may be lost if you are too defended.

The fake it until you make it philosophy is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you behave like your partner is trustworthy, the trust can help to support your partner when tempted to cheat. The act of trusting creates its own momentum in a relationship. Positive creates positive reactions and pessimistic negativity creates negative reactions.

The most important element of trust is the lack of suspicion felt in the pit of your stomach. You happily move forward in your day assuming that your relationship is just fine. There is an absence, a silence that one takes for granted until something out of the ordinary causes you to doubt. Once that doubt creeps in a chain reaction starts. Your adrenals flood your body and you can hardly breathe or function. Doubt, suspicion, jealousy eat away at your tranquility leaving you a pile of jangled nerves. Unable to function in your work and the inability to think reasonably or to recover your sense of balance may lead to rash and sometimes violent actions. Whether true betrayal or just imaginary mental scenes have transpired, you must quiet your reactionary rage. Innocent until proven guilty counts in relationships, too.

If your partner admits to betraying you, you have several choices. If you are deeply in love and isolated from the support of friends and family, do not abruptly walk out the door. You may need to rely on the shreds of your relationship to help you through the deep grief of losing trust in someone you love. What is the true cost of betrayal? Have you assessed the amount of potential damages to your world if you cannot trust your partner? Illness, divorce, hurt for your children and even death are consequences that might result from betrayal.

Once you sort it all out, do you risk your heart and trust again? The assumption that your relationship will never be tested is unrealistic. There is no way to guarantee that trust will never be broken again. If you love the person, give them a second chance if you possibly can. If they make no effort to protect you from hurt or to change their behavior, you may need to question if his or her love is strong enough and worth investing your welfare and future.

To rebuild trust as a couple, remember to:

  • Get the facts before reacting, be honest and stay honest.
  • Allow yourself or your partner a desensitization period to rehash the hurt over and over until they heal.
  • Accept or give a sincere apology and make it up to your partner any way you can.
  • Know that it can take a year for your partner to grieve and learn to trust you again.
  • Learn to be more open with each other to deepen your connection.

Is Your Ex Coming to Visit Your Child?

The most important consideration is the child not you and your stirred up anxiety. Your child needs a relationship with their parent more than you need to resolve old feelings from the past. As long as you trust the parent to keep the child fed and safe from danger or abuse, be quiet and let their relationship be what it can be. Relax; think of your Ex more as a babysitter than a threat. Take the free time and treat yourself to good parenting rewards, like walks along the shore, a new shirt, a pedicure, a glass of wine or wheat grass with a friend. No matter how wonderful a parent you are, you are only capable of fulfilling fifty percent of your child's parenting needs. They need to know they are worthy and having a visit from an absent parent can mend a big hole in your child's heart. Let it be and wish your child the love of that parent. Your Ex may have abandoned and hurt the family and you may feel they do not deserve your child's love. However, your child deserves to feel loved by his or her parents as much as possible. Never say an unkind word about your child's parent. Kids see the truth, usually around twelve years old, anyway. Pray for that parent to get it before it is too late, to realize that a child's love is precious and valuable, never to be taken for granted or squandered. Miracles happen. Sometimes people do get wiser with maturity and time, even Exes.

Pregnant Soldier

The news that you are expecting a baby can be glorious or worrisome depending on the parent’s age, financial situation or disposition to be a parent. Pregnancy can bring opportunity for great happiness and/or serious problems like birth defects, stress on relationships and strain on budgets. Here is how one young soldier found a solution through counseling. Confidentiality requires identifiers to be changed.

Becky was in the Army. She was a dedicated young career officer in training and looking forward to her opportunity to serve in Iraq. She was considering moving in with her boyfriend who served in the National Guard. However, her boyfriend had begun to micro manage her recently and she was getting tired of it. They had a terrible fight and she discovered she was glad to be out of the relationship. After her break-up with her boyfriend, Becky moved in with her mother who was divorced and supporting a teen-age son. Becky promised her mother that the living situation would be temporary as she expected the call to go to Iraq in the next few months.

A few weeks later, she went to her doctor because she was so fatigued she was having trouble with her duties. The smiling nurse told Becky that she was pregnant. The reality of what a pregnancy would do to her military career was devastating. She left the office in a daze. She regretted the nights she had a few drinks and blew off birth control.

Becky’s doctor had suggested she seek counseling because she was so upset. At home, she was drinking too much and her mother thought Becky was worried about the risk of deployment. It was just the opposite. Becky was afraid she would not be deployed. Her mother insisted that she get some counseling, too.

