Just Us On The Planet



I sit in the meditation circle and breathe deeply. The silence is truly golden. My thoughts drift— get the car inspected, mail the birthday gift, make a run to the grocery store. Guided by meditation gurus, I try to let the passing thoughts be just that, passing images, like ships sailing by on clear blue water. The practice of sitting still without evaluating, weighing options, and planning means my mind is actually liberated. The 30 minutes fly by.

After the meditation, those present in the circle take turns reading sections from a Zen master like Pema Chodron, a poet like Mary Oliver or a mystic like Julian of Norwich,  We happily wrestle with words and meanings— concepts of belonging, of love, of forgiveness, of beauty, and more. Our diverse worlds come together and we relish the connection. We end on a cloud of understanding.

Exiting; however, we lose our sweet spots, and by the time we head for our cars, we are part of the same pigeonholing, polarizing population around us speaking of “them” with sourness.  “Them” being the Democrats or the Republicans, the Christians and the non- Christians, the teens and the elders, the bosses and the employees, the carnivores and the vegetarians, the public schools and the private schools, the rich and the poor, the Americans and the foreigners. And the list goes on endlessly! Thoughts and feelings of them and us engulf our being.

Homemaker Living on the Streets of New York City


The Big Apple received its first arctic blast of the season on November 11, 2017. Temperatures dropped to 23 degrees, setting a new record for the city. Savvy New Yorkers, bundled up in puffer coats, gloves, and wrap-around scarves, scurried about as usual on foot—or rather on boot.

Construction and renovation of buildings are constant in this city. As a visitor to Manhattan and unaccustomed to a wind chill in mid-November, I put my head down to block the icy blasts and hurried along a sidewalk under improvement. Suddenly I spotted—something or someone — hidden under a mound. A vibrant colorful blanket caught my eye.  Under this unusual showpiece covering, I suspected must be layers of insulation to preserve body heat— old newspapers, fragments of moving pads, plastic garbage bags, cast-off quilts, and a cardboard mattress.

It was the blanket; however, that made a statement…


it broadcasted here —on this pallet— a special person lives.  A slight movement at the foot of this bundle, seemed like a dog might be inside too, wagging its tail. Next to the mound were shopping bags and a suitcase, not so unusual in the traveling homeless population.

Above the rounded pile where the person slept were signs of homemaking. In a make-shift open-air closet, shirts hung neatly on hangers from scaffolding poles, as were pairs of shoes, perfectly matched, clipped to hangers by clothes pins and hung on opposite poles. It was clear that this cocooned person was innovative and a natural nester. She/he made this spot on a busy sidewalk, in the most populous city in the United States, a home. Some folks just have the knack.

According to The Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, In September 2017, there were 62,351 homeless people including 15,553 homeless families with 23,445 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system.

In addition, the Coalition states, each night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent City surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.

The hotel where I was staying in the city, mere blocks from this homeless person living on a sidewalk seemed worlds apart. The injustice hurt. My heart ached and still does for those who endure this life.

I imagine the complex solution as a trinity—preventing homelessness, dealing with daily homelessness, and providing continuing support to end homelessness.

Despite the cold and the cruel way this person lives for whatever reason, my heart was opened seeing the ownership, the resolve, and the raw beauty created by a unique sidewalk homemaker.

An ode to the human spirit.


I Want to Get It, But I Just Don’t

A remark from the International Women’s Day leaders in Washington D.C. —on January 21, we marched, on March 8, we strike. I want to be in solidarity with my gender yet I struggle with this approach. I really don’t understand the purpose and the goals. Don’t get me wrong. In the sixties when Women’s Consciousness Raising Groups were flowering mostly in major cities and suburbs, I was right there. A young mother meeting with other women in homes, reading the emerging women’s literature, and discussing what we felt were important issues. And important issues they were.

A snapshot of this time—my husband’s Harvard Law School class of 1963 had over 500 students, only 16 of them women. We all knew this had to change and slowly it did.

Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972, transformed women’s athletics and girls’ goals. The number of women in Congress began to expand. Schools, scouting, and parents began to push math and science curriculum for girls and provide leadership opportunities. Almost overnight for me, I began to see female pediatricians, attorneys, and principals. Positions reserved in my childhood for men.

Today three of the eight sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices are women. And to circle back, the Harvard Law School Class of 2019 is 51% female.

