sitting down with Josh

Meet my son, Josh. Josh, tell our readers a little bit about yourself…

“Well, for one thing, I boss up every day and all day.”

Help us a little. What does “boss up” mean?

“It means stand up for yourself and own it.”

Is that a good thing? And if so, why?

“Yes. It is a good thing. It’s all about being who you are and who you were created to be.”

I like it. Now before I ask you some deeper questions, give us a few fun facts about yourself — things you like, dislike, habits, etc.

“I like to play video games. I’m a gamer. I love to stay up. I’m almost 21 — this year, actually. I have some talented homies — in both Florida and Ohio. I’m famous on TikTok. Follow me. I love the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If I had to pick a dog or cat, I’d pick both. I love guacamole — a shout out to my queso buddies. Mexican restaurants are my go-to. I like parties. Ice cream cakes are the bomb. My Birthday Buddy has a piece of my heart. So do Steve and Barbara. Craig and Sally, too. My favorite candy is Reese’s. Chocolate is my friend. NonaStudents rocks. I work at Bark Nona. I love hip-hop. If you notice the words in my stories on social media, you’ll learn and see what I got my hip-hop from. I’m also growing in my faith.”

Tell me about that. I mean, faith is something we’ve each had to figure out on our own. What’s that journey been like for you?

“Well, it’s hard to find faith.”

What makes you say that? Why is it hard?

“Because it’s something that we sometimes think we’re too good to believe. Or we don’t like it or need it.”

Why do you think people don’t think they need it?

“Because we think we know what we’re doing, but we don’t.”

I don’t totally understand what you mean by that. Can you help? What are we missing?

“We like to think we’re in control — especially with all our emotions — and then that causes us problems, leaving God out of it.”

So if I hear you correctly, you have no doubt that God is real, true?


Is that a change in you? Did you used to doubt?

“I used to doubt. And I used to have questions. I still have questions about some life lessons, but I don’t have any questions about God being real or about how He feels about me.”

How do you believe God feels about you?

“He tells me I’m here for a reason. Here to stay. And He loves me big.”

What does it feel like for you, then, to know you are loved “big”?

“It’s amazing. Peaceful. And calm.”

Is that a change in you?

“It’s a different heart. A new start. A new day. I just want to love God and love people.”

No judgment — you know we don’t accept that in our household — but do you think current culture understands what it really means to love other people?

“To me, no. Sometimes they think violence or bullying or being mean is ok. God’s not ok with that.”

Do you think that’s just kids? Or are us adults guilty of it, too?

“Both. Adults sometimes think they’re nice or smart, but they’re not very wise. Wise people love people.”

Excellent. Thanks for your encouragement and insight. Anything else you wish to say?

“This blog is about love and respect. All of us need to improve our love and respect.”

Thanks, Josh. I think you rock.

“Boss up, Mom.”


AR & Josh

the truth shortage

There is one word which seems to be part of any news report: “SHORTAGE.”  What then follows is a list of commodities usually followed by a list of possible causes. These shortages over which we have no control cause inconvenience, frustration, and sometimes actual harm.  However, there is one shortage which should cause great concern.  It is not a commodity.  It is one which affects us all; it is one with which we are all very familiar; it is one to which we even contribute.  That shortage is TRUTH.

 As a child I learned the “Thou shalt nots” and heard the playground “Liar, liar,” and even played Truth or Dare.  But as a young girl a personal experience greatly expanded my insight into the concept and impact of truth.  

Influenced by peer pressure, I decided it was time to shave my legs.  Sneaking into my father’s cabinet for the needed supplies, I proceeded outside to my own private haunt and began the task.  So far so good…until I noticed a long trickle of red from shin to ankle.  Obvious my inexperience created a dilemma which needed immediate attention.  Quickly I became my own medic, armed with hastily acquired gauze, tape, etc. Obviously, it was it was not something I could conceal, but I nonchalantly strolled back into the house.  So, who was the first person I met?  My dad.  He took one look at me and said, “Did you fall on your bike AGAIN?”  My response?  Nothing.  Nada. Surely silence is not lying, is it?  Besides I naively assumed that my father knew nothing about this teenage rite of passage anyway.  So, his assumptions were not my fault, were they?  I was home free, UNTIL later that day when I heard him reporting his assumptions as fact to my mother, which immediately activated her TLC.  Now what?  True confession?  Is omission of truth a lie?  Though I was not old enough to analyze this completely, I did feel very uncomfortable since my upbringing included a generous amount of moral instruction which I knew had violated, so I did what we all do… rationalized my behavior.

