Where do we go from here?

I don’t know about y’all, but it’s hard for me to watch the news right now. I am currently writing a new book, so I can escape to the world I’m creating, but our world makes me pretty sad. It seems like the refugee children have been forgotten, and yet they are still separated from their parents.
I’m writing a book that’s like a love letter to a lot of kids I’ve worked with over the years, and I feel that’s positive. I support causes and people that I believe in, to the best of my ability. I contact my congressional reps and voice my opinion about current issues.
Where do we go from here, y’all? What else can we do to make a difference in this scary time?

My newest book, co-written with Matt Jaremko, is now available for pre-order!

I’m thrilled to announce that the book I co-wrote with Dr. Matt Jaremko,  Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt is now available for pre-order!

Our book is being published by Ayni Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing, and is currently in production. It is scheduled to be released Dec. 14, 2018.  It will be available from the Publisher’s Website (http://www.ayni-books.com/home.html), Amazon.com, and selected bookstores throughout UK and USA.

You may pre-order now:


Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt conveys hope and resilience for trauma victims. Written by a psychologist with 35 years of clinical experience, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Between compellingly-written scenes of group, individual and family therapy, the cognitive-behavioral science of PTSD and its treatment is explained. The book movingly describes the collaboration between therapist and clients as they strive to get unstuck from trauma-ravaged lives. Reluctant trauma victims who have avoided treatment or who are having trouble processing life’s catastrophes will find in these pages a “fly-on-the-wall” perspective of how therapy can help. Useful information about overcoming obstacles in treatment is provided while fears about facing trauma are allayed, motivating the reluctant victim to finally seek treatment. The book will also greatly inform motivated patients by providing a thorough, scientifically-sound understanding of PTSD’s nature and treatment. This book should be in every trauma therapist’s office and placed in the hand of each of their PTSD patients.

Adults: WE MUST teach teens about consent, BELIEVE kids when they tell, and LISTEN A LOT.

My kids are grown, but I still interact with teens on a daily basis. If I’m not teaching English to teenagers in a small rural district, I’m often talking to teens online and in person through my work as an author. Interactions with these young people affects me deeply–they get into my heart and stay there, and they plant seeds for stories in my mind.

Ali Raisman’s amazing testimony and the subsequent conviction and sentencing of Larry Nassar + Eliza Dushku’s experience on the set of True Lies + the #MeToo Movement are doing what I try to do with my work: dragging the ugly secrets out of the shadows and expose them to sunlight.

Sunlight, you see, is the only thing that kills shame. Keeping secrets is deadly in so many ways, from killing one’s soul to causing people to take their own lives.

I was sexually abused throughout my childhood. When I was maybe 4, a neighbor boy forced me to expose myself to him. My stepfather began molesting me at 8 age, and it progressed to rape in my teens. My grandfather pulled me into his lap and French-kissed me when I was 13. Not once, at any time I told about any of this, was my outcry acted on.


When my children were young, they probably tired of me telling them, “If anyone ever touches you in a way that makes you feel yucky inside, you tell them NO and then tell me and Daddy. We will believe you and we will take care of you. Even if the person tells you NOT to tell, you tell. Okay?”

I credit my three daughters turning out as assertive and independent as they are in part to my husband being the sane one when they were growing up (semi-attempt at humor…although my kids would tell you, “Yeah, boy.)… They have a sense of self that was sorely lacking in me until I was at least 40, two years into therapy. What I really love about my daughters, in addition to a laundry list of other Proud Mama stuff, is that they take no shit. They have a sense of self, and I am so, so grateful for that. When I talk about some of the situations in the news with my daughters, I ask them how they would handle themselves in a situation such as the one recently in the news with Aziz Ansari (a situation that has divided members of the #MeToo Movement).

The story is troubling, and I understand that my daughters were not in the young woman’s position, but I want to believe that, based on what they’ve told me, they would have left. They would not have felt any sense of submission. I’m not judging the young woman in the story. She may have had a history that set her up for freezing. I have a history that sets me up for freezing. I hope I wouldn’t freeze now, if I were in that type of situation.