I know, I know, in the United State there is still an imbalance with gender representation and in some cases, respect. CEO’s of major corporations and their boards are predominantly male. Superintendents of our nation’s public school systems are over 75% male. Our new Congress is 80% male.

So I get the issues and some of the angst, yes, but striking makes no sense to me. Women in the United States and other countries have moved up the economic, political, and social ladder by education and grit. Being a former educator, I am especially bothered that the strike forced two Washington D.C. area school systems to close—the Alexandria City Public School System in VA and the Prince George County Public School system in MD. Both of these school systems serve low income students who desperately need a good education.

March 8, 2017—for some women in the D.C. area it meant celebrating International Women’s Day by going on strike. They will remember carrying signs, marching in parades, and listening to speeches. Or maybe, just staying home.

March 8, 2017— for thousands of children in the Alexandria and Prince George Public School Systems, it meant school being canceled. They will remember missing:

  • A free or reduced fee school lunch
  • As kindergarteners, their turn being the line leader for the day, directing their classmates in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
  • As struggling students, time with a resource teacher or volunteer tutor
  • A scheduled library period to hear a story, learn a research technique or discover a book
  • A previously planned slot to explain a science project
  • A much need review of fractions and decimals before the test on Friday
  • A lunch-time meeting with the student government leaders and the counselor to plan an anti-bullying program
  • A civics class debating how a bill becomes a law
  • A biology II class interviewing a noted scientist by Skype
  • A visiting author, artist, nonprofit leader
  • After school classes and programs such as chess, SAT prep sessions, scouts, rehearsals for musicals and concerts, athletics practices and scheduled competitions, which often keep students connected to schools and help prevent drop outs

Schools, especially large public systems are cumbersome entities. Schedules are not easy to re-configure and a day of instruction missed is almost impossible to recapture.

The solution for bridging the gender gap everywhere has always been education. If you educate girls to be the best they can be, the returns are enormous for each girl and society. And as she moves toward self-sufficiency, the positive effects continue if she bears children.

Women educators or caregivers who go on strike are self-serving even if they believe they have lofty goals. Children and families operate in the present and can’t help thinking, “What about me now, today?”

Gimmicky pink hats and red dresses divert us from the real issues—educational opportunities for all.


Chaos-Crumble or Try to Get Centered


Each day, each hour it seems, we are assaulted by the news that we don’t know how to process. We don’t know how to react. We don’t know what to do. Fake news distorts reality. Real news alarms us. On either side of the ideological/political front, there is no real consensus of what is correct, what is true, or what is the best course of action?  We scurry about to keep up with the tweets, the changes enacted, and the intense reactions. Furthermore, there are splinter groups within each party on specific significant issues. What to do?

Some of my friends are just whining (yup).

Others have gotten unstuck and have turned their fears about our country’s state of direction into action.

Some are contacting their elected representatives.

Others are doubling up on their tutoring sessions in low-performing schools.

Some are meeting with bipartisan groups engaging in civil discourse and problem-solving.

Others are meditating.

Some are contributing funds and time to causes and organizations they favor.

Others are vowing to be kinder, more thoughtful, and gracious to strangers.

Some are getting back into politics at the grass-roots level.

Others are participating in interfaith activities with an open heart and open mind.

Some are partnering their families with immigrant families.

Others are writing thoughtful blogs like The Mosey Project.


Doing something actually relieves some of the anger and angst from all camps. Messing about in the muck through casual conversations or social media really advances nothing and makes everyone feel worse.  Each one of us is different with distinct personalities and passions. The secret is to tap into our talents and interests, avoiding any comparisons or judgments that my contribution is better than yours.

 We just don’t know what works in this chaos. Maybe the shared doing—the cumulative effect is what matters. But here’s the thing—the doing has to be something that helps, not hurts. Something that is healing, not hostile. We have all had enough of that!

Okay—don’t laugh at my doing—I’m handing out underwear to homeless people. It’s not about clean undies versus going commando. It’s about being one with, connecting with those who are different from me and yet the same. The briefs and panties are merely a gesture recognizing a common human need—underwear. So the homeless folks tell me what they want. I search through my tote bag with a variety of sizes and colors and offer them their choice. Their hand reaches out to mine to take the underwear.

We touch. We smile. We talk.

And the gap between us starts to shrink.




