The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stop the shaming: why ceremonies and graduations need to change

It is that time of year again & I am sharing this post because it is vital for these ceremonies to change!  I know some are worse than others.  It was originally written & published years ago after sitting for over 3 hours at my son's 8th grade graduation where only a very select group of students were praised. Sadly, it still holds true today.  Thanks so much for taking time to read this - if there are any grammar errors please forgive them (editing is not my strength).
The end of the school year brings with it many award ceremonies and graduations.  As an inclusionist, I am not fond of these event!!  Many (although not all) of these events are designed to exclude and shame students into what our society considers acceptable behaviors and standards of success.  True, students who achieve should be rewarded and acknowledged; heck, almost all students want to be acknowledged.  I think all students who attend the ceremony should receive an award.  This does NOT mean I believe we should give all students an award, what it means is that only those students who are receiving awards should be required to attend the ceremony.    Students who are subjected to sit through a 1-3 hour long awards ceremony or graduation and not receive one accolade are not being motivated to become a better student or athlete. 

Often a reason given as to why students should be acknowledged for their hard work and effort in front of their nonperforming peers is because this motivates students to work harder.   Really?  Students getting good grades, high test scores, or achieving athletic success are not necessarily the ones putting forth the most effort.   We are doing our students a disservice by only shining a light on achievements and failing to embrace diversity. 

Schools often report they are sensitive to diversity yet they only mean race, gender, and ethnicity.  What about the diversity of learning?   Some students will work exceptionally hard and only earn C’s while for other students learning is easy, therefore they earn A’s.  Yes, the “C” student could have all A’s too but it is up to the teachers to educate this student appropriately (this is their educational right – to receive a free and appropriate education).  I heard a teacher recently state in her speech about the academic award recipient; “she is so easy to teach... students like her are the reason why people get into teaching.”   My heart sank, of course, this student is easy to teach. This student doesn’t have a learning disability causing struggles with reading, math, or writing.   The message was loud and clear, teachers don’t get into teaching to have challenging students they get into it so they can reap the rewards of a student who excels easily.  Okay, to be fair, that may not have been the speakers intended message but it sure could be interpreted that way.

Sports are another example of how school exclude and shame students.  A few weeks ago I wrote details about this topic in my "Lessons from The Breakfast Club"  post.  Not all students have the ability or talent to play sports although some may have the desire.  When schools put talented athletes on a pedestal and worship these students they are sending a message to other students that in order to be successful you must be athletically talented.  If you don’t believe this then look at our society as a whole; how much does a professional athlete get paid compared to a teacher. 

Sometimes schools try to pretend that they are including all students by having “student of the year” or “star student” awards.  This is not true inclusion.  You are kidding yourself if you think that each and every student had an equal chance to earn one of these awards.  Did the staff really consider the student with severe ADHD who has difficulty with impulse control?  How about the student who has Asperger’s and is struggling with learning social skills or is awkward?  I bet the student who was bullied so severely he became depressed and withdrawn wasn’t given a second thought.  Students who are challenging or have challenges are not often picked for these awards.   So, face it, this is not true inclusion; it is a facade.  Also, be careful of another facade - when the obviously disabled student gets an award just so the school can say ...  "look at us, aren't we amazing, we just honored a student who has a major disability..."  Umm this isn't genuine & only done for the thrill of inspiration porn.  This is NOT okay either. 

So, here is my proposal to all school districts across the country.  Over the summer decide what you consider the values we should be instilling in our children.   Take a good hard look at the way you are rewarding students.  Do you make the students with good grades stand-up in front of their non-achieving peers and tell these peers that they too can have these honors and rewards if they only tried hard enough?  Do you have ceremonies where everyone is invited but only a few get rewarded?  Do you give out student of the year awards, if so - really look to see if all students have equal opportunity for these awards?  Learn about confirmation bias (you like someone so you see most things they do in a positive light – you dislike someone so you see most things they do in a negative light).  Once you fully understand confirmation bias go back over and answer the last question: Do all students have an equal chance of winning “student of the year” or “star student?”  Now, relearn confirmation bias again and repeat the last question one final time.  If you still believe that all students have an equal chance than you don’t understand confirmation bias.    

