Becoming More Aware

One time, when I was a young teenager, as I walked in the front door of my house, I got into trouble. I didn’t know that my mother was right behind me and I let the screen door close instead of holding it open for her. She was irate and reprimanded me. This stuck with me for a long time and I thought of it occasionally over the years. At the time, I was indignant because I thought it was so unfair to be scolded for something that I didn’t realize was happening, because I really, truly had no idea that she was behind me. In my mind, I was yelled at for not predicting the future. I can remember saying to myself over and over inside my head, but I didn’t know she was behind me! How can she be mad at me for not knowing something? Even now, thirty years later, I can still remember the feeling of not understanding why she was so angry. At the time, I kept replaying it over and over in my mind to see if I was missing something. I wish I could say that I came to understand the part I was missing soon after, but I did not.


It took a long, long time before I understood why she got mad. Years. Many of them. I wonder if my mother had had the ability, then, to articulate this lesson, which I am going to attempt to do right now, would I have been able to get it? Teenagers are narcissistic and see things through one lens only: self. This isn’t a criticism, it is an observation, but one that is often made scathingly and therein lies the problem. We don’t offer teenagers the opportunity to learn how their ignorance affects others. This is not a criticism of my mom. She had three other younger children to deal with, dinner to cook, a house to maintain, etc. Who has the energy to explain this lesson to a defensive, snippy, angry teenager with so much else going on? And even if she could have, would I have been receptive? I think that collectively we need to make ourselves aware of the huge impact awareness can have on everyone’s lives.

two people talking on a cliff

Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

This is a lesson I have struggled to teach my own daughter. She has never let a door close on me, but we repeatedly bump heads over her lack of respect for other people’s time. While she was growing up she had a nickname in our house: five-to-seven. We called her five-to-seven because it always took her five to seven minutes longer than anyone else to get ready. Or to come out to the car where we were waiting to leave. I won’t deny that there were many instances where I simply yelled at her and warned that I would leave her if she wasn’t in the car by the time I was. But also tried to teach her the lesson of awareness that eluded me so many years ago. I tried to help her to see how her behavior affects others. We had sit down conversations and I painted the big picture for her.

It did not result in her having a renewed sense of perfect time management or transform her into the one ready to go on time, every time. I think it is just in her to take forever getting ready, this may never change, or at least maybe not until she possibly has children of her own one day. Our conversations did, however, change her awareness. Now she understands how her behavior, any behavior, not just her time management skills, affects those around her. She is aware of others as opposed to just self. This awareness translates into all aspects of life. This awareness is what can change the world.

two men talking

We are all so wrapped up in our own feelings and our own problems we don’t often take off the lens of self and view how our choices affect those around us. This includes things as simple and inconsequential as being a good conversationalist to heavy things like understanding what it’s like for a Black person living in America. I have spent the past several years intentionally becoming aware. Or woke, if you prefer. But my definition is broad and includes being aware in every situation, all the time, not only in regards to social injustices. I mentioned using awareness to be a good conversationalist. I think this is an excellent place to start. It is small but requires intentional discipline. If you are like me and love to talk, this can be hard to do! But the fact that I can do it despite being a “talker,” means that you can too. You can practice becoming a more “aware” conversationalist, and then use this model in all aspects of your life. Become a more aware friend, partner, fellow shopper in a store, son, spouse, sister, boss, American, human.

As you sit and converse with someone, or a group of people, pay attention. Who is doing most of the talking? What are their (or your) words accomplishing? Is everyone being included in the conversation? Is anyone cutting anyone off? And are they doing it especially to further their own agenda (which could be as simple as being the center of attention)? When you take your turn talking, how and what are you contributing? Are you doing it simply to avoid silences? Are you moving the conversation forward? Is it a conversation at all or just a bunch of people sitting around listening to you? Look at people’s faces. How are they reacting to what each person is saying? When someone says something that sparks an idea in your own head of what you’d like to say next, do you stop listening and only focus on what you want to say? Do you continue to really hear what the other person is saying? Could the other person be saying more than what their words are conveying? Is there an underlying cry for help? Complaint? Praise? Are you really hearing what the other person is saying? Are you even giving them a chance to say it?