Becky decided she would get some help with her options, but she was almost sure what she was going to do. Becky believed she could not have a military opportunity and raise a baby. Although the military has counselors, she was trying to hide her pregnancy from her superiors. She said she had trained to kill an enemy, but she did not know how to handle terminating her pregnancy. Therefore, she was stuck, unable to make a decision and had no one to talk to that she could trust. Becky said that she had not told anyone that she was pregnant and was trying to make this life decision alone. She did not want to marry the father. His behavior had become more outlandish and threatening since they broke up and she no longer could imagine a future with him. She was certain the Army would not send a pregnant officer to serve overseas. Tearfully, she explained that she had made up her mind to abort the fetus.

During her first counseling session, Becky revealed that her mother had been a terrific mom and that she had aspired to be the same to her future children. She hated herself for drinking so much knowing that she was pregnant. After several sessions, because Becky was so young and very close to her mother, Becky agreed that the right approach was to confide in her family.

Becky decided on her own that if she were going to tell her family that she should also tell the father of the baby. However, her boyfriend was unwilling to change his career path to be a full time father, but he said he wanted Becky to have the baby, anyway. Becky expected his response and his lack of sacrifice. Somehow, she thought he would help her and now she felt even worse. She was reluctant to tell her mother who might hurt her feelings or criticize her more. Nevertheless, she bravely sat down with her mother.

Surprisingly, rather than scolding Becky for being careless, her mother did not hesitate to present a third workable option. Her mother was dreading the empty nest loneliness she expected when her son left for college in a few years. She saw the baby as a gift and offered to adopt the baby while Becky continued her military career. Becky was relieved beyond words. She began to eat right and stopped drinking alcohol completely. She took a leave and delivered a beautiful, healthy child. For several years, Becky and her mother have shared a happy toddler, who even has regular visits from his father and paternal grandparents.

Becky was extremely fortunate that her mother was capable of raising another child. An overwhelming problem in one person’s life became the solution to loneliness in another’s. If a difficult decision worries you, seek help from a trained therapist and the people who love you. Together, you just may find a creative solution to your impossible problem.

Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Be Kind

Kids do what you do, not what you say. Cruel adults usually begin their patterns of abuse as children with brutality to animals. Parents have an opportunity to instill kind behavior in their children by teaching the importance of a respectful relationship with people, pets and the planet. Protection and kindness are learned behaviors that parents can pass down to their children and grandchildren. Here are a few basics that can help teach a young child to be kind.

1. Let Sleeping Birds Lie. We have all seen the photo of a young child running on the beach with a flock of birds startled into the air. “Wings of Hope” and the Collier Audubon society say, “Never force birds to fly. If you see birds on a beach, walk around them quietly. They are resting!” Tiptoe past the birds and tell your child the birds are sleeping. Act disappointed if you see other children disturbing the birds. Never disturb the baby turtle nests.

2. Kelly’s Habitat. Pick a far corner of your yard and let your child plant a native wildlife habitat. Select plants or trees that birds and butterflies build nests in or enjoy as food sources. Name the habitat after your child and encourage him or her to observe and record all the species they find in their habitat.

3. Communicate Your Special Love. Talk to your children about a dear pet that you had as a child and how important the animal was to you. Find an old photo of you and your pet to show that you cared deeply for a pet when you were their age. Reminisce and share the importance of your pet even though they are gone.

4. Safe or Dangerous. If you witness a young child treating an animal unkindly, take action to protect the animal immediately. However, rather than react violently yourself, speak in an exaggerated sad voice reassuring the animal that “Little Billy did not mean to hurt you and now he is very sorry and wants to treat you kindly.” Remember the child sees images of attacking animals in cartoons, storybooks and television. The child cannot judge the appropriate reaction to an animal without guidance from others. Toddlers have no ability to judge whether he or she should kill an animal or care for an animal. Expect children to be harsh with anything that frightens them and make the wrong decision about new situations. Give the child an opportunity to treat the animal gently one last time. If the child teases hurtfully or reacts violently to the animal again, put the child in time out for the number of minutes that matches their age. Deny the child access and opportunity to abuse the animal and supervise future interaction. Handling or caring for an animal is a privilege earned by good behavior.

5. Not Tested on Animals. Buy products and cosmetics free from cruel testing and blinding of animals. Be outspoken about why you are choosing one mascara over the other and donate your old fur coats to a wild animal conservancy to use as beds for orphaned wolf cubs and fox kits.