Am I saying that there should be no more award ceremonies and graduations?  No, I am not saying this at all.  Go ahead and have these events but only require the students receiving awards to attend and if anyone else wants to attend they can make that choice but do not force students to attend hour long ceremonies/graduations where EVERYONE ELSE gets rewarded and praised.  Graduation ceremonies can be wonderful celebrations when focused on all students.  Call each student up and reward them with their certificate (don't just call their name as they walk in & go to a seat with their "graduation award" is sitting on the chair), if they received other awards announce them at that time – this way each and every student gets the opportunity to walk across the stage (front of a room) and be recognized.  Remember that almost everyone wants to be acknowledged and accepted.  Schools should focus on inclusion and quit reinforcing a “haves versus have-nots” climate.  Now is the time for change and acceptance.  Just because the ceremonies and graduations have always been done a specific way does NOT mean they must continue that way.  Remember we were once a nation where: slavery existed, women were not allowed to vote, and racial segregation was acceptable.  We now know better so we should do better.   We need to embrace the diversity that each and every student has and acknowledge their strengths instead of measuring them as successful under one specific set of standards.      
(Here's another post about shaming- Stop the Shaming Pt. 2) 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What's it like to have depression and what to do

Depression is real!  For people who battle depression it can also be the loneliest time as well because not everyone understands depression.  They will tell you to "just get over it" or try to make you smile and then say "see, don't you feel better now?"  

People with depression can't just 'get over it' or smile and then all the world is good again.  People with depression wear masks all the time, a mask of happiness, success, satisfaction, or anything to hide reality that they are drowning! 

This says... "And the worst part is....   
"...No one knows how close I am to drowning."  

It is not that people with depression don't want help.  In fact many people with depression ask for help frequently.  They tell others in so many ways but often people don't notice and this can add to their depression.  People with depression often want people to care and to notice but as soon as someone notices shame and guilt kicks in and makes the depression worse.  At these times a depressed person may put on a mask and say they are "fine" or they may pull away all together. (Image: "We all want someone to noice, but as soon as they do, we wish they never did.")
This isn't because the depressed person is playing games.  The depressed person often doesn't have the energy for games.
(Image: "Every Thought is a battle, every breath is a war, and I don't think I'm winning anymore.")
People with depression often don't see an end to the pain and suffering so telling them that everything will be okay doesn't help.  
(Image: "That's the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end.")
What often happens at this time of the year for a person with depression is they actually find out who their true friends are.  
(Image: "Hard times will always reveal true friends.")
A person with depression shares just a little of their depression with someone to know if that person is safe or not.  They are looking for how you handle their fragile side and if you are worth letting in to their dark side.  People with depression have often learned the hard way on who not to trust. 
(Image: If someone trusts you enough to tell you personal things such as their struggles with depression or what anxiety feels like or just how they feel in general, please don't be a shitty person by belittling it just because you've never experienced it. It feels like shit to be told your feelings don't matter by the one person you actually trusted enough to tell.")

If you respond the way the person with depression needs you to respond they will open up.  The key is they don't want you to solve the problem or save them.  They want you to be beside them as they go through their own struggles.  People with depression want to know they are not alone.  If they shut you out and you don't put any energy into trying to break down that wall they know you are not trustworthy so they will stop sharing with you.  You will not actually be there for them when it really counts.  
(Image: "I don't want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side as I save myself.")
 So, maybe you have a depressed person in your life and you don't know what to say to them.  Here's one of my favorite quotes that I would love to have someone say to me when I am in my dark side...  "I'm here.  I love you.  I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you.  There's nothing you can ever do to lose my love.  I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you.  I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me."  

 Wow - this is often exactly what the depressed person not only needs to hear but they need to feel it too - if someone you love is depressed  - show them that you will be there for them.  Actions speak louder than words.  If you don't like to talk then ask questions!  Get the person talking and then listen - really listen. DO NOT give advice or say things like 'get over it' or 'it's no big deal,' or 'I've been depressed too.'  Remember that being there for them is also not talking about YOUR problems and how difficult life is for YOU!  When you talk about yourself and ignoring how vulnerable it was for the person with depression to share with you than you are not someone they will open up to in the future.  Their depression isn't about YOU!