Over the years in my jobs as author and teacher, teen girls have trusted me with their stories of being in situations where they did not want to do what a guy wanted them to do, but they were afraid to hurt their feelings, and even when what the guy did sounds a lot like sexual assault, they still feel this obligation to protect the guy.

THIS HAS TO STOP. Parents and Trusted Adults: we MUST rid our daughters of the belief that they have to be nice at all costs. We MUST believe them when they tell us that something happened and they were uncomfortable.

Males need to be taught from a young age that they are not entitled to take what they want or cajole or pressure young women into doing what they have already indicated they do not want to do. NO means NO. It does not mean, “No, unless you convince me otherwise.”

Look at the Olympic gymnasts: many of them TOLD THEIR PARENTS. They told people what was going on, and they weren’t believed. Look at Eliza Dukshu. She TOLD HER MOTHER what was going on,  and the mother was afraid to speak out for her daughter. The mom was afraid of the powerful men on set.

The last time a teen girl confided in me about being pressured to do things sexually she did not want to do, I made clear to her that she should not do anything she feels uncomfortable doing, and I shared with her two websites so she could have a better idea of what was going on, and how she can react in the future:   Consent & Consensual Sex &  Scarleteen.com

Coming from the position of a person whom young people often trust with stuff they wouldn’t tell their parents, I’m begging you: please, please, please: if your child has a sexual experience at a young age, please try to HEAR them if they trust you enough to talk to you about it. Please don’t shame them. I once had a reader tell me that, after she had sex at age 13, her mother told her that from that day on, people would be able to tell that she’d done it, because she’d walk funny. I told her, “That is not true, and I am so sorry that you may have felt shame as a result of what was said to you.” Then I talked to her about her life. I asked her questions about what was going on. I listened. Given her very young age, I was concerned that she had been abused.

Please. Do more listening, and more believing, and, from a young age, we need to stop teaching girls that they always have to be nice. Even though women are nurturers by nature, that does not and should not extend to doing what another person wants us to do if it makes us uncomfortable. Sex education is sorely needed, and it needs to come without a side dish of shame. Then, perhaps we can raise a generation of women who do not feel obligated to do anything that they are not ready for, or that makes them uncomfortable, or that they DO NOT WANT TO DO.

We need to do a better job of educating our kids about their right to autonomy over their bodies (and their LACK of a right to control whether others choose to allow them to do things to them).

My newest book: an opportunity to share hope and resilience with trauma survivors

Something I’m thankful for: my writing partner and the book we wrote together. I’m sharing the cover with you. It’s the first time it’s been posted publicly.
My co-author, Matt, and I really like this cover because of the light coming into the group therapy circle: providing the light of hope in the face of the indescribable darkness that is being “stuck” in mental illness and desperation.

I think it was spring of 2016 that Matt Jaremko and I discussed writing a book to help trauma survivors. It took us a bit to find our writing groove in terms of both how we could best communicate what we wanted to say that would extend hope and model the power of resilience for traumatized people, AND for us to find the most efficient way for us to write together without becoming frustrated…we initially tried using Google Docs, and, never having co-written with anyone else, I didn’t realize we couldn’t be in the document at the same time. So I was working and Matt was, too, and the page was jumping all over the place…it was not fun. So we dispensed with that pretty quickly and moved to Word and Track Changes, which is the industry standard for working with editors.
Once we found our way to work together by exchanging the manuscript (“The book is now in your hands. I will not touch it until you send the manuscript back to me”), our book began to take shape in a meaningful, rewarding way. Matt and I have such a strong respect for each others’ strengths and abilities. He is, without a doubt, one of the two smartest, most compassionate and caring men I know, with the other being my husband, Daniel. Not coincidentally, these 2 men also comprised my primary support system when I was broken.