This may seem overwhelming for someone new to becoming aware. It sure can be. But a great first step is to just listen. What better way to attune yourself to the people and world around you than to stop and listen? And it does work. You know how you can learn a skill in one specific area, but later, while doing something completely different you find that old skill comes in handy? This is like that. If you practice awareness with something small, like in a conversation, your listening, identifying, recognizing, and interpreting skills will show up later in all sorts of situations. You might be setting your alarm for the next day when you have to go to an event. You might think of how important the event is for the person you’re going with and know that you want to honor that and you might set your alarm five to seven minutes earlier to be sure you are ready in time. Or you might be walking in your front door, knowing there was someone behind you at some point, and you might stop with your hand on the door and look back, to see if they are coming right behind you.

open door

Jan Tinneberg/Unsplash


The Power of Persuasion – Or Not

For my English Composition class I recently had to write a two paragraph explanation of a time in my life when I had to persuade someone to do something. This is the very first assignment for this class. I took a risk by making it lighthearted as I don’t know the professor yet and if he will approve or not. But as it is only the first assignment and I have all term to bring my grade up if this one tanks – I went for it. What do you think? Would you have been persuaded??


My best friend in the entire world is irrationally and horrifically afraid of all insects. I am a nature lover and so insects do not bother me, alive or dead. A few years ago we were in the basement of my childhood home and it was full of dead camelback crickets. She was freaking out. She didn’t want to go near them or even be within several long feet of them. At first I just terrorized her a bit by picking one up and chasing her around with it. But I started to think I could use these dead crickets to help her get over her fear. I tried to help her realize that realistically these crickets could not hurt her. Even alive, a few camelbacks would not harm her, but these especially couldn’t do anything to her as they were all dead. I asked her if she would consider touching one. Just a brief one fingered touch to a crispy leg. You would have thought I asked her to dip her entire hand into some sort of poisonous pain potion. She said that she would rather die and that if she so much as touched it that she actually would die. She’s a teeny bit of a drama queen. I told her the little fellow I was holding was named Harry Camel Back. I thought if he was more personified she might be less afraid.

Do you know – she eventually did touch him. I do think that my powers of persuasion are what did it. I explained to her the irrationality of her fear. I showed her how I was okay even though I was holding an entire handful of crickets. I made him seem less threatening by giving him a name. I suggested that by touching a dead one and seeing that no harm would come to her, she may be less afraid in the future when confronted with basements full of cricket carcasses.  Any of these things could have been what finally convinced her and I honestly believe that my arguments were solid. After she did it I gave her a tissue for her tears and remarked how proud I was of her. When I told her recently that I was going to use this story for my English class because I believe it was my powers of persuasion that helped her overcome her fear she said that she is still traumatized to this day and she only did it because she was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Which I guess is another strategy that could be used to persuade.

White Privilege



In my blog posts I don’t get political. I quit Facebook for many reasons (and years before the current “president” took office). People sharing misinformed and ignorant political views was one of them. But the purpose of my writing blogs first and foremost has always been for myself. I do it because I must. It has to come out of me. But I share it, usually to entertain and maybe teach a lesson. So I wrote this blog with the intention of only getting it out of me and onto the page. I would never share this type of intimate thought. It’s too controversial. It’s too real. It’s too personal. And then I realized that the entire idea behind it was that I’m afraid of becoming complacent and one sure way to be complacent is to never talk of the thing you’re complacent about, therefore allowing yourself to hide your inaction and failure to take a stance. Is the woman who watches a child get abused and does nothing just as bad as the woman who commits the abuse? Even if she isn’t “just as bad” (though maybe she is?) she at least is not innocent. So here we go.

You know how sometimes you know something in the back of your mind but it’s unacknowledged and unrealized? Or maybe taken for granted? That is how I have felt about my white privilege. And I realized it the other day while driving. I had this (Awful? Sad? Honest?) thought:

I can’t wait for Trump to be out of office so that I can stop being so angry on behalf of everyone all the time. I realized it was one of those moments where you have just said something to yourself that is really really honest but possibly really very horrible. What is at the heart of that thought? White privilege.

