Repurposing Notes: Positive Psychology

We do this thing at work called a Sage Session where someone picks a tech talk, we watch it, and then discuss it. Today was my turn, and I didn’t really want to talk about tech, because it’s not the thing that slows people down. I wanted to talk about positive psychology, so… we did! I liked the notes I came up with enough that I’m going to repurpose them here!

Talks we watched

  • The Secret to Happy Work by Shawn Achor: One of my all-time favorite TED Talks and worth watching, because it’s very funny, and a great introduction to the value of positive psychology.
  • There’s More to Life Than Being Happy by Emily Esfahani Smith: This one was new to me, but I wanted to find a counterpoint to all that happy talk. This is a good one.

Talks I wanted to show, but didn’t

Things to try

3 Good Things: Watch this and then do this.


  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – One of the best books I’ve ever read on finding meaning in life and relationships
  • Gratitude by Oliver Sacks – Nice and short, written by Oliver Sacks near the end of his life. It’s really good.
  • The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block – great overview of how to do community building based on abundance.


Categorized as love

Coming Out

Two years ago, I wrote about our kids coming out. Well, it’s National Coming Out Day again and I have stuff to talk about.

That last post was about preparing for your kid coming out to you, but I think it’s worth preparing ourselves for anyone we care about coming out to us – because there are two sides to it. The person coming out, and the person (potentially you) receiving it.

Coming out takes courage. Think about it. The person coming out is sharing their truth with you with the potential that you might not just reject their truth, but may violently reject them as a person. In the worst case, you could react violently and kill them. There’s literally no way for the person coming out to to know how you’ll react. That uncertainty, especially when coming out to a person they have a relationship with (friend, parent, spouse, partner, sibling, etc) has to be overwhelming.

Especially today, I think it’s worth thinking about how we would and should react when someone comes out to us.

How can we honor their truth and the courage it took to share it with us?

Categorized as family, love


Standing alone in my driveway
On a empty street
On a small island
Next to a big ocean
I looked around at the houses
I looked up at the big sky, pink with dusk

Alone is a trick of perception
Based on the size of your container
Alone in your room
Maybe in your house too
But under that big evening sky now going purple
We’re all together

It’s All Possible

Writing a huge blog post (a followup to this one) and slides (for a webinar on 3/19) on remote work, it’s just crystal clear that there’s a huge opportunity during this crisis to make literally EVERYTHING better if we choose to.

Work can be more humane.

Our governments can be more agile, more compassionate and more responsive.

We can be more grounded, more balanced, and get more done.

Our communities can be more helpful and more connected.

It’s all possible. Now is the time to figure out how to do it, experiment, collaborate and do things we didn’t think were possible.

It’s all possible.





On Mister Rogers

The pulpit at Trinity Methodist surrounded by paintings from Panhandle Slim

I just finished listening to the last episode of Finding Fred, a wonderful podcast exploring Mr. Rogers’ legacy, and impact, and I thought it was time to finally write out these thoughts that have swirled around in my head about him, about love, kindness, thoughtfulness and community since the election that put Donald Trump in the White House. Don’t worry, that’s the last time I’ll mention Mr. Trump and this post isn’t political – it’s about reacting to pain and finding myself wanting.

After the election, I saw my friends in pain, while I felt little more than disappointment. I didn’t see it coming, but I also kind of thought we deserved it. My friends’ reactions were visceral, full of fear and anguish, and I didn’t get it. Shortly after the Women’s March, I volunteered to live stream an event in Savannah where women who marched told their stories. It was heavy, and heartfelt, and I finally got it.

That night, I decided I needed to work on myself – to make the effort to be more empathetic, thoughtful, cause less harm, and to become more useful in the world to hopefully ease some of the pain, hurt and fear I was seeing.

I got books on meditation, racism, diet and exercise, and… didn’t move very quickly, considering it’s been three years and I’m just now writing this. It took me a very long time to read Understanding and Dismantling Racism, because it was so hard to come to terms with the racism I held in my heart without realizing it. I read books on meditation, but none of it made sense. I just couldn’t grasp the mechanics of it. I’ve always struggled with my weight, so that also made halting progress.

I went to therapy for the first time since I was 5, and started dealing with all the anger I’ve kept around unprocessed, that bubbles up unexpectedly, ruining moods and days.

But, I eventually finished the books, and picked up others. I learned a lot about meditation in therapy, and worked through a lot of my anger. I’ve been trying to be less sarcastic, more thoughtful, and more empathetic – and hopefully cause less pain to others. I’ve been trying to figure out my own emotions, and regulate them so I can better hold the space for other people’s emotions.

And this brings us back to Mr. Rogers. He and I share a birthday, and he’s been a hero of mine since I was a kid, but I could never articulate why. Why would I choose this kind gentle man as a hero?