“The whole truth and nothing but.” That doesn’t really mean the “whole.”

“It’s just a white lie.”  So, what is a black lie?’

“It’s just a fib.” Is that a euphemism for a lie?

“Everybody does it.” Really? Everybody?

“It didn’t hurt anyone?”  Even when the hearer’s actions are then based on a lie?

“The end justifies the means.”  Whose ends?  What means?

“You can’t handle the truth.”  Should that be your judgment call? “

Perhaps we should ask ourselves how we feel when we lie, when we rationalize.  Guilty? Uncomfortable?  Knowing we now must remember what we said?  Then that leads to another question.  How do we feel when we have been lied to?  Do we excuse the liar since he probably used the same rational we used? Do we give them a pass?  After all, if it is okay for me, isn’t it okay for others? 

Questions then? Do we just accept the rationalizations which are rampant?  Is truth the standard only when it is convenient?  Just what is our commitment to truth?  From our elected leaders?  From the media? From the advertisers? From our spouse or our children? From ourselves? Do we even care that the erosion of truth creates distrust, disruption, wrong decisions, disrespect, cynicism…and in the long run harm to our relationships, to our county, to ourselves?   But at least we don’t have to participate, do we?  Or is it all relative? 


For me, it all began with a razor.



it’s all a matter of perception

It’s me again — the Word Nerd! This Guest Writer is back again. This time my word ponder is the mysterious, yet often used-without-our-thinking-about-it-too-much word. Perception. Have you ever stopped to contemplate or reflect on the word “perception?” It can pack a punch and blindside you when you least expect it. Come; let me show you what I mean…

The word “perception” is a noun. It is derived from the Latin root word: “Percipere,” which is a verb meaning “to seize, understand.” In Late Middle English, there are two words that come together. The Latin word, Perceptio, and the English word, Perceive. Thus, we form the word that we know as “perception.”

Perception, as defined by the dictionary is: 

  1. The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
  2. The state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
  3. A mental impression.

(Or my personal favorite…)

  1. Intuitive understanding and insight.

Perception relies heavily on the awareness being brought to us through our senses.  This makes me think about what my Momma and whole host of other Old Timers would say to me when I was younger: “Just trust your gut!” To me, life always seemed a bit TOO risky to just be trusting my body parts to direct and lead me. What if that “ILL” feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach wasn’t my anxiety but just the bean burrito I ate for lunch coming back to haunt me? Or, what if my “perception” or the mental impression I had about someone was completely wrong? Maybe they actually aren’t the lazy, arrogant snob that I had them chocked up to be. Do you see the ongoing quandary that could constantly be a battle for the attention inside my brain box?

This tricky word perception — or more so, the phrase, “it’s all a matter of perception” — has me thinking and wondering. How many times do we make decisions based on how we perceive things to be? How many times do I make decisions based on “my” perceptions? Do we sell ourselves, and others, short because we only pay attention to what we “know” to be true? What if what we thought we knew to be true was only one part of the puzzle to the HUGE picture we call the human race?

All this wondering and pondering taken a few steps farther has brought me to these questions. Are Democrats and Republicans alike in danger of missing the truth about each other because of the perceptions we have about each other? Are all Republicans gun-toting, white supremacists? Do all Democrats really want to do away with our 2nd Amendment Rights? 


What about the Southern Baptist youth group kids who had an encounter with the Living God? Was their encounter with God devoid of really having happened because there were things happening that the Southern Baptist does not practice? Does one denomination have the upper hand on hearing from God over another? 


What about the school bud driver who feels as though he as quite literally thrown under the bus because he called out an issue with as student and wasn’t heard and then when the unthinkable happened — that bus driver became the fall guy all for “the matters of perception”? How does saving face play into this idea of perception? Or does it? 

Over the last several months, as this word nerd has pondered this loaded word perception, my mind has continually been brought to the words-from a soul far wiser than I could ever hope to be-scripted many years ago…

“When I was a child; I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now, I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also am fully known,” wrote one of the Church’s early leaders, Paul, some 2000 years ago.

