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I’m writing a story, and in it, bullying is a central plot point.  It’s YA, and my main character is overweight and the target of a few girls.  My critique partner (a young man) said that he thinks my characters are meaner than what would happen in real life, and that when he was in high school, bullying wasn’t that prevalent.

It started to make me wonder if the world has gotten nicer.  I see a lot of encouraging things out there, like the Dove commercials which encourage us to love our bodies the way they are.  On Humans of New York, people rally around anyone who says they were bullied, encouraging them.

And then I saw this article.  It’s about a woman who was picked on by two adult women while she was buying coffee and donuts.  They said disparaging things about her weight and her hair.  It reminded me of the time I was at a buffet, and a friend and I were bickering in a friendly way about my vegetarianism, when a woman said “all the vegetarians I know are fat anyway.”

When I saw that article this morning, I realized that these things are still happening.  They don’t happen to everyone.  They don’t happen all the time.  But they do happen, and for people who are bullied, those incidents matter.  In the same way that every kindness matters, so does every incident of meanness.

It brought something else into focus for me.  I have a few friends who are people of color, and talk about racism.  I have one in particular who’s adamantly on the side that racism happens and that we need to talk about it.  And I have another who’s adamantly on the other side, that the people who’ve been “victims” of racism were doing something wrong.  I’m not here to argue either side, but what it made me realize that just because it didn’t happen to one person doesn’t mean it’s still not happening.  If it happened to one person, we still have a problem.  If it happened to one person who spoke up, how many people did it happen to who stayed silent?

I don’t know what the solution to racism, sexism, body shaming (because it’s not just about being fat… thin people are shamed too!), etc. is.  I just know that we need to keep talking about it.  And the next time someone says that it’s happening, don’t automatically assume that just because you’ve never seen it happen, it’s not true.

We all live in our own little world, but the world is a much bigger and more complicated place than our little piece of it.  If we expect to have any understanding of it, we need to listen to and support one another.  Don’t be silent, and don’t expect others to be silent.  Only by talking about things in the shadows can we shed light on them.

Happy Friday!

_DSF4864Movers help domestic violence victims move for free.  It’s a service offered by some moving companies in some states.

A woman strips down to her underwear and encourages people to draw hearts on her body to promote positive body image.  Another woman did the same thing, because she wondered if it would be as positive an experience for an overweight woman, and it was.  I love this, and hope that it helps people accept themselves and others.

An officer gets a dose of appreciation when a child insists on buying his breakfast.

Camping with dogs is a new Instagram thing.  I love it because it combines two of my favorite things.  Check out the dog in the backpack… too cute!

Nonprofit organization builds Halloween costumes around wheelchairs so that kids with disabilities can have cool costumes.

Change your focus; change your attitude.  Good news is all around us, if you’re willing to see it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

It’s Friday, the start of the weekend.  Keep your focus positive, and remember that there are many amazing people out there.

Roatan, Honduras Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roatan, Honduras
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Police in Massachusetts are using money seized from drug dealers to fund rehab for people who come to the police station and voluntarily turn in their drugs.  They’ve helped over 100 addicts in two month.  This is an amazing program that focuses on helping people rather than punishing them.

A 9 year-old stood up to protesters at a gay pride parade.  I’m not a fan of when people respond to peaceful protesters in a hateful way; I think that’s an example of being intolerant of other people’s opinions.  However, I think this kid responded to the protesters in exactly the right way.  He stood in front of their signs with a bunch of balloons, blocking them so they couldn’t be read.  No hatefulness or negativity was exchanged.  You go, kiddo!

Doctors are studying near-death experiences, and showing that people experience something after the brain stops functioning.  Very interesting article if you’re interested in learning more about this.

Formerly abused dogs, many of them used in dogfighting, show that they deserve a second chance.  This is a story about dogs who’ve been rescued and shown that they can overcome the past.

The Rock is someone who appears in the news from time to time as a good-guy-celebrity.  He recently spoke at the graduation of inmates from a voluntary prison boot camp program.  This was my first time hearing about it, but in Florida, they’ve allowed some men convicted of crimes to attend a boot camp to help them become better citizens, rather than serve sentences in prison.  Where do I start to gush about how wonderful this is?  I could go on and on, but many studies show that prison sentences don’t deter crime.  Programs that rehabilitate do.  *stepping off soapbox*

Be amazing today.  Smile at someone for no reason.  Be forgiving instead of judgmental.  Be the best you that you can be today.

A rare picture of the artist Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona Photo Credit: RJS Photos

A rare picture of the artist
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona
Photo Credit: RJS Photos

There’s a lot of bad news in the world.  It’s in my Facebook feed all the time.  It’s on the headline at Yahoo.  Sometimes I feel compelled to read more, and I always sort of regret it later.  It makes me anxious, upset, angry.  And those emotions would be fine, if I felt like I could do anything about what’s going on in the world.  I can’t.  Well, not anything more than what I already do, anyway.