I think I know now. Mr. Rogers is my hero because he embodied all the things I struggle with. He is patient where I’m impulsive. Kind where my natural reaction is sarcasm. Soft where I can be hard. Understanding where I am frequently clueless.

It was also because Mr. Rogers was the helper he told us all to look for. One of my favorite parts of Finding Fred was the discussion of that famous quote, where Fred told us to look for the helpers. All of us who watched him are now adults. We don’t need to find the helpers – we need to be the helpers and look for opportunities to help, to put into practice the kindness he shared with us, and share it with others.

The other big question from the show was what keeps us from being more like Mr. Rogers?  There were a lot of opinions on the show, but I’ve come up with my own answer: selfishness and thoughtlessness.  And I think that’s why Mr. Rogers is so missed right now.  We’re confronted with selfishness and greed on a mass scale.  We’re literally slapped in the face with it every time we read a news story.  It’s selfishness on a scale that feels like it blots out every other motive and emotion, and feels impossible to solve, since it feels like we’re completely outnumbered.

We are not outnumbered. Like Mr. Rogers, kindness isn’t loud.  It’s not going to grab headlines.  It’s not going to self-promote or rant in all caps on Twitter.  It is small, and quiet, and it means literally everything. 

In this effort to improve myself, I keep coming back to the idea of loving kindness.  It’s a main tenet of Buddhism and mindfulness, and it feels like it encapsulates everything.  It’s the Golden Rule applied to others, and myself.  If I am not kind to myself, I can’t be kind to others.  If I don’t practice mindfulness, I won’t see the many opportunities that come up all the time to be kind.  If I don’t practice mindfulness, I won’t be in the moment and appreciate it. If I don’t practice loving kindness daily, I won’t be able to apply it when it’s difficult – especially when it’s called for in the face of anger.  It requires vulnerability – which I am not good at. It requires patience, which I don’t have enough of. 

I don’t have it all figured out. I still get angry. I’m still sarcastic. I still don’t know what to do about white supremacy, or how to confront people about it. I’m still really uncomfortable with other peoples’ emotions, especially anger. But, I think I’m more useful today than I was yesterday. I think I know a little bit more than I did in January of 2017.

I know that loving kindness is the answer, even if I don’t always get it right. It’s called “practice” for a reason.

I’ll keep working on it.

My Friend Carl

This month, I lost a friend. Carl V. Lewis was the founder of OpenSavannah, and a friend. He died, and we don’t know how or why. All I know is that he’s gone, and I’m going to miss him.

I found out very close to the one year anniversary of losing Cindy.

Carl meant a lot to the Savannah community. He was a catalyst – impatient, insistent, impulsive. To offset all of those things, he was thoughtful, brilliant and kind in a way that frequently surprised me. He knew suffering and seemed to be on a quest to alleviate others’ suffering by working on the systems that had the greatest potential to help them: local government.

Now that he’s gone, Savannah has to piece OpenSavannah back together, figure out all the clues Carl left us, and keep moving forward. I’m not sure how we do it, but it’s consuming my thoughts right now.

I don’t really know what else to say, other than we’ll miss him, and we’ll find a way to keep going.

Carl kicking off Open Savannah in 2017

All of the not-knowing about Carl’s passing has made me think a lot about the support systems we have in place for the people we care about. A lot of people have asked me what I know, what happened, and then lament that they personally didn’t do more.

I don’t know what his friends could have done, because I don’t know what happened.

But, in been thinking about what we owe the people in our lives, here’s what I think right this minute:

  • I want everyone I meet to feel nothing but loving kindness from me.
  • I want everyone I meet to feel safe and comfortable around me.

In a religious context, that’s just the Golden Rule. But, it means working on my emotional regulation. If my friends and family don’t know what to expect when they tell me things, then they’re not going to feel safe. If I’m having a bad day, and take it out on other people, they’re not going to feel loving kindness. Even if I’m having a disagreement or other conflict with someone, I still want them to feel that same loving kindness. I think the end goal is that I don’t want to add to someone else’s suffering. There’s more than enough to go around.

I am so very much not there yet, but that’s what I aspire to. I owe it to Carl, Cindy, and the people still here to work on it, because we don’t know how many days we or they have left. I’d rather fill the time left with kindness.

Your Kid Will Come Out to You

This was a long thread of tweets I posted in August of 2018, but since tomorrow, October 11th is Coming Out Day, I figured I could turn it into a blog post.

Watching the first episode of Making It… and between the laughs, there was a terrible moment where a man revealed that his parents sent him a funeral wreath when he came out to them “In memory of our dead son.” I have some thoughts…

If you think this is a thing that doesn’t happen anymore, it 100% does and worse. Did you know that most homeless teens in the US were kicked out of their houses for being LGBT? It’s true.

If you think your kid won’t be gay if you never talk about it, and they’re never exposed to any information about it, you’re wrong.

They’ll be miserable and have no way to explain to you or themselves what’s wrong.

They’ll be exponentially more likely to commit suicide.