I rank our book, “Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims With PTSD,” as one of my “heart” books. What this means, for you non-writer types, is that this book is one of the most personally meaningful to me. It is defining. It IS to come full circle. While I love all 4 of the YA fiction novels I’ve written, 3 of them: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the most precious to me because I wrote them while in recovery when I was working with Matt Jaremko, many years ago. They are the arc of Ashley, a teen girl who is entering recovery after being abused by her stepdad and neglected by her mom through deliberate indifference. Ashley’s biggest hurdle is facing the truth about her life–about her worth as a person, in spite of being discarded by the person who should have loved her most. She is removed from her stepdad & mom’s home & placed with her father, David, who she does not know at all.
Ashley is a frightened victim at the outset, a person beginning to realize her value in the middle, and a strong survivor capable of advocating for herself at the conclusion. That’s why the books are called Courage (1), Hope (2), and Truth (3). They are set in the small E. Texas town of Patience, and the girl’s therapist is Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. Guess who he’s modeled after?

When Matt and I decided to take 2 of my characters–Ashley and Dr. Matt– and place them in a group setting in order to facilitate the combination of fiction and teaching about resilience, we took Ashley, aged her from 15/16 to 19, and made her a member of Dr. Matt’s Thursday evening Therapy Group for Victims, Survivors, and Righteously Indignant Angry Folks. Then we imagined the other members:
Hunter, age 32, who woke on the ground in the dark after a rain-wrapped tornado destroyed his mobile home, critically injuring his toddler daughter;
Felicia, age 34, who, at age 14, was nearly raped by her brother’s friend; 20 years later, she is still haunted by it, but needs to come to realize an even darker truth about her youth;
Ben, age 20, who saw combat horrors in the Middle East and returned home a fundamentally different person;
Patty, age 47, who lost control of her car, with her husband being killed when they hit a semi-truck;
Jake, age 30, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who responded to a hate crime-shooting at a local church’s Wednesday night prayer service. The son of a preacher, Jake lost his faith as a result of what he saw.
Darrell, age 35, who served time in prison for armed robbery. When he was released, he entered therapy to seek solutions for the frequent rages that overtook his decision-making abilities. Through his work with Dr. Matt, Darrell learned new ways of interacting with others. He joined the Black Lives Matter movement and discovered his passion for making a difference through teaching young African-Americans about non-violent protest.
Betty, age 40. Her family-of-origin abandoned her when she began coming to terms with the sexual abuse perpetrated on her from a young age. Betty worked with Dr. Matt and gradually found the strength to rebuild her life. She entered college as a non-traditional student and became a bilingual education teacher, where she puts her native Spanish to work.

We wrapped our manuscript in July, began seeking a publisher in late summer, and by October–and this is remarkably fast to find a publishing “home”–we were offered a publishing contract with a “Mind-Body-Soul” imprint, Ayni Books, and our book will come out in late spring/early summer 2018. The book will have international distribution and be available in both print and e-book.

We began sharing the manuscript with others, asking for blurbs, and we were blown out of the water by what our readers said. Check ’em out.

We invite you to read the Prologue: The Internal Dialogue of a New Patient Being Sick and Tired of Being Afraid and Stuck.

I wrote this Prologue from the memory of where I was when I entered treatment to recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse. At that time, I was 38 years old, the mother of 3 teen girls, and I broke. I could no longer pretend that the stuff I’d gone through as a child and young adult, and in many ways continued to endure as an adult, were not killing me. The pretending was killing me. I was slowly killing myself through binge eating. Efforts to deal with the never-ending anxiety I lived with night and day were futile. Prior to working with Matt, I never stuck with therapy once I was nudged toward being authentic and honest with myself and others about how broken I was. I “clicked” with him and, after Daniel, Matt is the first man I ever truly trusted. Until that time, my understanding of men was that they would abuse me once I began to let my guard down.

This prologue is thoughts of the person prior to entering a therapist’s building when the choice at that time is either get better or die. These are exactly what it was like to be in my head at that time.
Facing the truth about one’s life is a soul-searing experience. For me, the journey to REAL, and WHOLE, was much like the process of birthing a child. It was exhausting, but without a doubt, learning to be resilient and authentic was the most gratifying experience of my life.
This is what we hope will be the result for those who read our book.

