You and I may look at the same person or object but see different things.

Here’s what happened….. I walked into the lobby elevator at my downtown office on Friday morning.  A man about my age entered right after me.   The elevator rose to the 8th floor, stopped, the door opened, and a young man lumbered in.  He was huge!  Football player big; blot out the sun, fill the door opening big.  I stared at his back (which was the size of both my daughters in down winter coats).  So did the older guy. The three of us continued up for several more floors and then the young man got out on the 12th floor (not a gym, maybe he just needed eyeglasses). The door slid closed behind him and the older man turned to me and said, “I’d hate to run into him on a football field.”  Startled, I responded honestly with the idea that had been circling my mind, “I was just thinking that I’d hate to have to feed him!”

Daily Acts

After attending a friend’s big birthday party, my daughter Keira mentioned that the young woman’s mother was not supportive.  As a knee-jerk reaction, always protective of moms, I said (without thinking), “Oh, she loves so-and-so.  She’d lay down on the railroad tracks for her kids.”(My fondness for analogies can get out of hand) 

Keira gave me that squint eyed look that smart daughters give to mothers who speak out of turn and said, And how often do you think that will be required?  What about the lack of daily support?”

It’s a good point.  It’s an excellent point.  As parents, we do not build relationships with the grand gesture.  We build relationships with our children during every conversation, at each meal, during each phone call, with each laugh or hug, and by trying to understand who they are and what they need.  Of course, this story goes way beyond parents and children. Our lives are collection of daily acts.  Maybe there will be an heroic gesture thrown in but, mostly we build our lives with day by day, ordinary interactions. Now that I think about it, this doesn’t even have to be human thing – we don’t become educated by reading one gigantic book. Even plants – beautiful flowers don’t grow because they were showered by one impressive thunderstorm and then neglected for the rest of the season. I know, you get it – time to stop with the analogies………

What Makes A Friend?

So, I’ve been thinking about what makes an old friend very special.  Of course, the best way to reflect on this topic is with my oldest friend, Hedda Leonard.  Here is our list, complied by sending emails back and forth between Evanston, IL and Southbury, CT.   We are very different women who met as 5 year olds, became inseparable through high school, traveled divergent paths geographically, emotionally, and professionally but still have our regular reunions and have managed to keep a loving friendship going for more than 50 years.

What has made us old friends?

Linda:  We could depend on each other, with childish exceptions, from the time we were 5 years old until the day we left for different colleges.

Hedda: You could make me laugh longer and harder than anyone could.  That’s reason enough for falling (and staying) in love.

Linda:  I used to be a scaredy-cat kid, but felt very bold when we were making mischief together.

Hedda: It was so easy to be at your house, playing, eating, sleeping.  I didn’t have to watch my step (my mother’s presence) or watch my back (my sister’s presence).  I was safe.

Linda: I used to feel like you were my other half; everything was better and easier when we were doing it together

Hedda:  Your home was warm and friendly; there was laughter and conversation.  I was always welcome. You made me part of your family.  I belonged.

It looks like we fulfilled different needs for each other as kids.  Let’s see how Hedda and I stack up against the research. After we made our notes, I found the book, Children’s Friendships by Zick Rubin and did my homework.

Researchers have found that even toddlers exhibit strong preferences for certain playmates over others and, when separated, show distress. (We did)  When you ask a 3 ½ year old, “What is a friend?” you might hear, “We’re friends now because we know each other’s names.”  At eight years old, the answer changes and becomes, “Friends don’t argue with you.  If you are nice to them, they will be nice to you.” (Eh).  At thirteen, “A friend is someone who you can share secrets with at 3 in the morning with Clearasil on your face.” (We did, but not at 3 am – no cell phones)

Young children (ages 3-5) see friends as physical playmates. A fine recommendation is, “plays a lot” just as, “she takes things away from me” is a poor reference.  At this age, they may have enduring relationships, but cannot characterize them as such.  The older child (ages 11-12) understands friendship to involve time spent together with intimate and mutual sharing.  A best friend is often our first experience with loving someone outside our family. Friends help development. Even in children, a best friend brings out sensitivity to another person, the desire to contribute to the happiness of someone else, and willingness to support another person.  Here’s to old friends!!!!

Any comments about your old friend?

Data was taken from Rubin’s book,  Children’s Friendships (Harvard University Press, 1980).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – part 1

We are all creatures of habit. After writing about superstition, OCD comes to mind because it is the mental disorder most closely tied to superstition – OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

As creatures of habit,  we tend to repeat certain behaviors, wear lucky clothes, or organize our lives into patterns.  Sometimes this goes beyond habit and become a serious problem – obsessive compulsive disorder.

When you shower 3X a day, brush your teeth so often that you have rubbed the enamel off your teeth, undress in the hall so you don’t bring dirt into the house, check the door 15X before you leave the house, count words in your head, or can’t sleep until you have meticulously lined up everything in your room, you may have slipped out of the range of normal habits and into obsessive compulsive disorder.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has 2 components – the obsessions and the compulsions.  OCD causes people to be plagued by repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and/or to repeat certain rituals (compulsions).

Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts that are often frightening.  People generally cannot ignore them.  The thoughts get better and worse depending on your levels of stress.

Common categories of obsessive thinking:

  1. Fear of people or the environment contaminating you with dirt, germs, body waste or fluids.
  2. Excessive worry that a task was done poorly
  3. Extreme need for order
  4. Fear of thinking evil thoughts
  5. Fear of having committed a crime
  6. Repeated, excessive sexual thoughts
  7. Concerns with certain sounds, words or numbers

Tomorrow, compulsions……..


List Lover

I confess, I am a devotee of lists. Lists are my friends. I take great satisfaction in making lists of things, and then I enjoy crossing these items off my list, one by one.  I will not admit or deny that I add things to my list just so I can have the pleasure of crossing them off.  I have my standards. I cannot add a chore to the list I made today if that task was completed last week.  However, I can add very short tasks (inhale, exhale) if I need more guaranteed check marks or a boost to my self esteem. For those of you who also love lists, you do not need to read further, but you are probably the only people who will keep reading.

I don’t expect everyone to be this nutty, but I may be able to convince you that lists can be very useful.  Here’s the trick – think of lists as a compilation of things you WANT to do, not things that you have to do. For example, I have “Watch Project Runway,” on this weekend’s list.  I also have laundry, pay bills, and sweep the garage on the list and they are not quite as appealing as things-to-do, but I do want to get them done and will be pleased when I have finished.

Tips for list making:

  1. Most importantly, have enough things on your list that you WANT to do, like, “Shop for a camel jacket.”  I was able to check that off rather quickly.
  2. Decide if your list is for a day, week, or six months and make the number of chores appropriate.
  3. If you need to carry things over from one list to another, do it – so what.
  4. Be reasonable.  For a daily list, don’t write, “Lose 8 lbs.”  Maybe you want to say, “Eat a salad” or “Go for a walk.”
  5. Lists that are ridiculously impossible only make you feel bad; they don’t work. Keep it somewhat reasonable.
  6. You are the boss. Change your list if you need to. After all, this is not homework for 6th grade and your teacher isn’t watching.
  7. Break things down into small steps (baby steps).  For example, my monthly list has, “Paint the dining room,” but this weekend has, “Take down the cabinet.” The full week’s list has, “Pick paint color, Buy paint, Tape woodwork” – very possible with llots of check marks.

Lists work.  They get the chores out of your head and on paper; you can think about other things; you won’t forget; you are focused; you feel organized; and you will get more done. Tell me about your lists and share your tips.

The Psychology of Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs can be found everywhere in the world that people are trying to enter the economic and social mainstream of society.  I am defining entrepreneurs as people who create, start or manage a new business.  They take the financial, psychological and social risks of a start-up; they devote their time and effort hoping that they will be rewarded.

The stats of entrepreneurs are interesting:

  • The generation of the 21st century is the most entrepreneurial since the Industrial Revolution.
  • 80% in the U.S. are between ages 18-34.
  • Women are 3x more likely than men to start their own businesses.
  • Millions of people try to start their own businesses each year.


There are dozens of studies that examine different types (team, female, retiree, fatherless) of entrepreneurs. I’ve got a reference at the end of this post so that you can investigate this topic further BUT, let’s look at some of the common personality characteristics of entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are:

  • autonomous – self directed
  • self-sufficient
  • risk-takers (they don’t see the risks as great)
  • believers that own decisions matter (internal locus of control)

Entrepreneurs seem to be able to:

  • take cognitive leaps (understandings) about opportunities before all the data is in
  • identify opportunities long before others are able to see them
  • connect the dots, search, be alert and recognize possibilities (mental short-cuts)

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the dark side of entrepreneurs.

A comprehensive article, “Entrepreneurship Research and Practice” was written by Robert Hisrich, Janice Langen-fox, and Sharon Grant and appeared in the American Psychologist, September 2007, volume 62 #6, pp. 575-589.

8 Essential Sleep Facts

Here are facts that will encourage you to make good decisions about sleep.DSCN1143

1. 7-9 hours are required for adults each night

2. People who get enough sleep are more optimistic than those who do not.

3. Your body has a reduced ability to respond to insulin if you do not get enough sleep (if you didn’t already know, this leads to diabetes). Read on……

4. Lack of sleep affects the body’s ability to metabolize glucose

5. People who do not get enough sleep become more obese (see next fact for explanation).

6. Lack of sleep results in significant changes to your ability to regulate your appetite, your hunger and your food intake.

7. People who do not get enough sleep have more complaints about body pains.

8. Lack of sleep adversely affects your body’s ability to control your

blood pressure.

Convincing, no?