 The key is be there for them!  When a depressed person tells you they are depressed don't abandon or ignore them especially if they have a plan. If they have a plan you must seek help from professionals.!  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What you need to understand about for-profit and nonprofit

Hi Dragonfly Friends!  Yes, I’ve been off for a while due to being exceptionally busy professionally.  I'm always on a mission to make the world a better place for EVERYONE & this is very time consuming but worth all the hard work!  

Today I wanted to correct a misperception. Someone once made a comment about not wanting to support businesses, companies, or people who are for-profit and only wanted to support nonprofit companies that were truly not in it for the money.  Wow, this person has no clue on what it means to be for-profit and nonprofit.  There is a perception that nonprofit companies are better because they are “not in it for the money” but this isn’t really true.  I used to work in nonprofit mental health and it was ALL about billing (aka money), which meant face-to-face time only because we couldn’t bill for phone calls or emails.  We were required to meet monthly billing quotas and if you did not meet your billing quota you were in trouble (reprimand and no raises).  This is not a good practice for clients because it creates unhealthy co-dependent relationships. 

Here’s a video of Dan Pallotta explaining “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”

Having a private practice that is not a nonprofit does NOT make me greedy or all about the money.  I have a passion for what I do and put in exceptional amount of volunteer time for these passions.  I created a business helping people with disabilities (dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, Anxiety, Depression...) and their families.  No one does exactly what I do because it requires much more time and energy for little financial compensation.  There are some people who do similar jobs but my business is very unique and it is people centered not money driven.  I am not against nonprofits I’m against bad business practices especially when these business practices do not help the people we need to help – we need to really understand the way profit and nonprofit companies are run so we can learn more and do better. 

I am also a person who is willing to promote and support others, especially if it helps bring awareness to my passions.  I don’t care if the person, organization, company, or business is for-profit or nonprofit.  I will support everyone equally!  The world is a wonderful place and we all need to make a living and there is nothing wrong with growing a business because “Profit is not a dirty word.”  

We need to remember this:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Vulnerability is not a weakness

Dragonflies are Vulnerable
Vulnerability is NOT weakness!  Every Dragonfly knows what it feels like to be vulnerable.    Every day we face challenges, we don’t quite fit in, and we have to take risks.   Vulnerability is actually courage and being authentic.    Others may try to make you believe that being vulnerable is a flaw but this is not true, being vulnerable is what makes us great!  Being vulnerable connects us to others and allows us to live life consciously.   As a Dragonfly when you have the strength to embrace being vulnerable you will be able to achieve great success.  The next time you feel weak, insecure, or inadequate hold your head up and remember that you have been vulnerable many times in your life and overcame these obstacles. You will be successful when you are yourself and accept yourself. The opinions of others do not matter as much as your own opinion of yourself!       

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What you need to know about depression and suicide!

Everyone had difficulties and challenges that need to be faced.  People should not have to face these alone but often some have no choice.  Yes, people will say "talk to me," "what's wrong," or "I'm here for you, all you have to do is ask."  Well, some of us can't ask.  Some of us know that others do not want to really hear how bad things are because there is nothing that can be done.   We have to put on a smile and make the world a better place for others and we can't share the cold hard reality of what is happening.

Sometimes we do ask and no one takes the time to listen.  We can even cry and share our pain only to have the other person minimize what we are feeling or try to sugar coat things.  Well this only makes the person feel worse, not better.

So how do you convince someone that life is worth living?  You can't!  You can tell someone that you care and show them by listening to them unconditionally but that is only if they are willing to talk and chances are, the person may not be willing to share what exactly is going on.  Chances are no one can make things better.  Only the person who is dealing with the difficulties and challenges can actually make changes and make things better.  Often they just want to have someone listen to them, really listen with no judgment.  This is not an easy task for people to do- listen without judgment.

When a person commits suicide you often hear how shocked everyone was because the person who ended their life was always so happy and had everything going for them.  Why does this happen? This happens because no one really wants to face the reality that a person can be depressed, so depressed that they feel that life is no longer worth living.

Yes, the person thinking of suicide takes the feelings of others into consideration but what they know is that the relationship will still be there.  There will still be some good memories and the person contemplating suicide believes that they are saving their loved ones from more pain if they end their life because obviously they are such a burden to begin with or the loved ones would listen with empathy.  People often see the "signs" of depression and suicidal ideations after the fact but these signs were there long before they just didn't care enough to notice.  Maybe that sounds cruel, to blame the ones left behind but I believe that it is the society we live in that needs to carry the blame. We live in a society where it is not okay to talk about depression and suicide.  We live in a society that shames people for being different.