6. Death by Any Other Name. Remember that veal means infant cow, bacon is a pig and Thanksgiving dinner is a turkey. You can find organic milk from free roaming pasture-raised cows available even at Starbucks. Some people have chosen to eat vegetables rather than animals. You may always choose to eat meat but it is not really a steak, it is a cow.

7. Hemp, Cotton and Wool. The latest products – that require nothing “to die for,” easily replace your leather designer purse, matching shoes or mink collar. Buy your family’s clothing from companies that treat their workers humanely and boycott sweatshop products that use child labor and slave wages.

8. Discipline Means Teaching. Give ample affection and fun to your child. Teach them to follow sane simple rules but watch out that your well-meaning discipline never crosses over the line to child abuse. Millions of parents have raised children without spanking, hitting, swearing or shaming.

9. Mr. Rogers, Blue’s Clues and Sesame Street. Children learn kindness from watching adults. Turn off the ridiculous hypnotic violence in film and television. Advertisers care more about ratings than about protecting your child from visual scenes of abuse that he or she may never forget. A child’s psyche benefits from healthy programming for children and the absence of sadistic shows.

10. You Got the Whole Wide World in Your Hands. The Sierra Club recommends Energy star-rated light bulbs and sensors that turn lights on and off. Explain to your child about the planet’s threshold for pollution and the serious consequences human actions can have on the Earth.

Some choices may be difficult and take extra effort. Learning to be kind will make your child stronger in their character, ethics, morality and more certain about right and wrong when faced with difficult teenage decisions. Your self-esteem goes up when you do the right things and you become kind to yourself, too. Remember little faces are watching you. Your own behavior choices, not your words, will define kindness for your child.

Stress Reduction Tips

Our doctors and therapists warn that stress is the cause of many illnesses and reduces the quality of sleep, relationships and well being. Yet, how can you reduce stress without shirking your duties and responsibilities? Everyone dreams of running away to a French chateau as they are driving the carpool in heavy traffic. However, usually we do not need to change our lives drastically to make substantial improvements to our health and happiness. Here are six steps for type A personalities and overworked moms to use to reduce stress in their minds and their lives.

1. Remember when you were eight years old? What did you think you would be doing when you grew up? Were you a fireman? Visit a firehouse and ask if they need a hand. Were you a ballerina? Enroll in an adult ballet class and for one hour a week be a beginning prima donna.

This works because switching professions to a beloved childhood dream, even for a few hours a week, takes you back to childhood fantasy and freedom that is lost for most adults. Play and stress dissolves.

2. Take a body break. Lock the door and lie down on the floor in a sunny spot (use a mat if you wish). Pretend that you are in acting class and be a cat. Take in the warmth of the sun on your skin. Elongate your body and add several inches of length. Widen your body, spreading your arms, shoulders and legs. Stretch and release. Breathe deeply and writhe your body in a sensuous feline stretch. (No one is watching.) After five minutes return to your normal activities, unlock the door and tackle your problems from a more relaxed and lighter sense of being.

3. Eating alone tonight? Be your own special guest. Use china and fancy goblets, linen or at least decorative paper napkins. Design your plate the way the cookbook glossy photographs present the food, even if it is a simple salad. Chew slowly, listen to music and pretend you are in a movie made in the thirties. Be elegant and enjoy your delicious dinner because you matter to you. Standing up in the kitchen wolfing down 800 calories is negative in every possible way. Treat yourself like a winner; your opinion of yourself dictates your ability to be successful.

4. When you are ninety years old what do you want to be remembered for most? A clean kitchen? PTA President? Most sales for your company? Or a rich full life with luxurious relaxation and a myriad of new adventures and activities? We can only do a few things well in a lifetime. You have to pick your top desires and let all the rest go. Learn to delegate those tasks in the nicest possible manner. Swap favors, combine trips, invite your childrens friends over often and in exchange earn free afternoons for your exciting new life. With each moment of satisfaction, you will feel freer and more self actualized, protected from the din of daily stress.

5. Stress narrows our lives to small slivers of repetitive irritation and unmet demands, especially at work or balancing the budget. However, earning money is only the means, not the goal. The answer to, What do you do? does include your work, but also your burning desires and goals in life, your entertainment and joys, your loves and losses. Think big and broad, with a far reaching vision when you reply. Feel no need to justify why you love what you love.

6. Stress is poisonous frustration and pressure that can be dropped and forgotten anytime you choose. Unbearable stress may motivate you to make urgent changes. These changes may free you to fully live your life your way. If you had one month, a week or only one day to live, what would you do differently? What words would you regret having not said or actions having not experienced? Sometimes that could mean not fulfilling the expectations that other people have created for you. It is, after all, your life. Make time to begin to do some of those things now that really matter to your life.