Source: APA Monitor January, 1913

But if you can’t sleep, buy

my book and read about murder, love and hate, obsession, therapy and more………

OO v3Object of Obsession

Types of Grandparents

The top 10 posts from the last 2 years. I know that everyone else does this as a beginning-of-the-year thing in January, but…..

I was surprised to see which posts received the most hits.  Here is # 6….

I’ve only been blogging for a month, but I have come to realize that it is like joining a strange religion with previously unknown rituals, beliefs, and customs. But, here I am, a convert, so I fall in line with blogging commandment # 1, be “timely.” 

The concept of timeliness is worth attending to

on many levels, but for today, I want to begin with the silliest.  As a new blogger, I am suddenly aware of all these holidays that are marked on my calendar in ridiculously smaller letters.  I see that, in 4 point font, my calendar reminds me that tomorrow is Grandparents’ Day.  Notice the plural possessive for Grandparents’ – this means that the deciders of Grandparents’ Day (a greeting card company perhaps?) want to honor all of them, not just one Nana here or Bubbie there.

There are many types of grandparents.  Don’t assume that they all went to Santa School.

The six main types of Grandparents are:

1.  Formal – They follow what they regard as their “proper role”. They baby sit and indulge the grandkids occasionally but do not offer much advice to parents.  They maintain a constant interest in their family.  They want the grandchildren to have good manners, be neat and clean and in control.

2. Hedonistic – They want freedom from family responsibilities and are no longer interested in being of service to the family. They are interested in their own pleasure.

3. Fun Seekers  – They want an informal, fun relationship so they join in pleasurable activities. The kids are their source of fun so authority is light. They care about their grandchildren being happy and getting along with others.

4. Distant – They show up for the holidays but are generally benign and

remote. Contact is minimal.

5. Wise – Often, this is a role for one of the grandfathers. He has an authoritarian relationship where skill and wisdom is dispensed. Roles are clear between generations.  He wants the grandchildren to be honest, have good common sense, and be responsible.

6. Surrogate Parent – This is usually the grandmother but not always. They actually take care of their grandchildren in the absence of parents.  They want their grandchildren to try hard, obey, be good students and behave.

For lucky children, having grandparents can be the one unconflicted relationship that they enjoy.  The message in this for parents – encourage your children to enjoy their grandparents and visa versa.  Let them all have some pleasure without the encumbrances that some many other relationships have.

To all the nanas, emas, pops, bubbies, grannies, gramps out there,  have a good one.

To read more, check out my book, “The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits.”

The Problem of Seeing All Points of View

At first glance, seeing different sides of a problem

sounds like a good thing to be able to do.  It sounds open-minded, flexible and social – right?  Not always.  Let me explain………

Years ago, I watched an interview at the Republican National Convention.  The reporter said to the Republican delegate, “I know that you are a supporter of a woman’s right to choose.”

“Yes,” answered the delegate who happened to be a woman.

“Yet, today you voted against that,” the reporter continued. “You voted for a party platform that outlaws the right to choose.”

“Yes,” she said again.


“I am a supporter of choice but I listened to other people and they wanted a different platform. It meant a lot to them, so I voted with them.”

Forget about your position on choice, forget about Democrats and Republicans.  Think about the underlying dynamic that the delegate described.  It goes like this – 1.) I believe in a position. 2.) I hear

your different beliefs. 3.) I understand that you care. 4.) I go along with you.

Her beliefs haven’t changed; she has not been convinced of another position; she is going along.  First, let’s argue that this is a good thing.  She has listened; she is empathic; she appreciates other people’s wishes; she knows how to compromise – all good.  Next, let’s argue the negative.  She has gotten lost; she has given up her beliefs; she is voting against her own values.

I want to suggest an alternative process that involves not being chained to your position AND not giving up your beliefs because someone else happens to have a different idea.  Maybe the delegate could have gone through this process instead: 1.) I believe in a position 2.) I hear your different beliefs 3.) I understand that you care. 4.) I understand that I also care and must go back to my beliefs and also consider them in order to come to a decision.

People who see all sides to a question often forget to return to their side, consider and reconsider their own wishes before making a decision.  They get stuck in someone else’s beliefs or desires.  They get lost in pleasing, accommodating, or compromising – all fine ideas until you personally disappear.

Multiple Choice Test Myths – Changing Answers

Do you believe: When you are unsure about the answer during a multiple choice test, you should stick with your first answer?Real Writing Jobs

d/” rel=”attachment wp-att-3335″>

If you said ‘yes’, you are wrong but you have a lot of company. Kruger (2005) found that almost 75% of college students said

‘yes’ and 55% of teachers also said ‘yes’.

Ludy Benjamin (1984) reviewed results from 33 studies published since 1928 that examined answer-changing behavior on objective tests. Their analysis showed that only a small percentage of people change their answers but when they do, they generally change from wrong to right.

We remember the times when we changed from right to wrong more clearly because we are suffering from regret about our decision.

And today’s lesson, boys and girls – Go ahead and change those answers; you will do better !