New Year, New Opportunities, New Attitudes


The lists are out for the past year—best movies, books, restaurants, news articles, and more. I admit it okay, I love these! But the calendar is nudging me toward the New Year and the possibilities that await me, await us. If the goal is just to be on “a best list”, then probably we are already lost souls. Beyond craving list membership, digging deeper discovers meaning. This takes some reflection and some work. I turn to books. Others turn to TED Talks, popular blogs, history channels or poetry. All rich sources.

A fine friend, Ginny Agnew, attorney, reference librarian, political activist, and poet introduced me to George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.

According to some historians, Washington as a young lad copied by hand a list of 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation compiled by Jesuit educators in the 16th century for young gentlemen. What was likely at first a penmanship exercise, later became a personal platform for Washington as President of the United States. Some of the rules are period pieces that make you chuckle such as the 92nd Rule—Take no salt, nor cut your bread with your knife greasy.

Others, like the 1st Rule—Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present, could work for today. In reading all 110 rules and finding some a bit silly to us in 2017, the common thread remains—how to show respect to others in everything we do. The Jesuit educators who fashioned this list and George Washington who replicated it and acted upon it realized that behaviors not just words were the essence of respect and leadership.

And from another voice—

The ultimate test for a leader is inspiring others to perform with passion at maximum proficiency. This sounds so simple but it is difficult to achieve without knowing how to make it happen. Even in the military, with all of the rules and ranks, real leaders are able to enlist true followers because of who they are and how they lead, not merely because of what is demanded.

Creating a culture is perhaps the most difficult job for a principal [or CEO, or President], yet it is at the center of any change initiative. You do this by words, of course, but mostly by actions. If you are purposeful and genuine, the shift will be noticeable. Begin with the basics. Get in the habit of saying “please” and “thank you” even if you are asking people to do things that are part of their jobs. When you say these words and really mean them, a bond is forged, but don’t fake this. Everyone can smell a phony, which is worse.

   The Principal’s Chair, Who Sits There Matters, A Secret of School Success

                        By Judith D. Knotts






Consider This

“Winning was easy, young man.  Governing’s harder” said senior statesman General George Washington to ambitious and talented Alexander Hamilton in the American sensation—Hamilton on Broadway and tour.  

Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the unique lyrics, music, and book for the musical Hamilton was intending to give us a new take on the history of our founding fathers, I suspect, yet so many of Miranda’s lines, like Washington’s to Hamilton are appropriate for today — sign of a creative genius!

Maybe all aspiring leaders should take note of Washington’s words. And from another voice:


Honoring the Leadership Position

Accepting the Role

A leader is selected in some way. Either those in power identify who is to lead, or the people themselves elect a leader by formal vote or by informal agreement. By notice of sheer numbers alone, the one versus the group, a leader leads a life of privilege and power. A narcissist abuses privilege; an altruist respects privilege. A tyrant wields power; a visionary shares power.

When you agree to be a principal (or President, or Cabinet Member or CEO)… you are saying, “Yes, I will honor the leadership position with all of the unwritten expectations that go with the title.” Your followers are assuming that you understand and accept these essential conditions of a leader’s job.

            —The Principal’s Chair, Who Sits There Matters, A Secret of School Success

                        Dr. Judith D. Knotts






Caution,The Political Waters are Rising Save Yourself!

This presidential election season has been toxic. Candidates and the media have nearly drowned us in dark, dirty waters. When this seemed beyond our human capacity to tolerate, social media really revved up, and somehow the barrage of ugliness seemed even worse coming from everyday people.

Perfectly sane and smart folks began going round the bend, posting horrid photos and remarks said by and about the candidates. The hunger for gotcha moments is frightening.

We’ve become stone-throwers and barbarians who cheer on the lions in the arena — attack and kill!  We didn’t even realize this was happening. It must have been contagious. The poisonous fumes seeped into our minds, our bodies, and our souls like thieves in the dark of night.

Let’s recapture who we were before all this madness began. Of course, first, we must vote —with our heads and a grasp of the real issues at stake. It is a unique privilege.  Then we must let go and not let the foulness of this political season change our innate goodness and joy of being alive.  Let’s move on to nobler things.