Change Talk: How to Make Change in Your Relationship

Have you had it? Are you tired of the same routine that is increasingly stressful and less fun? Have you talked about making a change but another month passes and nothing changed at all? Here is how you can make some big changes that will put back the time, fun and intimacy in your strained relationship. These ten tips on Change-Talk will help transform your warring partner into a willing and involved team player.

1. The I Statement. If you start out with “You” we have already lost! Say, “I want…” You must decide what is most important to you, right now. Focus on only one subject. The quickest way to become ineffective is to dilute your message. If you ask for multiple things all at once, you are definitely not going to get them, and then you start a pattern of failure. Your partner stops paying attention. Spreading your demands all over the map renders you powerless and ineffective. The important thing is that you establish a pattern of getting what you want and especially getting what you need. Say, “I want a change in the quality of our relationship.” Who can argue with that!

2. Make an Appointment. Next, agree on a quiet time early in the day when you and your partner are able to talk uninterrupted for at least an hour. This is a time to discuss and listen, maybe with a third party, like a counselor, trusted friend or family member. The third person, acting as a mediator, can help keep it more of a discussion and less of a fight.

3. It’s Your Fault. As you each discuss the problem, somebody’s feelings may get hurt. The more frightened the dog, the more likely it will bite you, so be prepared to get nipped. Exploring the un-chartered waters of your relationship is scary and threatening. Cut your partner some slack and be compassionate, even while he or she is acting ridiculous.

4. It’s All My Fault. Avoid letting one person take on all the blame for a current situation or the discussion will mire down in self-pity and guilt-inducing wailing. If you are willing to split the blame then you can move forward and the discussion will progress.

5. Anger and Tears. Loud “barking” may occur. As you or your partner get close to revealing dark, hidden, secret fears and insecurities, you may defensively lose your temper. This is when that third party can divert and calm things down. Fear changes to anger very quickly. Try to stay focused on talking to your frightened Beloved’s inner child and just ignore the obnoxious, angry, foot-stomping façade that is hurling accusations.

6. Stroke and be patient. As you take turns freaking out, also take turns steadying each other. Give reassurances that you believe in them, love them, respect them and want them so that they can get control of their runaway emotions. Only then can you get back to talking about the subject that you want to discuss. This is where most couples give up and never allow their partner to work through their terrifying anxiety about making a change. Their idea of change may include a fear that the relationship might get worse, rather than better. This stubbornness may be misdirected love for you, and although annoying, is also sweet. Remember that it takes great courage to make changes in what you care about the most.

7. Let it rest. After the hour of emotional bombing of each other, reason and logic now have an opportunity to surface. Watch for that brief moment when your partner sees it from your side. When that happens, both of you take a break and let the ideas cook and rise like yeast bread. If you touch it too soon it will collapse! Agree to a second time to talk more and leave it alone, or you will have to start from scratch all over again.

8. No cheating. Couples can approach huge conflict and change by allowing Change-Talk to run its bumpy course without trying to skip or shorten the steps. Once the ideas have been fully stated, listened to, emotionally reacted to and then pondered on alone and undisturbed, a satisfying resolution is just around the bend.

9. Know your Matchline Gap. The key is to understand that you and your partner have different capacities to give and receive in the relationship called the Matchline Gap. When the Gap is large, people must work harder to keep a relationship balanced. If you are more capable in the relationship, then the responsibility for establishing and maintaining that balance is mostly up to you. Everyone deserves love and happiness.

10. List your relationships’ priorities. There are your needs and your partner’s needs. Your relationship, a third and separate entity, has needs too! Both of you must nurture your relationship. Even a great relationship will die if ignored - just like a like a lovely flower. Ask yourself if you are starving your relationship of time, energy, resources and laughter. Give your partner a chance to catch up to wherever you are with Change-Talk and then commit to goals and restructuring that will allow you, your partner and your relationship to thrive.

Can Powerful Women Be Righteous Women?

Importantly and correctly, our nation stands up to defend less powerful people and this is to be admired. However, public demeaning attacks of our most powerful women are gaining strength and need exposure. Jealousy and differing political postures alone would not generate this level of irrational and daily frenzied hatred directed at Laura Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Have we slipped back to the fifties when little ladies need to stay in their place?