Paul’s words have propelled my pondering, and I have suddenly been left with a whole new set of questions to mull over.  What if this whole idea of perception is some how connected to looking in that dimly lit mirror Paul speaks of? What if we only know in part and the whole will not be “fully” known to us on this side of heaven? Maybe the depth to which we can fully understand the power of perception will only be ours when we fully know and understand who we really are and all we were created to be? 

And that, My Friends, is what I would call intuitive understanding and insight.

In The Fray,

LJS-Your Resident Word Nerd 

intentions vs. impact

A few months ago I attended an opportunity to learn more about others. As with any training, there were various levels of comfort regarding the diversity training. A treasured colleague of mine made a comment to me that has lingered in my mind. “As a Black female I’m sick of others telling me of their good intentions…bottom line, they need to listen to me if they really want to know what the impact is on me. They don’t understand that their intentions have a daily impact.”

I need to thank my friend who expressed her feelings to me regarding intentions vs. impact. Her comment about our training has been most impactful on me, although not her intention. She has made me think daily about various things.

Knowing her comment applied to both ends of the spectrum of those attending roused my curiosity into how people make decisions. Do we truly consider all real and perceived impacts of our intentions? Have we developed a sense of the pain our “good intentions” may cause? We all develop constructs in our mind of what something is or isn’t. That is necessary to have better understanding of everything we experience. But are our experiences broad enough to make decisions that do not harm others personally or emotionally? Are there critical questions we should ask ourselves, especially when making the most difficult decisions?

Do we truly hurt others unknowingly in ways that have a lasting impact? When our lives are overwhelming do we cling to that which we know more tightly? Why don’t we ask this question more authentically on a regular basis? 

Think of the various responses to the non-violent raising a closed fist on the Olympic winners’ stand several years ago, returning Vietnam Veterans in the early-mid 1070’s, “taking a knee” protest or the reactions to recent Supreme Court decisions. On a much smaller scale, how we react to family and friends? Do we really consider what it is like to walk in another’s world or consider what road of experiences they have traveled to come to their reactions?

How often have we tried to do something nice, just, or with “good intentions” only to find the impact was far from our expectations? Even hurtful to others. Our decisions can have long term consequences for both ourselves and others. If you have ever been a parent, good friend, leader of an organization or elected to a position, this has happened more than you care to admit. How often have you said, “If I had only known?”

 Being willing to absorb another’s experienced anguish or joy can often have influence in how we impact others, but also how we make a difference in our own lives. Remember when someone just smiled at you when you were having a bad day? Have you ever been in a tent alone with a mosquito?

Was there a difference made?

Our eldest son, who switched his various science majors more than once during his undergraduate career, came to the conclusion second semester of his Senior year that he never wanted to take another science class ever again. He faced a quandary as an integrated physiology major because he wouldn’t graduate on time with his current major nor would he be happy in a future healthcare provider career.

His intentions were good when he started. He loved science. Taking every advanced class at a university in which he could enroll, only to find after four years he no longer liked any of the classes. He did what he always did when he had major decisions to make; he called home. He was truly trying to reckon how to move forward, but also to let us know that we had just paid his four years of undergraduate studies that he may not actually use in the future. I give him credit for having the bravery to make that call. 

We listened to his options: continue with his loathed major and be one credit short causing him to go an extra semester or switching majors again, which may also cause him to extend his undergraduate career. As parents we listened to his angst, his reasoning. He was prepared for us to coax him to remain his course, but instead we listened to his intent. He truly no longer liked what he was studying. My husband summed it up well by telling him, “You have forty years to be miserable in your career, what’s another semester or year to figure it out?” 

It meant another $40,000 tuition added to our budget, but his ability to share his gifts in a profession he would enjoy were more important to us than the financial consequences. We ended the conversation with, “You will make the right decision for you. Just let us know what you decide after you look into your options.”

His trip to his advisor revealed that he could graduate on time if he switched his major to Biology. His counselor also let him know that the application process for graduate school was still open, so he proceeded to apply. He attended graduate school for hospital administration the following fall semester and completed his M.H.A. He has since found that his years of those advanced science classes has made him a more empathetic decision maker as a hospital administrator since he had a better understanding of what health care professionals and patients experience. He has never regretted his decision of switching gears when he was so near the end.

Our intentions were good when he called us, but I am thankful we truly listened to his concerns as he was struggling with a life changing decision. Had we not, the impact could have been very different. 



three little birds

Being of Jamaican birth, naturally I might be and, in fact, I am inspired and motivated by the words and songs of the legendary, late Bob Marley. One of his most famous songs is entitled the same name of this essay; that is “Three Little Birds.” 

