Pit Bulls, People and Prejudice

November 20, 2015

This was first published in the Summit Daily News as one of my Think Twice columns. Although it is not directly related to writing, it is a good case for the need to read and write diverse books, which has become a big push in the publishing world. More importantly, it’s important because of the insane prejudice against Muslims, sweeping our country.

When I lived in Denver, my neighbor was attacked by a Pit Bull. A rash of mauling continued and after the news covered the bloody attacks; Pit Bulls were banned from the city. At the time, I agreed with the decision, and when I moved to Summit County, I was appalled by the animal shelters that took in Pit Bulls, farming them out to families.

I will be forever sorry I felt that way and am ashamed and embarrassed that I exhibited such blatant prejudice. True, I had a bit of information to stand by—there were maulings, my neighbor did get attacked, and eventually they were banned from Colorado’s capital. However, I firmly believe the decision was made out of prejudice, fear, and misinformation. It’s not the breed; it’s the behavior by the owner that creates a vicious dog. I am now the proud owner a Pit Bull mix—the sweetest dog I’ve ever owned.

The misinformation we are given about dogs and sensationalized news is not so different than misinformation we are given about people. At the top of the list, is the information we are told to believe about Muslims, who many consider all ISIS terrorists. They are not. I lived with a Muslim family in Tunisia, and they were/are some of the gentlest, kindest folks on the planet. They practice a loving, compassionate lifestyle, and yes, they condemn ISIS.

According to a poll taken in 2010, 1.6 billion people follow the Islamic faith. The Pew Research Center projects that by 2050, the number of Muslims will be close to the number of Christians living on the planet. It’s high time we make a distinction between cult-like terrorists and devoted moderates.

In order to dismantle racism and prejudicial behaviors toward people with a different faith, we must educate ourselves about other religions. I published an award-winning book: Soul Sunday: A Family’s Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance and in the process, interviewed many religious leaders. I also researched different faiths to accurately explain the world’s largest religions. Here are some simple facts about Islam.

  • It’s an Abrahamic religion; followers believe in the SAME God as Jews and Christians
  • Moses and Jesus are considered important prophets
  • Mohammed lived after Jesus and received a divine revelation, which became the Quran: the Muslim holy book
  • Devout Muslims pray 5 times a day
  • Charity is a pillar of the religion and an important part of daily life

The followers of ISIS remind me of people who followed Jim Jones and his religious sect rooted in Christianity and apostolic socialism, turned cult. ISIS is much larger, more terrifying, and no-less cult-like. Filled with insecurity and hate, they have a deliberate wish to destroy. There is a difference between ISIS, who has its roots based in medieval Islam turned cult, and other Muslims. To call all Muslims terrorists, like many do, is a blatant lie and at best, an outrageous statement.

Prejudicial beliefs based in ignorance and fear can lead to hate-filled practices that only inflame a misunderstood situation. It’s important to let go of fear and learn more about Islam. Understanding Muslims and the difference between them and the ISIS fanatics is crucial as we move forward in an undeclared war. We should not be fighting all Muslims, but be focused on eradicating ISIS.


Space to Write

November 1, 2015

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I found a new place to work this year, at least for one day a week. My oldest daughter is living at home while ski racing and working, which is great—until she stumbles in for breakfast during my morning writing session.

We’ve worked out some parameters. She stays out of the house two days a week while I hole up and write, and I leave two days a week: one spent at a coffee house and the other at an awesome office housed in a nursery. It’s a tropical paradise, filled with plants and dirt and sunlight.

On my first day, however, I had no idea where to begin. For writers; beginnings are difficult, daunting, and often avoided. I dug through my bag, found my pens, opened my computer, and then, I sat. I found a few better pens, moved papers to the floor, wrote a few notes, and then, I sat. I changed the music, checked my emails, glanced at my notes, pulled up a few files, and then again, I sat.

My frustration grew. I was paying for the space and knew that doing a load of laundry was a more efficient use of my time than sharpening pencils. I tried again. Finally, after three and a half hours, I revised a chapter—one lonely chapter (on a good day, I’ll revise six). I left, met my daughter and puppy for a brief walk, and raced back to the office, cramming in what I could. One more chapter done. Not a good first day at the office.

On subsequent visits, things got better. My twitchy brain finally welcomed the space, and I settled in.

Now, when I arrive, I breathe in the deep, oxygen-filled air that smells of geraniums and roses, give gratitude, and get to work. Without a doubt, it is now my most creative, productive-filled day of the week. For any writers out there pondering the idea of renting one’s own place—I highly recommend it—if even for one day a week.


Writing Barn Workshop

October 12, 2015

Last weekend I flew to Austin and attended a workshop at the Writing  Barn. It was incredible, and although I have lots to say about it, Jennifer did it all for me. She even has pictures. Check it out…


It’s really worth the read.



Walk Writing Tips

October 5, 2015

Last month, I spoke at a Walk out of Darkness event, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. When first asked, I said no way- I’m a writer, not a speaker, and standing in front of 300 people is not my cup of tea. However, a few passionate volunteers convinced me otherwise.

Our community was hit hard by suicide this year, and I wrote an article for the local paper that went viral, mostly because it struck a cord with so many people. This led to my talk at the walk. When I spoke, I offered three takeaways: encouragement, education, and listening.

After the event, I thought about how these three subjects can be used to help a writer.

Encouragement: writing is a lonely endeavor. Those who don’t write will often mistake the profession with fantastical grandeur- sipping lattes in fancy coffee houses while writing words that will be shared, making millions of dollars in the process. Not hardly. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, it’s rejection-filled work. You must love it, live for it, and endure. From time to time it’s wise to take yourself out for a treat—buy an expensive flavored coffee instead of basic drip, buy a new pen, or pat yourself on the back while indulging in a bottle of wine.