I always try to look for the positive motive when I observe negative behavior. What is there to be gained by the insidious lean on Hillary, Nancy, Rosie, Condoleezza, Barbara Boxer, and really, all women, to be quiet? This wave of paranoia is not from only media big mouths but from a strong societal base.

In a study by Harvard Professor of Public Policy David King, King found that Independents and Democratic voters are more willing to cross party lines. “Compared with the otherwise-identical male Republican, the female candidate was imputed to be far more trustworthy, far more likely to share one’s own concerns, and far more likely to garner one’s vote. The female candidate's advantage in terms of likely support is ten percent among Independent and Democratic voters. In competitive elections, holding everything else constant, a ten-point swing from Independents and Democrats is something Republican Party leaders should savor.”

However something stands in the way of Republican women’s success at the polls.

King found “Republican respondents – of both genders – judge their own female candidates more harshly, however. Among Republicans, the female candidate is thought to be a weaker leader, while Independents and Democrats hold the reverse view… Compared with the otherwise-identical male Republican, strong Republicans are significantly less likely to support the female candidate. This is true of men and women Republican voters, and it survives multivariate tests controlling for age, income and race.” (

Support for women politicians falls off sharply with the Republican base. A common denominator of the Republican base is a tendency toward the religious right. Perhaps the attack of sexist remarks has something to do with adhering to religious instructions, now thousands of years old. Written by men and reflecting attitudes of their ancient societies, all major religious works clearly define a woman’s place. In most cases, religion requires the woman to be subservient to her man.

Following the teachings of spirituality and kindness raises men and women from base animal behavior origins to a higher level and saves our society from barbaric instincts. The words of years passed are essential to study yet, these early words must be analyzed in the context of the time period that they were written. Scholars can take the important lessons from great literary works and learn from the sum of people’s experiences. However, literal and blind following of another’s words has the potential to repeat the horrors of Jim Jones, suicide bombers or Hitler.

Imagine if your doctor blindly followed the medical books of three hundred years ago. Some of the information is timeless and universal and some of it could destroy you. As a psychotherapist, if I followed the original psychological treatment plan, the best I could offer your depression is to strap you into a tub of water and perhaps, a useless lobotomy. We must think as individuals in our current times to avoid disastrous group-think that requires one to disengage from personal truth and reason. An absolute truth of yesterday is replaced by a completely new absolute truth of today more quickly than most people can adjust to the change.

One constant is that the struggle of all humans to be free of dominance by others has never been successfully suppressed. Once there were emperors, kings and royals who selected life and death for the rest. Their law was self serving and required armies of enforcers. As a democratic nation we posture ourselves as giving equal power to every vote. But our votes actually elect powerful representatives who then make all the real decisions for us. This archaic system was useful when the population was illiterate but modern Americans are kept strangely dependent. Democracy, freedom and science continue to evolve, but must religion also shift?

Now, we have women who have volunteered, been elected to school board, worked their way up politically while serving a billion cups of coffee to others. The media shout these women down with personal attacks aimed at hurting their little girl feelings and making them go away. Is the motive not political at all, but an urgent and even righteous attempt to obediently follow narrowly defined roles for women from religious books and religious teachers of most faiths? Do some religious leaders need to maintain the status quo of ancient teachings for their corporations and big business product sales to survive? Or can religions grow and expand incorporating human history, the body of science and new roles for men and women. Religion need not fear loosening the rigidity of dogma because religion has always and may always trump science with the ultimate question, “What was the origin of the first speck?” Even science replies, “God.”

The shaming name calling endured by assertive women who step away from religious definitions of themselves reveals the obvious double standard held for powerful, aggressive men who are complemented for the very same traits. Many deeply religious people find difficulty accepting new roles for men and women that defy a lifetime of religious practice. How can we question which words we make as our law and then choose thoughtfully without prejudice? Is there room in God’s eyes for a non-subservient woman who seeks to right wrongs in a lawful, sane manner? Will our most strict religious leaders adjust their sermons to allow women to be respected as leaders in worship, legal or political arenas that were once reserved for men?

Do we as women take action to save our children from needless death from war, lack of health care or skyrocketing drug costs? Do we care when an African baby dies from hunger and thirst? Do we watch our men, tired from work, pay taxes that are squandered? Or do we sit passively and quietly with our hands folded in our laps like we did in the classroom, such good little girls? A beautiful speech by First Lady Laura Bush addresses the struggle of women in third world countries and her commitment to help. ( )

Will the religious right expand the role of righteous women to include service to our country in a full political press? Can men unshackle their definition of women and still love them, even as leaders? Are sexist slurs simply a reflection of fearing God? Is there a place for the religious right female outside the home?