My goal in life is to spread sunshine wherever I can.  I seek out and share good news.  I smile at strangers.  I hope that strangers won’t talk to me, as I really am antisocial, but if they do, I listen.  I try to maintain a positive attitude as often as possible.

That’s what I can do.

I know some people feel like they have to watch or read news in order to be aware of what’s going on in the world.  They feel they have to be informed, and that’s fine, if that works for them.

My goal has always been to treat people as I expect them to act.  My theory is that if you treat people like jerks, they act like jerks.  If you treat them like human beings worthy of respect, then they tend to act that way too.  I’ve been called naive for that attitude, and I’m okay with that.  Truthfully, I run into more good people than bad.  Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe there’s something to my attitude.

If I watch the news, I start to think badly of my fellow man.  According to the news, everyone is up to no good, judging others on race, color, sexual orientation, sexual identity.  If I believe the news, cops are out to kill people of color and dogs, abusing power and getting away with it.

I’m sure there are some bad people out there, but I think that most people who do bad things do so because they’re sick at heart.  That’s not an excuse, and I’m certainly not going to let people take advantage of me.  But my point is that there are very few people who are truly evil.  I choose to focus on good people, and if I find a rotten apple in my barrel of relationships, I get rid of it.  it’s not my responsibility to change anyone who doesn’t want to change.  Or, as one of my favorite quotes goes:

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”


I’ll focus on the good stuff and spread positivity.  That’s how I choose to make the world a better place.  It may not be much, but it’s what I can do.

Waterfall in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Waterfall in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I think we’ve all been in a situation where we desperately want to make our words understood, but for whatever reason, the person we’re speaking to can’t hear us.  It’s a definite temptation to get louder, more animated, and more insistent.  I can tell you that from my own experience, and from what others have told me, it almost never works.

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

― Rumi

This is such a lovely quote for so many reasons.  First off, it’s true.  Second, I want to be the person who meets every situation with grace and poise.  I’ll never forget the story of the man who tried to publicly shame a Sikh woman on Reddit, and instead of responding with anger (which would have been totally justified), she responded in such a beautiful way that even though I read this story three years ago, it still hasn’t lost its impact on me.

I aspire to be the rain.

As you start your Monday, take a moment to think about who you want to be, and then remember that as you go forward and interact with the world.

It’s Friday!  Are you excited for the weekend?

Roosevelt Dam, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roosevelt Dam, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

We always hear when celebrities are behaving poorly, so here’s a story about someone who’s doing good.  Wrestler John Cena just granted his 500th Make-A-Wish for sick children.  He’s the celebrity who’s visited the most children.

Volunteers are fighting wildfires in Washington State.  The state was overwhelmed dealing with the fires, and asked for volunteers.  Over 3,000 people showed up the first day.  A lawyer bought his own vintage fire truck, and has been out fighting fires.  That’s the difference that ordinary people can make.

In New Orleans, a man has invested most of his life’s savings to open a grocery store in a food desert.  He’s opened a store with groceries and other shops.  People in the neighborhood used to have to take 3 buses to get supplies.

Dog comforts a dying woman in hospice.  Many people in hospice don’t get visitors, and a dog can be a wonderful comfort.

A stray dog defended a woman, so she adopted the dog, who later had puppies.

Ordinary people can make a difference.

“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
-Edmund Burke

Here's a cat picture, for absolutely no reason. Photo credit: Doree Weller

Here’s a cat picture, for absolutely no reason.
Photo credit: Doree Weller

Once I read one book by an author, if I don’t like it, I’m unwilling to try another book by that author.

I know that’s unfair.  Dean Koontz is my all time favorite author, yet there are some of his books I don’t like at all.  Same goes for Stephen King.  Though I loved Watership Down, I’ve never read another Richard Adams book.

So, I know authors can be hit or miss.  Not every book that a good author writes will appeal to me.  But my gut reaction to reading other books by the same author is “ugh, no.”  On the flip side of that, I’m more likely to stick with an author I know I like, even if the book isn’t filling me with joy.  Remember I mentioned Dean Koontz?  I read all his books, whether I love them or not.  I’m loyal like that.

Because of my book club and various book challenges I’m participating in, I’ve actually been reading more different things, and it’s a good thing.  I’ve found some new books I’ve loved, and some I most emphatically have not.  But it’s always good to try new flavors and textures to expand my palate.  Plus, there’s something invaluable about being able to discuss books with other people.  I’m not surrounded by very many readers, and discussing a book as if it were real, critically analyzing character development and the events that surround them, is stimulating and allows me to see the book from other perspectives.  That alone will push me to finish a book I otherwise may not have.