The song was released in 1977 on his album “Exodus.” Later it was released as its own single. The song tells of Marley’s early morning awakening to 3 birds who are sweetly singing by his door. Bob could have been writing about any of the tropical singing birds in Jamaica. The picture painted by this idyllic setting is that the birds were conveying to him not to worry about anything great or small. At the time, Jamaica was going through a political identity affirmation. It was only in its 15th year of independence as from Great Britain. With this new independence, it was trying to understand and see which form of government was best for its people and progress. Michael Manley was the Prime Minister. Manley was attempting to integrate Socialistic principles into Jamaica. The example for Manley was Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Cuba was directly backed by the then apparently powerful Soviet Union. 

Castro and Cuba had convinced Manley and others throughout the world that their Socialism/Communism was a great dynamic for their country. They were most influential in the Caribbean region of Jamaica, which was only 90 miles away from Cuban shores. They had convinced Manley and other Jamaicans that Cuba was a good working example. In fact, Cuba’s greatest import to Jamaica was sending medical personnel to Jamaica to augment the challenged medical system. In the 1970s, many Jamaican students of college age then went to Cuba to learn medicine. Cuba eventually also sent funding to start grade schools in Jamaica. It was apparent that Cuba had a foothold in the emerging country. Some of this influence also slipped into other Caribbean islands such as Grenada. 

The Jamaican people had what could only be described at the time as a “soft” civil war. Many people who were very aware of (the Soviet Union backed) Cuba were actively trying to resist their influence. There were also those who thought the idea of going the way of Cuba was a good idea. The political parties — the PNP (headed by Michael Manley) and the JLP (headed by Edward Seaga) — convinced their followers that each of their sides were just and using almost any means to defeat the other. During 1972-1980, which was under Manley’s governance as Prime Minister, this situation manifested itself as violence and death in the Jamaican streets. The political death toll was in the hundreds annually. It is estimated that as many as 844 people were killed in political violence surrounding the election of 1980. It is in this climate that Bob Marley wrote “Three Little Birds.” 

There was much to worry about. Besides the violence and killings, there was rampant inflation, shortages of consumer products. There was also a “brain drain” going on from Jamaica. Its most influential and educated citizens were fleeing primarily to the US. 

“Bob,” as we Jamaicans affectionately refer to him, saw his role as getting people to work together rather than fight. He wanted the Jamaicans to focus on the positive. He was part of a peace rally in 1978 that prompted both party leaders to attempt to work together. This iconic picture is a significant moment in the political history of Jamaica. It shows the leaders of the two distinct parties in Jamaica at the time making a gesture of peace.

Fast forward to today – how can we apply the “Three Little Birds” principle to our lives. We must find a way to dismiss the negative and naysayers in the world. On Jan. 1, 2000 when no planes fell out the sky because of “Y2K,” we should have been encouraged that those predicting the end of the world (again) were incorrect. On Dec. 12, 2012 when the Mayan calendar’s “zero dating” apocalypse did not occur, we should have been even more skeptical. Remember, too, Al Gore’s doomsday clock that the world had until Jan. 27, 2016 to stop climate change by ending use of fossil fuel. I’m not exactly sure how he was able to get such a precise date, but surely he must know. By now each of us should know that there are those who will do their best to convince us of doomsdays yet to come. Equally by now, we should know that no matter what the real or perceived crisis is, we find ways to press on.

Marley’s “Three Little Birds” song is not about some naïve person simply hoping for the best. He is merely applying the universal — and in the case of Christians, the concept that humans are ultimately not in charge of the final destiny of ourselves. That force we acknowledge as God governs everything (seen and unseen). “ Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We see that inflation is currently running at 9.1% and gas prices are significantly higher. We don’t worry – we pray. Ukraine is being crushed by Russia. We don’t worry – this will be solved some way, somehow. Water in Lake Mead in the Las Vegas area, where I live, is at an all time low; it too will be all right. So many other issues to worry about – the debate on guns… Roe v. Wade, immigration… is Crypto currency a thing of the future?… will Elon Musk ultimately buy Twitter?… (I put that last one in as a lighter issue). All issues great and small will be solved and surpassed with other issues of the future.