Please help us spread the word about our Facebook page. “Like”/”Follow” us, and you won’t miss out on the journey.

Perseverence, Resilience, & Coming Full Circle

I sometimes say that my middle name is “Perseverence.” It could also be said that Resilience runs through my veins, which is, in part, why writing a book with Matt E. Jaremko–Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims of PTSD–is so gratifying because it will help SO MANY PEOPLE. I wish a book like this had existed when I was in those shaky first days of recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse, when I wasn’t sure I even wanted to stick around.
The PTSD symptoms I had were so overwhelming that at times I thought I was losing my mind. I’m not even kidding–and if you ever meet my husband, or my children, who were teens at the time, ask them what Mama was like back then. I’m sure some of their stories would blow your hair back. I’ll never forget when I was in a really bad way and actually got behind my clothes in my closet, like I used to do when I was a child, to hide from my stepfather. Daniel stepped in, leaned down, and said softly, “I seeeee youuuuuu…” but didn’t judge me harshly or make fun of me. It’s one of the reasons I love him more than words could ever adequately describe.
Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt helps people like me –like I was at that time–understand what happens when someone experiences trauma, and I love its message that sufferers are NOT crazy or weak: they are incredibly strong for continuing to put one foot in front of the other, even while enduring some very scary shit inside their heads. It’s compassionate, speaks to readers where they are–like Daniel that evening when I was a hot mess, and we let readers know, again and again, that HOPE is possible, and RECOVERY is possible, and we shine that all-important light when it’s so easy for survivors to get lost in the nooks & crannies of their minds. We strongly suggest that readers work with a therapist as they process their trauma, because recovery from PTSD is scary.

Nearly a decade ago, Matt taught me HOW to be resilient and HOW to persevere through those undoubtedly dark days. I wrote poems and essays and short stories and shared them only with Matt: there was no one else I could trust with–saddle with, really– what was coming out of my mind and landing on my keyboard and screen. At his suggestion that I try writing a novel, I imagined the trauma I had endured as having happened to someone else, stepped outside of myself, and began to tell 15 year old Ashley Nicole Asher’s story. With her being “born,” so was my life as a professional writer, although I didn’t know it at the time. All I was doing was following the advice of the man I had learned I could trust with my darkness, and he would be by my side, holding the light.
Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt is a unique amalgam of teaching about PTSD and giving insight into the recovery process and the storylines of 7 members of the Thursday Night Therapy Group. Matt E. Jaremko is the inspiration for the Dr. Matt character in my Patience books, and I patterned the experiences of the main character, Ashley, after my own. All these years later, Matt and I teamed up and took those 2 characters, aged Ashley up to 19, and placed Dr. Matt and Ashley in a group therapy setting. Along with Ashley, group members include a survivor of a tornado destroying his mobile home and gravely injuring his toddler daughter; a woman who was behind the wheel, reached for her phone to check a text, and slammed into a semi, killing her husband on impact; a first responder to a mass shooting at a church (timely, sadly); a soldier who was injured when an IED exploded outside his barracks, killing his best friend; an ex-con who is determined to rebuild his life and make a difference; and a survivor of an attempted rape by her brother’s best friend when she was 14–as well as family secrets she has yet to allow herself to process. She attempts to cope with her anguish by numbing herself with food. And, of course, there’s Dr. Matt, an experienced therapist nearing the end of his career and contemplating what’s next.

Please check out the Facebook page Matt created for  our book, and take a look at our website, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt too! We also have a blog, Hope for Post-traumatic Growth.
I hope you’ll subscribe to our sites & give our FB page a “Like” so that you get the latest news on our book, which is set to release around late Spring/early Summer, 2018.

And-I hope you’ll read the posts Matt has entered on our FB page so far. He has a lot to say, and he is one of the 2 smartest men I know–the other being my husband, Daniel. I owe my life today to Matt and Daniel’s unwavering support, presence, and holding me accountable to not give up.
Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt is one special book, and it holds a hallowed place in my , alongside The Patience Trilogy.