The women who have made it to the top positions in our society could not be where they are today if they were easily intimidated or stopped by negativity thrown at them. Have these women bypassed the religious requirements by expanding their definition of home to include our nation and planet? How wonderful could Earth be if female leaders cleaned up the mess?

Global Warnings

How often do you heed warnings? Who was listening when experts suggested that Japanese/ American relationships were so bad that an attack was eminent? Who paid attention when experts said Germany might regroup and strengthen for WW2? Were you the first in line to get the polio shot? When did you finally accept Nixon should resign? Did General Shinseki and Powell seem absurd when they warned over four years ago that America would need several thousand soldiers to deal with ethnic tensions, post-hostility control of geography and to ensure that people have water and food or we would fail to secure Iraq?

Have you paid off your credit cards and cut them in half yet? How do you react to more personal warnings? Do you argue that the experts do not know what they are talking about? Have you worn a condom every time you had sex since the early eighties or do you bet your life that your partner is faithful or that HIV infection only happens to other people? Do you order an organic vegetable salad for lunch like your doctor suggests or are you still eating only cows and potatoes in search of a cardiac?

Are you exercising every other day for thirty minute hard enough that you can hardly chat? Or do you take a short stroll with the pooch and your paunch? Do you look for sympathy because your organs are falling apart after decades of mistreatment? Have you noticed fixing errors later, rather than sooner, is really expensive?

Do you heed expert Dr. Blane Crandall, Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, who informed the United States Senate that menopausal women benefit from prescribed bio-identical hormones because the danger of illness and mortality is reduced? "Women on hormones not only improve their bone health but their whole body benefits... a woman's memory, heart, colon, skin, sexual organs and bladder all benefits from continued use of hormone replacement therapy" ( Or do you believe what an article in the newspaper said about horse urine hormones?

Does it make sense to take care of your health today the way experts suggest rather than pay for doctors and surgeries later? Would these same principles hold true for Mama Earth? Voices everywhere are shouting an insistent warning about the whole Planet.

A report from the Pentagon in 2004 urged that global warming be raised beyond a scientific debate to a National security concern, and warned us about rapid climate change, the possibility of global famine and wars over shrinking resources, like clean water. "In the course of the century, water supplies stored in glaciers and snow cover are projected to decline, reducing water availability in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges, where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives." (IPCC, 2007). Imagine two billion thirsty and desperate people! This outcry is not the same as a shaming nudge to clean up your own trash and recycle. No, this is a major hand wringing from all areas of science, an urgent consensus from experts around the world that we must act immediately.

As the biggest of polluters, America is receiving strong pressure to change from around the world. Do you listen, really listen, to experts and not to people with political agendas or advertising and media connections? American citizens do take a while to process and form an opinion. We are busy doing many important things like soccer, business meetings and fund raising. Our government moves at a snails pace, and our heartland moves even more slowly. Yet, the buzz about global warming is heating up. Just what is all the noise about? Our atmosphere is holding on to too much CO2, a waste product that comes from our dirty little habits like coal and oil burning. About 75% of the annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The remaining 25% happens when forests are converted to range lands, range lands to agriculture, and agriculture to urban areas, which have the effect of reducing the net uptake of carbon dioxide ( Temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 °C this century which is a much more rapid rate of warming than during the 20th century. Heat holding CO2 is bad news but the really uncomfortable part is that severe consequences are happening faster than expected. Factual evidence before our eyes like drowning polar bears and penguins may break our hearts, but still not make us change our light bulbs. In its most recent (2007) report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that surface temperatures could rise up to 10.4 degrees F over this century, and sea levels could rise nearly six meters. Since scientists under reported or missed the current effects in previous scientific papers, can we assume the actual facts are much worse than reported.

If we list the annual death causes to humans or species in a chart, terrorism is way at the bottom and global warming is way at the top. That is the strange disconnect. The tunnel vision politicians spend our tax money like a college girl with Daddy's credit card and sweep more important issues under the rug for the next generation to solve. If only the people who voted for bad decisions were the only ones to suffer, but never have so many lives been controlled by so few individuals. When global mistakes are made or problems ignored, we all suffer and so will our grandchildren. Yet, we have been warned. Complacent and egocentric, we will eventually change light bulbs, buy fuel-efficient vehicles and bury coal emissions.