I keep three little toy birds in my backyard on the wall. The Vegas sun has bleached them almost to not being recognized. I guess it is almost time to replace them. I keep them there to remind me of Bob’s song and the concept of “don’t worry” to get through every day. It is simple, melodic, and calming, going straight to the soul.


is history repeating itself?

Twenty years ago, I was driving my son to middle school, and he hilariously verbalized his complete and utter disdain for history class.  Why I asked?  What is it about history that perturbs your 8th grade brain so?  His answer was, and I quote, “Because the same stupid things keep happening over and over again.”  All I could do was chuckle and acknowledge that yes, indeed, he was right. (In addition, I reminded him that no matter how he feels about it, a good grade was still required.)

The older I get the more I realize that history truly does repeat itself.  Case in point? I am becoming my mother. I talk to complete strangers in the airport, I prefer to go out when the crowds are gone, and I suspect the universal cure for any ailment lies in regular bowel movements (or Alka Seltzer, the unsung hero of the medical world).

My personal POV on history acknowledges that I have been privileged to have watched two previous strong and able generations grow into old age.  They have experienced trials aplenty, and joys to match.  Both generations have seen multiple wars, astounding feats of innovation, and economic changes few have witnessed. Yet, I’ve watched my ancestors precede me with growing concern about things they perceive to be growing concerns.  It’s human nature to see the past, grapple with the present, and fear for the future. I see myself in this inevitable role with every passing day. History is indeed repeating itself. 

Typically, I am not a woman of fear. I’m a serious goofball.  I love to laugh (in fact, it’s my job), and I love to enjoy life.  I do smile at the future and long to leave the world a better place than I found it 50-some years ago.  However, these days, I find myself longing for the past on an emerging scale, something I heard my parents (and grandparents) lament as they neared the autumn of their lives. 

My mother, who was born in 1935, remembers the days of victory gardens, sugar rations, and family church every Sunday.  I’ve often heard my lovely mom say how much she misses the days of manners and decorum, ice cream for a nickel, and leisurely family evenings around the radio listening to programs without profanity. Sure, color television, vegetable aisles and modern conveniences have their benefits, but they come with a lifestyle often void of simpler times. 

I am the tail end of the Baby Boomers, so here is a bit of history I hear my heart longing for.

I miss having 3 TV channels (with UHF as a back-up on occasion if the tin-foil was on point). That may sound dull these days, but it’s true.  Only 3 channels, without endless vampires, zombies, or sports shows. Why do I miss it?  Everyone in America watched the same popular shows (with mostly normal looking people), rudimentary news, and major competitions, giving us a commonality that galvanized our interpersonal conversations at work and school.  (I didn’t even notice that the actors had yellowish teeth or oversized pores until HD came out). 

Today there are a gazillion TV channels with shows I have never heard of starring unknown-yet-perfectly-sculpted actors who were clearly plucked from a pool of models who could memorize lines.  (Do you think Loretta Swit would ever be cast as today’s Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan? I think not.) Stars HAVE to be gorgeous now because we can see every nook and cranny of their artificially-bulging pectoids and their blindingly-white choppers. Shows entertained us (thank you Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett) and sometimes taught us (Archie Bunker and “Roots” paved the way), but rarely slapped us on the hand for just being who we are, even if the slap was deserved.  I miss those days. I truly do. 

I also miss the good ole days before cell phones came along. (Have you ever rewatched “Seinfeld” and noticed that very few plot lines would even work today with the advent of cell phones? An airport pickup snafu would have easily been averted with a one-line text.)   I refer to my iPhone as the shortest leash in the world.  Do I really want people to know where I am at all times and in all places? Is it absolutely imperative that I be globally available while on vacation, at a wedding, or worse yet, indisposed? (I’m not saying I take my cell phone in to the powder room, but there is a reason so many phones end up swimming in deep doodoo. I’m just sayin’). Sometimes anonymity is a gift we no longer give ourselves, or others for that matter.  “Where are you?” “Why didn’t you answer?” “You haven’t responded!” These are phrases I could do without. 

Social media is another social experiment that leaves me longing. Posting about every bite of food, new outfit, and every single outing is not my idea of fun.  I call it “Fakebook.” People only put the best of what they do, or want you to think they do online. C’mon. Have you ever seen someone post about their son, standing next to the parole officer? Or how about a picture of their daughter’s infected tramp stamp? A dream vacation… to Detroit? I don’t think so.  The fact is, I would rather live my life than post about it. I waste so much time looking at images about people I don’t know, and who do not know me, that I could actually have learned to surf with the amount of time I’ve spent “surfing.”  Our collective entertainment has shifted. I’m constantly amazed how Americans cannot watch a 2-hour movie anymore, but can easily watch 120 one-minute silly cat videos without pause. I have become one of those people. How did I get here?