How about you?  Are you willing to give an author another try?  Or are you like me, telling an author, “I’m just not that into you”?

Grand Turk Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Grand Turk
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Some people believe that if they want something enough, they can attract it.  I don’t believe that.  If wanting something were enough, we’d all be gorgeous millionares.

“The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful,the world will prove to be loving and friendly and helpful in return. The world is what you are.”

~ Thomas Dreier

I’ve noticed that people react to me in the same way I react to them, like a mirror.  Most people can’t help but smile back at someone who’s smiling at them.  If you’re polite, it’s hard to be rude to you.  Sure, some people are jerks and will act the way they do, no matter what you do, but in general, your attitude defines your reality.

As you start off on this Monday morning, remember that.  Remember that your attitude defines your reality.  And if others are treating you badly, ask yourself if your own attitude plays a part in it.  By the same token, if people are treating you well, know that means you’re probably doing your part to spread sunshine.

Feel Good Friday

It’s Friday, it’s Friday… gotta get down on Friday!

Okay, enough of that.  Ready for some good news?

Green tea tiramisu... amazing!  Life's short... treat yourself! Photo credit: Doree Weller

Green tea tiramisu… amazing! Life’s short… treat yourself!
Photo credit: Doree Weller

A waitress in New Jersey had two firefighters come in for breakfast.  They’d been fighting a huge warehouse fire.  Instead of giving them a bill, she gave them a thank you note, and covered their breakfast.  The firefighters shared her note on social media, and then they found out that she’s trying to get a wheelchair accessible van for her paralyzed father, so they encouraged people to donate to her crowdfunding account.  This is a perfect example of why I believe that we make our own luck.

Earlier this week, I shared a story about Humans of New York.  The photographer, Brandon, has been in Pakistan, sharing their stories.  He shared a story about a woman who is committed to fighting the human bondage that takes place there.  Hoping to raise $100,000, he set up a crowdfunding project, and raised $2.2 million in one week.  This is all about the power of people.  When we come together, we can do amazing things.

Okay, remember the ice bucket challenge?  Well, it turns out that it wasn’t ridiculous after all.  It raised a lot of money.  And that money as actually led to a breakthrough in finding out what causes ALS.  Researchers are actually trying to get the challenge restarted.  So, for all of us who thought it was just silly, we were wrong.  Your move, social media.

Cops in Massachusetts say that they won’t ever be shutting down a child’s lemonade stand.  In fact, they encourage kids to let them know if and when they’ll be selling lemonade, so officers can stop by if possible.  The post from the chief of police is heartwarming.

100-year-old couple celebrates 75 years of marriage.  How beautiful!

People are people.  some of them are good, some are not so good.  Remember to treat people as individuals, and they will often surprise you.

Have a great weekend!

Walking That Mile

I love squirrels! Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I love squirrels!
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Not long ago, I clicked “like” on a Facebook page called Humans of New York.  Brandon decided one day to start taking pictures of people in New York, and eventually started asking them questions and including quotes and short portions of their stories.

Some of the stories are funny, some heartbreaking, some inspirational.  But it’s not the stories that really capture my attention; it’s the comments.  Most of the comments are supportive, offering love and acceptance.  The internet can be a really mean place, but it can also be a beautiful, supportive place.

The project reminds me of PostSecret, where people send in post cards anonymously with secrets written on them.

One of the themes I heard most often in therapy is that people want to make connections with other people; the problem is that they often don’t know how.  It seems like it should be easy.  After all, most of the photos on the Humans of New York Facebook page get between 80,000 and 350,000 likes.  They get tens of thousands of comments.  People want to love and support others, but I guess we don’t know how, without the distancing tool of the internet.

One woman who told her story, that she left an abusive relationship, has Hepatitis C, and wanted to place her daughter for adoption so that she’d be in a a better situation, but then couldn’t go through with it.  There was such an outpouring of love and support for her that Brandon set up an email address to try to connect her with services.

This is the truest side of mankind.  I believe that.  The truth doesn’t show up in the news with all the racial, political, sexist, hateful, violent stuff.  The truth is strangers are willing to help a woman on the other side of the world.

When we pass by homeless people asking for food or money, we look at them and see what we’ve been told to see.  Drug addicts.  Liars.  Lazy people.  The truth is much more complicated, and it’s hard to maintain that disinterest and vague feeling of being better than when we know their stories.  Because everyone has a story, and if we hear their stories, we can connect with them.

Next time you find yourself judging someone, I urge you to stop and wonder what their story is.  What would put them in the situation they’re in?  I would rather err on the side of believing a lie than judging someone too harshly.  After all, we’ve all made mistakes.  We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of.  Compassion, empathy, and love show the truest parts of who we are.


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