Yes to Resiliency!

Students Bertait College clip artRobby Soave’s recent article in the Daily Beast: “College students need remedial classes in how to be adults”, stirs me to write this blog response.

The article implies that our college kids are wimps that can’t handle real life. I’d like to suggest that this article’s snarky tone makes a mockery of what is really going on. While he seems to see the fact that students are seeking counseling more and colleges/universities are building resilience programs to support them is a bad thing, I think it would serve us all better to say, yes, FINALLY!  We’ve ignored mental health for generations and we are finally turning the corner on that.  People are seeking counseling when they need it. We’ve taken the shame out of seeking counseling but Soave’s article seems to want to put us back to those old days. That’s ridiculous. Continue reading


The first time I heard the phrase “bragplaining” was from a freshman college student at a prestigious college.  We were working together to deal with the high levels of anxiety and stress she was experiencing.  It had gotten so bad that she was considering dropping out.  As she discussed the pressures to fit in, she mentioned ‘bragplaining’—where students complain about all they have to do in such a way that it implies they have this incredible, successful life that requires them to juggle all these balls.  This had become the norm on campus.  She found it disgusting at one level but also found it hard not to get swept up into it even though it was making her ill.

The second time I heard the phrase was from a University professor telling me that on his campus, it had become epidemic.  Students were obsessed with taking on more and more just to feel as if they were being as successful as others.  The administration were truly concerned that this was having a detrimental impact on students.  They could see that it was increasing student depression, anxiety and possibly even suicide risk.

What’s old is new again? To me ‘bragplaining’ is a millennial phrase that replaces the ‘rat-race’ of previous generations.  Both phrases reflect the angst that results when we’re living hyper-busy lives to imply we’re successful.  Deep down inside, no one really likes it but we’re afraid to stop doing it because who will we be if we’re not part of this status quo, rat-race game?

When I started my private practice in the late 90’s, my clients were expressing this same dilemma.  They were caught up in doing what everyone else was doing (rat-race/bragplaining) and at first they thought it would bring them happiness.  But by the time they came to counseling, they were not finding happiness and joy in this process. They were concerned that this reflected there was something wrong with them because they were convinced everyone else was enjoying it—except them.  Having heard this from so many clients, I could honestly say to my clients—“No, no one is enjoying it—let’s work on changing it.”

The same thing is going on for these college students.  My freshman student was smart enough to recognize early on she was getting caught up in a ‘bragplaining’ cycle and it left her stressed out and anxious.  Initially she thought everyone else was doing okay with it while she was not but then it dawned on her—“No, we’re all miserable, I’m just willing to say it out loud!”

And in saying it out loud, she had taken a quantum leap to break out of the reactive pattern that most people live their entire lives in.  Our work together focused on what she would do instead. Because it isn’t really enough to break out of the rat-race.  Knowing what you don’t want to do is only half the equation.  The other side is figuring out what you do want to do instead.  This is when I introduced her to the Life Puzzle—a framework for building a whole and dynamic life.

This made great sense to her.  Together we worked on strengthening her edges/SELF and this enabled her to realize—she could be proactive and create a life that worked for her.  Yes, there was still plenty of bragplaining going on around her!  When she heard it, she would purposely smile and relax knowing this behavior did not reflect how she wanted to live her life.  With practice, it became a gentle reminder to her to stay focused on building her own whole and dynamic life.  So, while everyone else complained they didn’t have time for X because they had so much to do—she determined what she wanted in her life.  With that clarity, she created her own way of life and successfully completed her freshman year happily out of the ‘bragplaining’ cycle!

Lily Tomlin was once quoted as saying,  “Even when you win the rat-race, you’re still a rat.”  Getting out of the rat-race or bragplaining cycle is doable!  Life Puzzle is a framework for wholeness that enables you to refocus and create a sane life.  To learn more on how you can make these choices in your life—check out Life Puzzle—the DIY for you.

No Hate = No Gun Violence? Or is it just Human Violence?

Traveling on Rt 64 in Apex, NC, someone had placed a small sign in their yard with the word Hate in the ‘no’ symbol and then an = sign and the words Gun Violence in the ‘no’ symbol as well. As I drove by I thought, hmmm… that right? Or should it read No Hate = No Human Violence.

Because it seems to me that’s the core issue here—why are we so violent towards other humans? Every day we see human violence—whether it is a man punching his girlfriend, a college swimming star raping a coed, human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse and debates on waterboarding and torture too.