The day will happen when American law says that we must or incur punishment with stiff fines, and probably not one day before then. When the law requires you to replace old refrigerators, furnaces, and boilers with efficient ENERGY STAR models reducing energy consumption by almost two-thirds, then you will. A "carbon tax" (a tax which reflects the real cost of carbon pollution cleanup) will force change because there are expensive penalties to avoid. Governments can reward every citizen who installs solar, wind, along with other smart energy and clean world action by giving substantial tax relief.

City governments can give homeowners who plant a shade tree a hefty tax break. The tasks sound easy enough. Is any of this as bad as standing in line with your shoes off every time you fly? Americans can adapt, we are just so slow and lazy about it. However, a true positive is that nearly every American is a law abiding citizen. We follow the rule of law. Grumble you may, but turn these recommendations of world experts into American law. Then, withhold American dollars to anyone or any country who does not comply. Bingo, cooler Earth! Tell your grandchildren that you accept personal adult responsibility and that you will change your home and office light bulbs this weekend. Tell them you are listening to the experts. Protect your loved ones and others from an unnecessary Katrina or Tsunami, drought, species extinction or war? Proactively ensure that the beachfront property you promised to leave them remains right where it is today-above the shore.

Post Traumatic Stress: What to Watch For!

Has someone that you love experienced a traumatic event recently? Do you want to help them but you do not know how to begin? Here are ten ways to deal with post traumatic stress.

1. The Condition is Real Acute post traumatic stress lasts about one to three months. Chronic post traumatic stress lasts more than three months and "delayed onset" post traumatic stress arrives at least six months after the event or stress. The sooner that a person is de-briefed after a traumatic event the less likely the person will have prolonged post-traumatic stress. Make an appointment as soon as possible with an experienced strong therapist who can listen over and over to the details of the event to help desensitize the trauma fears. If a person is talking suicide take them seriously and get them immediately to a hospital or psychiatrist where they may receive observation or medication.

2. Kids Act Differently A child responds differently to a trauma then an adult. An adult who experiences intense fear, horror or helplessness may become hysterical, freeze, or act violent. A child may simple act agitated and disorganized. Watch for sleep disturbances, anger, difficulty concentrating, jumpiness or acting too vigilant. A person may also begin to act detached from people, places and activities that were once pleasurable.

3. Indulge A child may begin to act out the aspects of the trauma repeatedly in play times. Images, thoughts and recollections may occur in adults causing distress. Leave a light on, soft music playing or let someone sleep next to your bed if they are having trouble sleeping at night. Avoid sleeping with the television on because the vulnerable mind is listening while they sleep to conflicts, violence or hard selling that may make the person more upset. This may be the time to indulge an adult or child. Avoid putting more pressure on them or attempting to toughen them up. Taking a child's favorite blanket or toy away to help them grow up is bad psychology anyway, and would be even worse in a state of trauma.

4. Be on their Side Flashbacks are frequently extremely disturbing and can be triggered by any of the senses, smells, sounds or visual stimulation that reminds the person of the traumatic event. They may temporarily lose their defenses and re-experience the horror of the event. Be patient and try to calm the person by reassuring them that they are safe now. Some combat veterans struggle with flashbacks and post traumatic stress for many years. If you feel embarrassed in public when a nice event becomes a meltdown, then you may be choosing the side of the public and not your loved one. They are in the fight of their life and need all the support you can give. Save any criticism for something that can be controlled, not for post traumatic stress.

5. Protect If your child develops an intense fear of a place or person, listen to them. Sexual abuse or the threat of violence can happen in a minute. Maybe you looked away and something happened to your child. Even an older violent sibling or a grandparent with dementia may act inappropriately. Your job is to protect your child, even from family members. Have your child use dolls to show you what happened to them.

6. Just TV A rape or murder on television is impossible for a child to dismiss as only acting. Screen all violent images that you can until your child is older, including video games, songs and movies. Nightmares and fears may be triggered by fiction as well as fact.

7. Eat Well Post traumatic stress can happen from many events, including a car accident, a violent crime or a natural disaster. But recurring thought of horrific images can also be self inflicted trauma. The healthy brain diet requires high quality protein and Omegas found in fish and nut oils, fresh vegetables and fruit to operate properly. Sensitivity to wheat, milk, eggs or additives and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also make the body and mind ill. Many kids eat waffles for breakfast, mac and cheese for lunch and pizza for dinner. Parents wonder why their children are depressed, obsessed or paranoid with diets of predominantly wheat, sugar and milk. Give the brain and body the best possible organic food and see if post traumatic fears as well as other problem behavior disappear more easily.