If you have a friend who is depressed and shared some dark thoughts then be there for them, push them to open up and discuss their feelings and thoughts without judgment.  Help them!  Stop ignoring them and pretending that everything is okay.  If you suspect that something is wrong and ask the person how they are and they say "fine" with a smile on their face-- push harder because chances are your instincts are correct.  If you think that a person would not commit suicide because they have everything going for them, then think again, many people put on a mask everyday and hide their pain. Don't accept an "I'm fine" from someone you suspect is NOT fine.  Seek them out and be there for them.  I promise you it will make a difference.  Sometime all a person needs is to know that their life does matter.

So, here's my final word on this - there will be some people that no matter what you say or do will make the choice to no longer live in pain.  You must forgive yourself if you know that you did all you could to make a difference in their life and prevent them from ending their own life - you did all you could do.  If you did not do all you could do.  If you were distant or avoided their dark side- all I can say is this is guilt you have to live with because people who are that depressed need support and you made the choice to not provide that support.

Take 11 minutes to listen to Kevin Breel talk about what it is like to be a person with depression and suicidal.  He could be someone you know!!!


Here's a song I sing often - from one of my favorite movies & TV shows - MASH:


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Want to be more effective? Here are the 7 habits you need

The Seven Habits 
The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic, by Stephen R. Covey

BE PROACTIVE ~ Between stimulus and response in human beings lies the power to choose. Productivity, then, means that we are solely responsible for what happens in our lives. No fair blaming anyone or anything else.

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND ~ Imagine your funeral and listen to what you would like the eulogists to say about you. This should reveal exactly what matters most to you in your life. Use this frame of reference to make all your day-to-day decisions so that you are working toward your most meaningful life goals.

PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST ~ To manage our lives effectively, we must keep our mission in mind, understand what's important as well as urgent, and maintain a balance between what we produce each day and our ability to produce in the future. Think of the former as putting out fires and the latter as personal development.

THINK WIN/WIN ~ Agreements or solutions among people can be mutually beneficial if all parties cooperate and begin with a belief in the "third alternative": a better way that hasn't been thought of yet.

SEEK FIRST TO BE UNDERSTANDING, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD ~ Most people don't listen. Not really. They listen long enough to devise a solution to the speaker's problem or a rejoinder to what's being said. Then they dive into the conversation. You'll be more effective in your relationships with people if you sincerely try to understand them fully before you try to make them understand your point of view.

SYNERGIZE ~ Just what it sounds like. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In practice, this means you must use "creative cooperation" in social interactions. Value differences because it is often the clash between them that leads to creative solutions.

SHARPEN THE SAW ~ This is the habit of self-renewal, which has four elements. The first is mental, which includes reading, visualizing, planning and writing. The second is spiritual, which means value clarification and commitment, study and meditation. Third is social/emotional, which includes service, empathy, synergy and intrinsic security. Finally, the physical element includes exercise, nutrition and stress management. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Henry Rollins gives advice on being yourself & suicide

Today is Henry Rollins birthday & I want to send this message out to you again----BE YOURSELF!!!  You many not believe it but the best person you can be is YOU!  Don't try to be someone else!  Don't compare yourself to anyone else.  Don't let it bother you that others seem to have it easier than you; focus on yourself and your own life!  Remember, as I always say: Empathy is one of the most important skills you need to have to be successful in life- that means empathy for yourself and others.  Work hard, care about others around you, be yourself, and you will be successful!!!  
Here's a great video from Henry Rollins (an ADHD Dragonfly who suffered from depression and low self-esteem).  Henry is a musician, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, radio host, spoken word artist, and activist!
Recently Henry wrote some comments about a parent shouldn't commit suicide after Robin Williams death (Fuck Suicide).  I understand these comments! - I understand Henry's point. Many people were upset with Henry and one of my favorite things about him is his ability to accept criticize and his willingness to look at other perspectives (More Thoughts on Suicide).  When you are an individual you can have your own opinion and when you have empathy you have the ability to accept that your opinion is just that- yours. Here's Henry....
(FYI he is referring to President Obama in this clip not President Trump but I bet you figured this out)