Some will say it is ‘human nature’ but I would argue it is not. We are taught to be violent and nowadays we are teaching violence 24/7, 365. The 500+ media channels show it 24 hoimage006urs a day.   It is the crux of every newscast and look at the line-up of television shows that are centered on violence! Take a peak at the movie selections in your area cinemas. I guarantee you that most of them are showing human violence. The last time I went to a movie, I sat through the previews—movie after movie for the coming summer crowds showed wars and fighting non-stop! I remember thinking—can’t they come up with anything else?

Even our futuristic movies like Star Wars (war!) show that the best we can hope for is that we’re at least on the winning side of violence. Where is the movie that shows us discovering new worlds and having an incredibly joyous welcome. Imagine the scene where everyone has been raised in an environment such that solving problems through violence would never even occur to them! I’d like to see that movie.

We see the results of this non-stop violence training. Nowadays killing someone is the solution to everything. Why shouldn’t a 20 something think this? All our crime dramas show people doing it as an “oh so no big dea
l thing”. Video games are all about killing and removing those we don’t like.

We seem to be in the Dark Ages right now. I want to call out for a Renaissance. It is time for us to change this.  Let’s start teaching wholeness instead and let us stop teaching hate. Human beings have the longest childhood of any species on the planet—it now lasts almost 24 years (that’s when our brain has its final growth spurt). In those 24 years we have plenty of time to teach our children to love themselves and love others. But instead we seem content to let them learn to hate. And yes, many of us walk into adulthood hating our SELF and then we transfer that to hating others.

Teaching wholeness as a framework for building our lives is so easy! And it is far more fun and wonderful than letting our children grow up in a world of hate. We can make this choice. Let’s pull out of this Dark Age we’re in. Let’s put down our guns and let’s stop teaching hate. When we stop teaching hate, we can stop human violence. And that will take care of gun violence too.image006

Parent Pathways: a “Life Puzzle” for the journey of raising teens.

The following article was written by Christa Gala, a columnist for the News and Observer.  It talks about the Parent/Teen workshop held in spring 2015.

Ann Kramer, a licensed professional counselor in Cary, started her college career studying social work, but soon changed her mind.

“Halfway through I was raising my hand saying, ‘Everything you teach me is how to fix people after they break,’” she says. “‘Why don’t you teach me how to help people not get broken in the first place?’”

Her professors all had the same answer: We don’t do that.

But that’s what Kramer had set her heart on doing, so she switched majors to study psychology and, later, received dual master’s degrees in counseling and early childhood development.

For the past 20 years, she’s been working with teens and their parents to help them learn the framework of what she calls “The Life Puzzle.”

“The Life Puzzle model I created over time working with clients,” she says. “What I found is we don’t really have a framework for what it means to put together a really whole life.” Continue reading

The only security in Life is Insecurity–learn to love it!

Here’s a spot I did on WNCN’s Monday Motivational MomentScreen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.14.06 AM

“The Only Security in Life is Insecurity–learn to love it!”  This may seem like an oxymoron, but in truth, when you live your life accepting that everything is always changing it is actually an easier way to live!  Then, when life does throw you a curve ball–it is not all that unexpected and you can respond with acceptance.

Unfortunately most of us spend our lives trying to figure out the exact opposite–how to get everything secure and safe all the time.  We expend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to get control over the world and keep it from upsetting our secure life.  But try as you might, the world just keeps on coming! What I’m suggesting is that you let go of trying to get everything perfect and instead, live life as it comes.  When you do, you’ll find you have more time to live life in the present moment and the capacity to handle what comes your way.  That’s what Life Puzzle making is all about!


Healthy eating rewrites your life story

In a world where we often feel powerless, the efforts we make to eat healthy, good and nutritious food is a statement of power.  It isn’t easy to do this because  grocery shelves are filled with lots of processed foods, fast food restaurants are on every corner and our fast paced lifestyles can quickly undermine our best intentions of eating a healthy diet.

The second you decide to own this area of your Life Puzzle, you change your life story forever. 


What could be healthier than fresh veggies!


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All I want is for my children to be happy …..

Ran across this TedTalk by Jennifer Senior: For Parents, happiness is a very high bar.  Jennifer is a writer for New York Magazine and author of “All Joy and No Fun” which essentially discusses modern parenthood.  Her thesis is that parenting has now become burdensome due to the pressures of culture to ensure that our children have these incredibly happy childhoods.

I think she hit the nail on the head when she says that parents are genuinely Continue reading

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Wholeness….

I think I got the phrase wrong.  It’s supposed to be Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  But with all due respect to our Founding Fathers—I’d like to change it.

Not that happiness isn’t a wonderful thing to work towards, but it isn’t sufficient for us in the 21st century.  Written in the 18th century, the pursuit of Happiness made sense because lives were very tough back then.  A little bit of happiness looked like a pretty good outcome for all the hard work of a life that had the liberty to pursue happiness. Continue reading