Education: writers must study. Not only do we need to research the things we write about, but also, we must read, read, read. We must take workshops and listen to other writers. It is the only way to improve our craft.

Listen: writers must observe, listen to those around them. Conversations at coffeehouses can provide rich material. Listening to your family, your friends, your community—everyone has a story. Observe body language—it is a type of language! Paying attention is key to the writing process.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the actual writing, but self-encouragement, education, and listening are key components to improving one’s craft.


Opinion Stirring and Gay Marriage Backlash

September 15, 2015

This past summer I was hired by The Summit Daily to write a regular opinion column. I won’t post them all on my blog (check the SD website if you want to read more), but from time to time, I’ll add a few. Opinions can make us nod or shake our heads, but almost always, they make us think. They stir something inside of us that creates a higher vibrational energy. My hope is that whether or not you agree, that after reading the piece, you’re motivated to write your own opinions. At the end of the day, I want this blog to support you in your own writing, so get stirred up and write away!

Revised from my column, Think Twice:

My oldest daughter attended Silverthorne Elementary as a first-grade student in 2003; at a time when gay weddings were not mainstream, but they happened. In fact, they happened in our family.

My sister-in-law and her partner were married in a civil ceremony in Oregon. Much to our chagrin, especially Ellie’s, they eloped. Like most little girls, Ellie dreamed of fairytale weddings filled with flowers—and little flower girls. To help ease her anger about being robbed a wedding, I suggested that she make a card for them. She did. Using glitter and glue, sparkles and markers, Ellie made a magnificent card of two women in two princess wedding dresses, holding hands and surrounded by wedding bells. After licking the envelope, she bounced her way to school, excited to tell everyone the news.

She came home in tears.

Her friends told her it wasn’t legal, right or even normal. The teacher and I had a chat. A few moms and I had a chat. Most importantly, Ellie and I had a chat. I tried my best to explain the legalities of gay marriage and politics to my 6-year-old, but it fell flat. She didn’t understand.

“Don’t you get married when you love each other?” She wanted to know. “How can someone tell someone else they’re not allowed to be together? There’s nothing wrong with more love in the world.”

I agreed. I still do. And finally, so does our government.

This past summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. And with that decision, the country changed. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.” However, the ruling was close (5-4), reflective of the country at large.

Prejudice surrounding gay marriage remains alive and well. In July, a

Denver baker took his case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, arguing that his religious views should be protected and that he should not be forced into making a wedding cake for a gay couple (reminding me of the Seinfeld ‘Soup Nazi’ episode—no gay cake for you!). All jokes aside, cases like these aren’t funny, and discrimination is not a laughing matter. Another anti-gay ballot initiative was filed this July, hoping to redefine all Colorado gay marriages as civil unions. Given the SCOTUS ruling, I don’t believe this will happen, but I’m am concerned about the intolerant and prejudicial thinking from citizens who refuse to accept the law.

In my hometown; Toledo, Ohio, a Municipal Court Judge refused to marry a same-sex couple. When they arrived, they were told that the judge on duty would not perform gay marriages. Toledo is not alone. There are a number of judges and religious clerics refusing to marry same-sex couples. The backlash has begun.

What makes people afraid? What is wrong with more love in the world? If a 6-year-old can see it, why can’t more adults?

For many, the argument against gay marriage is based upon the Bible, but life changes, and events that happened during Biblical times should no longer be used as a measure for today’s trials. We no longer feed people to lions. We no longer support slavery (at least legally). Some of us eat shellfish, and others get divorced. The stories in the Bible are hundreds of years old, and life has changed. I believe that Jesus would have been the first to accept and encourage gay marriage. In his day, he launched a radical practice of love, accepted the voice of women and children, helped lepers and the needy. He welcomed diversity. He welcomed love. It’s time for our society to accept change and forgo fear. WWJD? Support gay marriage, hands down.

Kudos to the many Americans who helped shift consciousness and to SCOTUS for ruling in favor of love and equality. Six-year-olds still might tease, but they can no longer say it’s wrong. Let’s hope the backlash against gay marriage and discriminatory beliefs are finally viewed as unacceptable behavior, and we can all move on.


Back to School: What’s Important to Know?

August 17, 2015

Yes, it IS still summer, but students across the country are heading back to school, and although I hate to see big, yellow buses round the corner, a heightened energy resonates with me. It’s a season full of possibility; positive and encouraging.

As teachers begin to set their curriculum, I’ve decided to set my own; as a parent, an educator, and a concerned community member who wants to see our children and our society thrive.

What is important to learn? What goals have we made for our families, our students, and ourselves? In my book, achieving a 100% on a test, winning a race, or landing a lead is fantastic, but not what’s essential or really all that important. So—what is important to know? I’ve created a list.

  • Love: enough said
  • Kindness: it goes a long way
  • Acceptance: of others and oneself
  • Balance: between one’s mind, body, and soul
  • ABC’s- and 123’s: we all need to read and to add
  • Self-sufficiency: learn how to learn on your own
  • Spirituality: find faith
  • Respect: yourself and others
  • Healthy habits: eat well, sleep well, rest well, work well
  • Understanding the world around us: this includes geography, cultural behaviors, religions, politics, and social influences
  • Self-confidence: trust your intuition
  • Nature: spend time outside, it’s life’s best and yet most underutilized teacher
  • Beauty: look for it everywhere—in the slice of an orange, the shape of a cloud
  • Creativity: make time to discover and explore
  • Visualize: dream possibilities
  • Compassion: it also goes a long way
  • Gratitude: enough said

As your kids climb aboard the school bus, keep life in perspective and remember what’s really important.

What’s on your list?


Whoops- here’s the shot

July 20, 2015



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