First let me at least say that I have been “color conscious” my whole life. And although racism affects all races and colors and I think our country has a problem with many types of minorities, for this blog I am referring to specifically black and white. I feel like many people know these three stories (at least the four of you who read this, Thank you Aunt Jackie) but here is my very first memory of color consciousness. I don’t remember how old I was but it was definitely between the ages of six and nine. I was on the front porch with one of my neighborhood friends. She lived in the corner house that was facing Echodale, a main road. We were playing. She pointed out that a black man was walking down Echodale. And then immediately and without warning she screamed, “We don’t want you here, get out of here ni**er!!” Then she ducked down behind the porch wall in a fit of giggles. As I was not expecting this and also frozen in a state of mortification I did not move at first. The man looked up at us and shook his head sadly and kept walking. I finally ducked down to where she was and burned with shame. I will never ever forget that feeling. I remember not even understanding fully what that word meant but that in our house it was bad. Very very bad. No one said that word in our house. My family, though Catholic, wasn’t overly Jesus-y or religious but our rules were centered on kindness. “Shut up” was also a forbidden word in our house because of how it made other people feel. We were taught that everyone is a person and deserves to be spoken to with respect.

The next thing I remember was when I was a few years older. We went to visit my godmother who lived on Anntana Avenue in Gardenville. Someone was walking down her street putting flyers on every door of each home. I don’t remember the exact wording of the flyers but it was warning all neighbors that a black family was moving in. I don’t remember if there were instructions or suggestions or any other information I just remember the feeling it gave me. I was once again ashamed of what people were doing.

The last story is about my dad and many people already know this story. I think I was a teenager when this came about but I honestly don’t know if it happened years before or not. My dad went into a Dunkin’ Donuts and there was a white man ranting and raving about “all the ni**ers”. My dad stepped up to him and told him to stop talking like that because he, my dad, used to be black. Was this the best way to handle an ignoramus? I don’t know but it was better than doing nothing. This is how my family was and is. We DO see color and always have because there is a difference in black and white. The difference is the history of our races in this country and the way we have treated each other and allowed that treatment to go on.

If anyone reading this is saying in your head right now that it isn’t that way anymore I would like to just tell you that I currently (in 2019) work with many people who call black people ni**ers, monkeys, and one woman who still says colored. None of them do it in front of me anymore but that is exactly, EXACTLY, the reason why some people think racism isn’t a problem. It’s because of my white privilege. I can make it clear that I do not tolerate that sort of behavior and the ignorant people will simply cease to show me their ignorance. And because I’m white, it doesn’t affect me. I can carry on like they aren’t small minded and uneducated because it changes NOTHING for me. This is the epitome of white privilege.

White privilege means much more than just my argument here, but I’m tackling the part that I believe people forget about, don’t understand, or refuse to admit. It means that your life is not in danger. Your actual physical life or your way of life. Your privilege allows you to not HAVE to talk about or deal with being the target of bigotry, racism, or ignorance because you are UNAFFECTED. Lucky you.

I understand that racism is not cut and dried. It is not as black and white as black and white. There are many gray areas. There are many factors and behaviors that affect each individual person’s ideas of another race. I understand that. So what is the answer?

There are so many nuances and intricacies involved in being a racist and also overcoming racism that it would take many blogs to cover it all. So I’ll just go with one idea. We need to HUMANIZE every single person. Every single person was once somebody’s baby. Was once a child. I have seen people who are racist behind closed doors go out of their way to help a black person. What is this phenomenon? How does this happen? I have seen this a lot actually. It’s on par with those people who say they aren’t racist because they have black friends. There is something in our brains that allows us to think differently about one single HUMANIZED person than a mass of people and all the stereotypes that go along with it. If you are an overt racist, I’m sure you are not reading this blog and I cannot help you with your hatred. But if you are someone who possibly suffers from residual, partial, closeted or inadvertent racism this is for you. Acknowledge your privilege. Here I am. Acknowledging mine. And when the current horrible person in charge of our country is hopefully replaced with someone less repugnant, I will remind myself to not be complacent. My mother has always said the right thing to do is usually not the easier thing. It might be hard and tiring to fight against ignorance and injustice and oppression but how much harder is it for the person being oppressed?