Yeah, I sound like my mother. Things were better in the past, and the next generation is going to hell in a hand basket. We’ve all heard it.  That being said, let me pause to reflect that in many ways the here and now is better for many. I’m not going to camp on this thought, but women and people of color have more rights than ever before, and that’s worth cheering about. However, in many ways, history is repeating itself, and it feels like there’s nothing you or I can do about it. 

But there is something we can do.  In fact, I can think of several things.  We can impact the future by learning from our predecessors. When we listen to their journeys, we not only validate their lives, we cement their valuable place in history.  As for ourselves, we can stand more fully in the present of our own day-to-day experiences, so we completely capture our historical memoirs in emotional HD.  This practice will enable us to vibrantly, and positively pass on our life gleanings to those who are merely beginning to traverse their paths. And finally, we can wholly acknowledge that history is made up of humans, and the human equation is always changing. Like it or not, every day we make history as we go. Let’s make it worth repeating. 



is it fact or fiction?

One of the current topics in education is about the role schools play in social emotional learning (SEL).

Conversations around SEL often include “Don’t tell my children what to think.”

There is also conversation about bias in news reporting.

I often click on the four major news station websites to see the difference in what makes a headline on one news outlet that may not even make it to the front page of another.

And I find myself asking another question.

What is a fact?

Merriam Webster defines a fact as something that has actual existence.

For example:  There were people outside the Capitol on January 6th with American and Trump flags.

That is a fact.

It would be fiction to say that there were not people outside the Capitol on January 6th with American and Trump flags.

Now we could go further with our statements of fact:

  • People bypassed security to enter the Capitol.
  • People used force to enter the Capitol.
  • The vote to certify the election did not occur in the timeline was delayed by hours.

Can we agree that all of these are facts?

Do we want to ignore some other facts?

  • Capitol police were injured.
  • Confederate and Nazi flags were on display.
  • The President tweeted on that day.

How do we recognize when we want to stop seeing facts?

And move beyond recognizing facts and into our own thoughts about a series of facts.

I have several thoughts about January 6th.

My thoughts create a great deal of emotion.

Some of the emotions are hard.

Causing me to ask myself, “What if…”

Thinking about who I want to have a conversation with to gain additional perspective.

What news channel do I want to tune into?

What actions do I want to take in my local community?

Asking myself is it all for nothing?

Or can the small acts lead to larger changes?

Or do I simply turn it off and not seek any more facts.

The thoughts causing emotions that are simply too much to handle.

You may be asking, what does this have to do with SEL?

A great deal.

Are we teaching our children what to think? Or are we teaching them how to think?

Recognizing what is fact?

What is fiction?

And most importantly – what is a fact vs. their own thoughts.

And taking it a couple steps further.

Understanding that their thoughts and their thoughts alone create feelings.

And those feelings drive within us a desire to take or not take action to create the results we want for ourselves and for the greater good of our communities.

Yes – my friends, our emotions do matter.

Understanding them can be one of the greatest tools in our toolkit of life.



we are answering the wrong question

We’ve all heard the uproar following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The justices are “so extreme,” taking away women’s rights, putting “the health and life of women in this country now at risk.” Activists and politicians are flocking to the cameras espousing their support of abortion rights and how wrong it is of Supreme Court justices not to share their opinion.

Except that wasn’t the question that was before the court.

I listened to dozens of politicians react to the decision, with those on the left arguing fervently in favor of abortion. But there is one thing I have yet to hear a single one of them say: “This decision was legally incorrect.”

Instead, their arguments are consistently simply in favor of abortion.

That is an ok opinion to have. I don’t happen to share it, but I respect it.

But whether abortion is right or wrong is completely irrelevant to the Court. They have one job, to interpret what the Constitution has to say about it.

And the Constitution doesn’t have anything to say about it. Furthermore, the Constitution says that anything it doesn’t say anything about belongs to the states.

Prior to 1973, some states decided to restrict abortion. Some did not. One way to look at Roe is that it created a woman’s right to an abortion. But another is that it took away states’ rights to govern this matter.