Why not:

  • Limit time watching newscasts and social media—they pollute


  • Go for a walk and take some pictures of Mother Nature’s art with a cell phone


  • Write a thank you note to a grandparent, parent, friend, or colleague


  • Celebrate the season and being alive to enjoy it with a pumpkin or some leavesimg_0096


  • Go to a church, a synagogue, a mosque or an art museum and sit there quietly for a while absorbing the stillness which can calm the mindless chatter


  • Take your dog for a walk or volunteer to be a dog walker at the local animal shelter—exercise and unconditional love— a great combination


  • Make a list of things for which you are grateful


  • Rake leaves or sweep the walk for new parents or a senior citizen on your block


  • Bake a pie— use fresh or frozen pie crusts, it doesn’t matter, then pass out pieces of pie and talk recipes not politics


  • Listen to John Rutter’s Look at the World  on YouTube before you go to bed. You will sleep like a baby with sweet dreams instead of images of political fist pounding and strident insults making you toss and turn all night 



Breathe out hatred, breathe in love

Breathe out ugliness, breathe in beauty

Breathe out me, breathe in you


Ah— that’s better. It’s working. I’m me again.


The Rippling Effect of Ethical Missteps

Consider this article from:

The Austin American -Statesman  October 2, 2016:

The principal of San Marcos High School resigned this week after she admitted to changing as many as 100 end-of-year grades from 2014 to 2016, according to the San Marcos school district’s superintendent. We know nothing more. There may have been a reason, but it is pretty hard to imagine what could have prompted this bizarre behavior.

Another article to give us pause:

The New York Times April 1, 2015:

ATLANTA — In a dramatic conclusion to what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, a jury here on Wednesday convicted 11 educators for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that tarnished a major school district’s reputation….What is happening? Didn’t we put educators, particularly principals and superintendents, in the past on a pedestal? They were thought to be wise and above reproach ethically. They’d spent years and years in school being educated after all didn’t they? They were our communities’ superheroes, examples of what education and work could accomplish for those fortunate enough to be chosen. We looked up to them and trusted them to educate our children and model goodness. Their betrayal stings!What does this mean to children who hear about their principal’s or superintendent’s unethical behavior in these instances, and sadly, in other situations? Will there be a buzz in middle school and high school hallways between bells—“So we just have to figure out how not to get caught like these dudes,” or “What fakes, but not surprising, we are expected, to be honest in everything, then they play the game their own slimy way,” or “Bottom line—never trust anyone who’s supposed to be the boss.”ped-pic1

You get it. The repercussions are staggering and seemingly endless for individuals and for our society as a whole. And the fix is unclear.

Maybe America’s obsession with achievement at any cost clouded their thinking.

Maybe the focus in their training was on nuts and bolts—curriculum, instruction, and, assessment.

Maybe the really important things of educational leadership were glossed over or omitted. Things essential for any leader, Things like Flexing Ethical Muscles .

Maybe we can learn from Popeye the Sailor Man, the fictional character who came on the scene as a comic strip in 1929. His unique personality grabbed the attention of Americans young and old. Eventually, his popularity expanded to the theater, comic books, and cartoons on T.V.

An excerpt from a chapter, Flexing Ethical Muscle in The Principal’s Chair, Who Sits There Matters. A Secret of School Success by Dr.Judith D. Knotts:

Presidents, heads of state, politicians, CEOs, religious leaders, and heads of schools have been leveled at one time or another and humiliated publicly by unethical practices or immoral behavior. Popeye’s mission was moral righteousness, and his muscles were his secret. So too must your ethical muscle be in your leadership. Don’t expect it to be there when you need it in a real emergency if you haven’t flexed it and used it frequently. Muscles atrophy or grow in a person by choice. You choose how you want to live and lead with that intention.


Seeing How Things Are Done


There is a Bruno in all of our lives. They’re the fellow or gal who makes our blood boil just by being around them. The Bruno I know, who lives on the streets, is a wild man with out of control hair and behavior. He usually lumbers up to any line where food or goodies are being handed out and demands his share and more.

Nothing seems to satisfy him week in and week out, year in and year out. He has a permanent grimace on his face and shows his disappointment for life in general by grunting and stomping off in a huff after any encounter. Folks around him just expect this negative attitude from years of experience in dealing with him.

But miracles can happen, people can change, and apparently being around others who are kind, positive, and respectful can have a ripple effect. One day after years of grumbling and grunting, Bruno got in line peaceably waiting to be served food from the back of my truck.

 When I explained to everyone that I had only a dozen sandwiches, a bag of fruit, and some bottled water and had to give each person a half sandwich, they understood and were grateful for what I had to share.

 Expecting the usual disgruntled Bruno, I was stunned when at his turn he said, “May I please have half a sandwich?” Absorbing the marked change in him, I slowly handed him a bottle of water and said, “I am sorry, the fresh fruit is gone.” He smiled and said, “That’s okay, thank you for this.”  