If you think your kid being gay is the worst possible thing that could happen, we should talk.

If you love your kid, think about how you’ll react when they come out, because you only have one chance.

The most important thing you can do when your kid comes out to you is tell them that you will always love them.

That is literally all that matters.

And if you can’t love them, then you’ve got things to work on and you should start on them NOW.

If you’re a Christian, the most important verses in the Bible aren’t the two or three that might be about homosexuality, they’re the dozens about loving our neighbors AND OUR KIDS unconditionally – which means gay or not.

You being in denial isn’t love, it’s selfishness.

Being queer is hard. LGBT kids have increased rates of suicide; almost all of that is because of unsupportive families.

That risk goes down to almost the same as “regular” teens when they have support at home.

Do your homework. Get ready, because your kids are coming out.

If you have questions, check out your local PFLAG group.

There are support groups for parents in most towns, and if not, there are some great online support groups too.

Or, ask me. No shame.

Love and Reading

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin

It’s also my favorite thing about the internet – all of the people who thought they were alone and had no way to describe how they felt suddenly found they weren’t alone in the world.

The web’s not perfect, but for all of the bad stuff, there’s this. No matter what we’re going through, there’s someone out there who’s not only lived it, but written it down and shared it with the world, and we can go find it, and maybe a small bit of peace.

Categorized as love

It’s In Every One of Us to Be Wise

It’s in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us
By and by
It’s in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us
By and by
By and by

from It’s In Every One of Us by David Pomeranz

I should be going to sleep now, but I started watching Big Bird singing It’s Not Easy Being Green at Jim Henson’s funeral, which led me to the Muppet’s Tribute to Jim Henson, and then to Frank Oz’s lovely eulogy. In the second video, I heard a song I don’t remember, the one above, and it got me thinking (and yes, crying a little) about my heroes, and why they hold that position.

I love Jim Henson. He’s one of my heroes – a man of amazing creativity, warmth and love, who created so many great characters. More than that, though, he opened up imaginations by sharing his, and everything he created has at its core a gentleness, decency and humanity. You can tell right away that there’s a piece of him in everything he did. He died long after I’d outgrown Sesame Street (I was fifteen), but I still got choked up whenever anyone played Rainbow Connection (still do).

My second hero is Mr. Rogers. I used to watch both shows as a kid, but didn’t really understand who Mr. Rogers was as a “real” person until much much later. Mr. Rogers was seemingly without guile, someone totally in touch with their emotions and with the emotions of those around him – and like Jim Henson, the adjective that jumps to mind when I get past the things they created – the artifacts of their professional lives, is “gentle”. I love that Mr. Rogers dedicated his life to speaking softly to children without speaking down to them, to teaching them about the world without fear or cynicism. I told this to a friend today and she looked at me like I was crazy, but I think Mr. Rogers may be the most Christ-like person to live on the earth since, well, Jesus.

And last, but certainly not least, my dad. I certainly don’t tell him this enough, but he is my hero. He is the most patient person I’ve ever met, and set a great example of what a husband and father should be – one that I don’t measure up to, but aspire to. He is kind, and gentle. I think the only times I heard him raise his voice were either on the golf course or home repair “mishaps” with heavy tools, and they were never directed at us (the only reasons my brother and I ever went golfing with dad were: to hear him swear, and to drive the cart).

It all comes back to being gentle, something I’m not very good at, but want to be. All three of my heroes are good men: creative, smart, compassionate and charitable gentle men , who leave those around them better for having known them. They are who I aspire to be.

Thank you, dad, for being there when I need you. And thank you, Mr. Rogers and Jim Henson, for being examples of where imagination and decency can take you in a sometimes dark and always imperfect world.

And to get back to the song, it is in all of us to be wise. It’s in all of us to be better than we are, to aspire to being more like our heroes and to choose leaders more like we aspire to be instead of those that feed on our fears. I saw a sticker today Love More. Fear Less (you can get your own), which is what started this whole train of thought.

We, I, have been afraid too long – driven by fear to compromise our dreams, our futures and to choose leaders who feed those fears. It’s time to be led by love, to stop being afraid and embrace the future as a challenge to be better, to live our ideals instead of preaching them to others and doing the opposite behind closed doors when we think no one is looking. I’m tired of being angry. I’m tired of hearing politicians claim that the people who disagree with them aren’t “real” Americans. I’m tired of the pandering and the lies. Anger is fear turned outwards, a blind response to things we feel powerless to control, and anger is not love. I’m no hippie. I know I’ll still be angry when I wake up in the morning and catch a glimpse of the news, but I’m going to try to be wise. I’m going to try to love more and fear less, and I will keep my heroes that embody those qualities.

I don’t know that this makes any sense at all. It’s late, and I should have been asleep two hours ago, but I couldn’t go to bed with all this trapped in my head.

“It’s in every one of us to be wise. Find your heart, open up both your eyes.”