8. Never Ever Tell Are they keeping the trauma a secret? Terrible things can happen to a child or an adult that renders them silent, overwhelmed with guilt or shame. Denial is a coping skill that allows something horrific to be encapsulated and stored in a blocked memory. The very thought of the event is considered too dangerous to remember or even life threatening. A trusted therapist can help to unblock the memory. Remembering may be painful but keeping bad memories inside is toxic to their life and physical health.

9. Why Me? Painful memories eventually fade. Some people are able to cope more easily than others. Post traumatic stress hits frail women, little children or the bravest soldier without discrimination. It is a mental computer glitch that will heal and is no reflection of intelligence, maturity or courage. The brain has override protection that kicks in to protect itself regardless of a person's will. One must simply give the brain an opportunity to reestablish normal operating procedure. How long that takes is unique to every individual.

10. You are Dismissed The worst thing a loved one can do is try to sweep the feelings under the rug. Comments like,"Oh, don't be silly," or "That's all in your imagination," do much harm to someone trying to purge themselves of inner demons. Let the person express themselves and hire a professional mental health counselor to help the victim through the worst of it. Soon, you will see the return of lightness and joy in the heart of your loved one.

Imus Laugh or Not?

The elements of comedy usually require a surprise, a wet paint bench, an embarrassing mistake or a pratfall for the hero to transcend into the victim and make us laugh. The victimization can run the gamut from good clean fun to lightly-veiled sadistic words meant to destroy the object of the joke. Situational humor is one kind of joke, slapstick is hysterical for some or can become boring rather quickly and bathroom humor seems often too gross. Yet, have you laughed at a Pollock joke, an Irishman, an Italian and a Frenchman in a bar joke, or a blond joke? If so, can you be quite as outraged as you ought to be when someone says a sexist, racist, or sexual orientation joke or comment?

Do you hold the sense of humor of a teacher, elected official or religious leader at a different standard than your favorite stand- up? Is the cowboy hat a costume of farce when worn indoors? Thus, is Imus a comedian? If Imus is a comedian, then people who choose to listen to him expect to laugh. Did you consider Imus a pillar of our society or was he simply coarse entertainment not meant for polite company? Was the national outrage because Imus was a newscaster with some political clout and high powered guests? Or was he a comedian who exposed his white boy attitude.

Revamping the way a society treats minorities and women is an important task. Turning off voices of ugly misplaced superiority is a good beginning. However, equally distasteful and dangerous are programs that masquerade as news, when they are clearly misleading exaggeration entertainment. Perhaps "news" could be a protected word only used by fact-checked and balanced reporting without opinion. If a lie is discovered those misstatements could be heavily fined and disdainfully exposed with matching flair and equal airtime. Perhaps then, the public would not confuse our edgy comedians with scholars and experts.

Artists are necessary to expand the confines of a society even when their art or humor goes too far or makes us uncomfortable. Art and performance changes our perceptions of ourselves and our world. When we silence our artists, our society shrinks and stifles all of us. Sometimes art goes too far and tests a society. Sometimes art lifts the rug and exposes dirty truth lurking beneath. No one wants to associate themselves with the Imus remarks of white male supremacy but was it really the first time you had heard that kind of talk? The firing of Imus is a symbol of a shift in our society, a leap to higher ground, even if rooted in the anticipatory fear of sponsors.

What then, exactly, has been redefined? Hopefully, comedians still have freedom to offend. Must mainstream networks make every program appropriate for all viewers? Can we laugh at ourselves but not at others? How can someone tell if you are laughing along with them or at them? If the offense is in the ear of the victim, can the victim then rob another's right to free speech? These questions will be debated as awareness exposes millions of examples of slurs in every corner of our world. People with poor self-worth use insensitive and cruel words as a misguided attempt to elevate themselves by putting others down. Slurs demean the status of the speaker more than the victim. Severe risks and consequences occur whenever you wander over the mercurial line of decency. One clue is when no one else is laughing.

©2009, Molly Barrow

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Dr. Molly Barrow holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is the author of the new book, Matchlines: A revolutionary New Way of looking at relationships and making the right choices in love. Shre your thoughts with her at Molly is an authority on relationship and psychological topics, a member of the American Psychological Association and a licensed mental health counselor. Dr. Molly has appeared as an expert on NBC, PBS, KTLA, and in O Magazine, Psychology Today, Newsday,,, Women's Health and Women's World. Take the new relationship compatibility test, Match Lines Systems for Successful Relationships for Singles, Couples and Business at Molly has a radio program, Your Relationship Answers at

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