Overjoyed at his 360 shift, I hugged him with gusto and said, “Bruno, something wonderful has happened to you out here.” He was puzzled. I continued, “You have become gentlemanly just like the rest.” His street chums did the modeling and he became a new man with a much brighter future.

So when I am feeling “Bruno-ish”, what works? Sure, at times being alone is the only solution when I am fighting my way out of the doldrums or feeling reactionary. But what really works for me is thinking about the circle of extraordinary people around me and imagining how they would manage a sticky situation or muddle through everyday messes.

Motivated professionals hoping to move up the ladder of success often read books and blogs searching for leadership tips suggesting how to be the best they can be. A number of bloggers and leadership coaches have been taken by Jim Rohn’s simple observation “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”


Rohn who died in 2009, was a self-help sage, inspiring people to improve their lives and their businesses. The author of The Art of Exceptional Living and a nationally recognized quote-master, Rohn believed that in our personal and professional lives we grow or not depending upon the people “we hang out with”; their ideas, attitudes, and interactions influence us more than we can ever imagine.

So is this what happened to Bruno? I think so. From years of living with a core of gracious homeless people and absorbing their ways of being, he changed, becoming like them in attitudes and acts. This conversion probably snuck up on him. I bet there were no aha moments or stern lectures from his fellow street people, it was just a human environmental transformation that happens to all of us.

What a truth to grapple with— our parents were right! Friends and associates do matter. Their outlooks and ethics rub off on us, which can be scary or enlightening depending upon how we let this insight affect our lives. We all have the opportunity to be saints or sinners. Which do we choose?

And more importantly, whom do we choose to emulate, which can dictate the outcome? Conversely, the circle of five means that we too are powerful influencers on those in our circles whether we are boss, employee, peer, parent, friend, or family member.

Like Bruno’s compatriots, we need no special bag of tricks. Our behavior is what counts. So now I’m going to think about those circles of five in my life. Who is influencing me? Who am I impacting? Heady stuff!


Hungry for inspired leadership? Betcha didn’t look in the library stacks for a leadership rock star did you!


Photo credit: http://www.loc.gov

Ta-da—Meet Carla D. Hayden! In the Washington Post  feature article by Peggy McGlone, “Nation’s top librarian can read people, too” (September 14, 2016),  McGlone quotes Maureen O’Neill, a librarian at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, as saying about Hayden—“She’s like a rock star.”

Hayden has just taken the reins as the 14th Head of the Library of Congress —the largest library in the world. The most remarkable news is not that she is the first woman, the first African American, and the first Head of the Library of Congress to hold a doctorate in Library Science. It’s how she leads and manages to get amazing things done that shows us what’s important in a leader.

I’m not the only fan either. Hayden is on Fortune’s 2016 annual list of the World’s Greatest Leaders.

For 23 years Hayden was the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Before that she was Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library. Gus, a retired librarian from Chicago said about Hayden in McGlone’s piece, “I always saw her trying to find some way to improve the library. I didn’t see her manipulating to get higher. She does what she does and her works speaks for itself.” Take a moment to read those last few sentences again.  

This is exactly what researcher and best -selling author Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t discovered at the end of his 5 year study. He found that “all good-to-great companies had level 5 leadership at the time of transition.” For Collins, “Level 5 Leadership was a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.”

Sounds like Carla D.  Hayden would qualify as one of Collins’ rock stars too!

She is said by her many followers to have put the Pratt Library on the map for its application of technology and unique collections.  In addition, her courage is noted as she kept the 22 Baltimore libraries open during the riots after the funeral of Freddie Gray, Jr., the young African American who was arrested and later died in police custody on April 19, 2015.

Possibly insignificant, or perhaps inspired, according to McGlone’s profile, Hayden’s wide-ranging fans from Baltimore “teased her about picking up the tiniest piece of trash off the floor and weeding the flower gardens at the library’s [Pratt] entrance.”

Stop for a moment and picture CEOs across America stooping to pick up a piece of trash on their way to a board meeting. What a message this could deliver — “I care about this place and everyone who is part of our corporate family. And I’m not so high and mighty that I can’t bend and do my part.”

Of course, no one expects Hillary or Donald, to weed the White House gardens, but what a lesson for either candidate to absorb about true leadership. To be successful, you must be a servant leader first.

carla weeding