The value of wet socks.

puddle feet


It rained a lot this week. When I go to pick up elementary school children when it’s raining, mothers will stand on curbs with umbrellas covering the children. They will walk the children all the way to the bus doors so that their wee little ones don’t experience even a moment of rain. Curb lanes will be small rivers that children have to hop across to step onto the bus.

One mother wanted to be so sure that her kindergartner didn’t accidentally step down into the rushing water between curb and bus that she forwent the umbrella for a moment to lift her son the six inches from curb to bus. This was too much for my small friend. He squirmed and complained. The gap was so small that I don’t believe she did it because she thought he couldn’t. I think it was more because she knew the puddle jumping potential of that glorious curb lane might have been too enticing for him.

Something of my feelings over this behavior (of mom) must have shown on my face because she said to me, “Having wet socks in school all day is no fun.”

I’m a good sport and a friendly person so I smiled and nodded. Well I am a good sport and a friendly person but more importantly Christmas is coming and that particular bus stop of families gives generous Christmas gifts to the bus driver. Only like three people, INCLUDING my mother read this blog so I think I’m safe to tell you the truth.

I should not have smiled and nodded. I should have told ‘ol Dry Foot’s mom that there is great value in wet socks. This particular neighborhood has homes that all sell for seven figures. There is no disease or raw sewage in the rainwater running down their curb lanes. Her son’s feet were firmly encased in Under Armour shoes. So that removes the concern that him having wet feet all day could make him sick.


That’s it. That’s what she “saved” him from. And it came from a place of love. I’m sure it did. She is a sweet lady with sweet children (she did let her older son hop the gap himself). As parents, we would like to remove all discomfort from our children’s whole entire lives. And pain, suffering, sadness, or any other negative thing. But we can’t. What we can do is equip them with the skills to deal with it when it comes. How do we do that? By letting them do it.

When your parent or spouse or friend or anyone in your life warns you about doing something they think you shouldn’t do, does that always automatically make you not do the thing? Do you learn your own lessons by advice? Or do you have to experience the pain of a hot stove or a broken heart or an embarrassing situation where your own (wet or dry) foot ends up in your mouth? We learn our lessons by experiencing, feeling, living through the consequences of our actions.

Do you think my small friend will be tempted to puddle jump before school ever again? He has approximately twelve more years of regular school and rain is something that is likely to happen again, probably more than once.

This is going to sound crazy. But I wonder what would happen if she let him get wet socks and he had to go all day in them?  I’ve come up with a few different theories.

  1. Nothing would happen. He’s five. He might not notice they are wet in the same way your eight year old who has blue lips and uncontrollable shivering doesn’t want to get out of the pool because she’s having too much fun.
  2.  The wet socks annoy him slightly but the joy of jumping in the water was greater than the annoyance of wet socks. No biggie mom.
  3.  They drive him crazy. His feet are rubbing weird in his shoes now and he can barely concentrate to make his painted pasta shape necklace. He’s irritable with the teacher and comes home grouchy. But next time it rains and he’s tempted to jump in the puddle while waiting for the school bus, he will remember this.
  4.  This is the one I feel will be true no matter what: The socks will dry. Eventually.


These four theories I have come up with completely on my own. I was discussing this with a wonderful dear friend of mine and she had another to add. And by the way, she has two master’s degrees so she’s like super smart.

What if he gets the wet socks and whether it annoyed him or not, once he finally changes into clean, dry, warm socks he gets the clean, dry, warm sock feeling? You picture that for yourself right now. Oh yeah. Good right???

So not only does experiencing discomfort teach us life lessons about things we may or may not want to do but it teaches us gratitude for when we don’t have discomfort. And being grateful is the greatest gift you can instill in your children. Truly. Thanks Jen Monaldi!!