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I’m back on the road again. My pilgrimage past Davy Crockett’s birthplace and Dollywood has me listening to another podcast of This American Life, and this time the theme is “Mean Friends.” You’ve got to love being able to laugh out loud while driving through pop-up thunderstorms and trucks-in-left-lanes on windy mountain roads. The girl’s name was “Cohen” and she fluffed off a would-be suitor in middle school by letting him think they could be “Hi, Bye” friends. In other words, she’d acknowledge him in the hallways but that’s all…and he was ecstatic!

Are girls better at being mean? Is this our first feeble attempt at self-protection? I remember in high school a boy from a private school asked me to go to his prom. I accepted, but only if he promised to drop me off at my future-husband-then-almost-boyfriend’s house afterwards. And he did! I didn’t think I was being mean at the time, I actually thought I was being kind?!

I remember so clearly chasing the Bride around a preschool birthday party, telling her it’s not OK to tease and chase another little girl. I could see it already, my tyrant in blonde curls was the queen bee of her little posse, she was the mighty, mini trendsetter. Probably our move back to NJ when she was in 2nd Grade nipped that in the bud. It’s so easy to go all Lord of the Flies when your family stays in one insular community, “,,,after all we aren’t savages really…”

I asked my little Mussolini how she would feel if her feet were in that girl’s shoes. Yes, at times like this I would go all biblical, and believe me parents, you will too. I recently read a letter on Momastery titled “Brave is a Decision” this is excellent reading before the little ones head off to school. If you’d like to instill a little compassion and not so much as a mean bone in your child’s body, this one’s for you.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Because brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

– See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/21/the-one-letter-to-read/#sthash.0aYv3r2N.dpuf

I’m meeting my “bad” in a good way MIL, the queen bee of her generation who broke a few hearts along the way, to pay homage to the next generation of “it” girls, our Love Bug is turning the BIG TWO. She has just started school and I’m hoping she’ll sit next to the kid without a lunch and offer to share her bento box. But she’ll also need to channel some mean into her young life, so she stands up for herself, so she can fight back when needed.

You can’t take Jersey out of the girl.

Carousel of Time

Carousel of Time

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So this is what happens when I go to a blogging symposium and actually listen to the speakers. I start a New Blog! Big thanks to Denise Stewart for her fun and outstanding opening and to Marijean Jaggers who has almost convinced me to start Twittering, almost.

I’m reading a new book at the recommendation of my BFF from MA, Lee. The Zen of Listening ‘Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction’ by Rebecca Shafir is a smart and important read. She advises us to forget about our own personal self-interests and past insults, and step into the story, or “movie,” of the speaker’s life. She quotes Gandhi, “Three fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings of the world will disappear if we step in the shoes of our adversaries and understand their viewpoint.” Think about it, how often are you talking with someone only to notice their attention drift off – to their buzzing phone or the next person coming in the door – and wonder if it’s them or something you said, or maybe didn’t say fast enough?

Last week, I attended a hospital-sponsored lecture on patient safety. The speaker, Sorrel, is the mother of an 18 month old girl named Josie King who was admitted to Hopkins in 2001. The baby was treated for burns and moved from the PICU to a step-down unit and within 24 hours of being released when she suddenly died. Well, actually Sorrel had told two nurses that last day she thought Josie “…looked strange.” And she was dismissed by these nurses and told “…not to worry,” her vitals were just fine and to give her ice chips. Then when one doctor canceled an order for a drug, another walked in to give Josie the shot.

98,000 people die every year due to medical errors, and the one common thread that runs through their stories is, “They didn’t listen.” I was moved by Sorrel King and her foundation: http://www.josieking.org/

I asked my friend Lee, what do you do with someone who never stops talking long enough to listen? She said, “That’s another chapter.”

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