Read Roe. It seriously has no legal foundation. It declares that abortion can be forbidden in the last trimester, restricted in the middle, but must be unlimited in the first. Where in the world is that found in the Constitution? (“People have this right, but only for 3 months….”)

Rather than limiting his authority to the words of the Constitution, Justice Harry Blackmun made this up out of thin air. If you favor abortion, you may have celebrated that.

But how would you feel if today’s conservative court banned abortion nationwide based on the Constitution’s guarantee of the “unalienable right” of “life” (liberty, and the pursuit of happiness)? You might then agree with me that abortion is none of the Court’s business, not now, not 50 years ago.

In overturning Roe, the Court did not outlaw abortion. They simply restored the states’ right to do so.

Today’s protesters know this, so they avoid the argument. They don’t explain why the Court was wrong on legal grounds. They just argue in favor of abortion.

That is an appropriate debate for us to have, not in front of the Court or their homes (which is illegal), not even in Congress, but in state legislatures. If you are passionately in favor of abortion rights, go to your legislature and tell them so. If you don’t like the decisions they make, elect new representatives. Companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods can provide travel to states that allow abortion as part of their health insurance benefits. And people like me can stop shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

If your response is that abortion should be legal, just like the politicians, you’re answering the wrong question.



the stories we tell ourselves

As a psychology student, I find myself thinking often about our thoughts, emotions, behavior, and how the three interact with and affect one other. I’m someone who reads scholarly journal articles for fun and often personifies my brain in casual conversations, saying, “My brain did this,” or “My brain thought that.”

As I wrap up my undergrad career and prepare for grad school (all at the University of Central Florida—go Knights!), I’ve learned that many of the reasons behind what we think, feel, and do are to make ourselves feel good, protect ourselves, or avoid cognitive dissonance (discomfort we experience with contradictory beliefs or behaviors). Our brains create stories, the accuracy of which can be unreliable, and we want those stories to have endings that make sense to us.

This doesn’t mean that our thoughts or feelings can’t be trusted. On the contrary, I believe they both play important roles in our lives that are vital to learn about, pay attention to, and care for. What’s just as important, though, is an awareness that our thoughts and feelings don’t always communicate what’s objectively factual in ourselves, others, and the world. This can be really hard to differentiate and manage, and doing so takes lots of continual, mindful practice.

With all that in mind, I’ve found it valuable to translate some of the psychological concepts I’ve learned into actual thoughts or feelings I might have on any given day or in any given situation. Like stories, these ways of thinking portray characters, narratives, storylines, and emotions all with hopes of tying it all up in a bow that’s pretty to us at the end. Gaining an awareness of these stories I’ve told myself has helped me grow immensely, especially when what I become aware of makes me uncomfortable.

Here are some of the stories we might tell ourselves to feel good, protect ourselves, and avoid cognitive dissonance:

Feeling Good

  • I disagree with this person. Therefore, what they believe is irrational, wrong, or influenced by incorrect biases. (This is also known as the Objectivity Illusion.)
  • The world is a just and fair place. Therefore, people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.

Protecting Ourselves

  • When I succeed it’s because of what I’ve done and who I am, and when I fail it’s because of outside circumstances. On the other hand, when others succeed it’s because of outside circumstances, and when they fail it’s because of what they’ve done and who they are.
  • I (consciously or subconsciously) have this negative characteristic or tendency. Instead of addressing it in myself, I will point it out in others who are different from me. After all, I’m a good person without any major flaws.

Avoiding Cognitive Dissonance

  • Stories or situations without definite endings or causes are uncomfortable. Therefore, I will try to place blame even when blame doesn’t exist.
  • People without definite or familiar characteristics require more effort to understand. Therefore, I believe people groups who are not like me are all alike while people who are like me are all unique in their own ways.

Let’s be clear: I’ve had many (if not all) of these thoughts, and still do at times. Who doesn’t like to feel good, protected, and comfortable at their deepest, mental, and emotional levels? These stories are our brain’s and body’s ways of keeping our whole selves at some sort of comfortable, functional equilibrium. As you can imagine, though, these stories can have consequences that are unintentional and minor at best and intentionally harmful at worst.

One doesn’t need to dive deep into the world of psychology like I have to know that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have influence (probably more influence than we realize). My hope is that becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves might help us be kinder, lean into what’s uncomfortable, and maybe even gain a newfound respect for each other along the way.