Sneak Peek at my latest book, TRAUMA RECOVERY: SESSIONS WITH DR. MATT!

Hey, guys, my writing partner, Matt E. Jaremko, and I are starting to share info about our book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt. The Prologue is currently posted on our website, drmattbook.com
The excerpt is here: http://drmattbook.com/appendix-a-finding-a-therapist/
Also, please “Like” our page, https://www.facebook.com/sessionswithdrmatt/

My newest book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt will release in summer, 2018!

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

I am beyond thrilled to tell you that Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, a creative non-fiction book written by Dr. Matt E. Jaremko and me, has found a publisher, Ayni Books. Our book should release in early summer, 2018.
The best way to describe it to you is to borrow from our book proposal:

“This book is a starting place for hurting people who are seeking healing, either on their own or in partnership with a therapist or other helping person. Dr. Matt E. Jaremko maximizes readers’ understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by explaining its origins in easy-to-understand language and offering insight into the process of reclaiming a life from trauma. Beth Fehlbaum shares her insight from the perspective of a person who experienced trauma, was once scared to death about going into therapy, and is now recovered.

Most powerfully, Dr. Jaremko and Beth created characters: a psychologist, Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews, and his ongoing therapy group, to illustrate how recovery can and does happen. The situations these characters survive; their struggles and triumphs of reclaiming their lives, and their potential for thriving are all realistic. We reassure people who are terrified of trying therapy by providing them with a “fly on the wall” perspective of observing the recovery process.”

Read more about Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, here.

Those of you who have read (and have affection for) The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, and Truth), likely recognize “Dr. Matt”’s name, and you will be pleased to know that Ashley is in Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt! She’s now 19 and about to leave for college. I hope you’re as pleased with Ash’s progress as I am.

Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

Watch this space for the latest and greatest as we move forward in the publication of a book that Matt and I hope will have a far-reaching positive effect for traumatized individuals by providing a light in the darkness: hope.

I encourage you to subscribe to our blog site, “Hope for Post-Traumatic Growth,”  and check out our website, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, too!


Limited Time Offer-including Free Skype Visit! on THE PATIENCE TRILOGY

I have limited stock of THE PATIENCE TRILOGY at this time. Please use the Contact Me form to get in touch, and I will send you my PayPal address.

I’m offering the (signed) books at the following rates:

Class sets: 20 books: $100.00 + Shipping + FREE SKYPE VISIT up to 60 minutes.

Sets of THE PATIENCE TRILOGY: $20 + Shipping

Individual copies of Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience: 7.50 each + Shipping


Authors One and All: a Program I’m Presenting–and I need help from authors/librarians/teachers!

Credit: Ashim D’Silva

Hey, Friends! I hope you can answer 2 questions for me. Your responses will help me begin to craft a presentation I’m giving at my school district’s Back-to-School training (it’s in about a month, but I’m a planner…). The topic is, “Authors One and All”: my purpose is to help teachers find ways for their students to connect to literature and see themselves as people with stories to tell, too, through the use of realistic fiction in the classroom.  Age level that you write for/teach does not matter. Please answer in the comments below. 

P.S. if you, like me , write AND teach, please answer both. Thanks!

Author question:

What about realistic fiction attracts you as a writer or reader of it?

Can you think of an example in which you have gotten feedback from a reader indicating that your book made a difference for them?

Teacher/Librarian question:

Why do you think students relate to realistic fiction?

Can you think of an example in which you have found a reluctant reader particularly impacted by a realistic YA book?


Please respond in the comments below, and thank you!

Chris Crutcher’s “High School Commencement Address that Will Never Be Heard”

Chris Crutcher is my literary idol as well as a wonderful person. If you have not read his books, get thee to a library/bookstore and get to readin’. Your life will be richer for it.

The High School Commencement Address That Will Never Be Heard
by Chris Crutcher

Good afternoon to NO parents, teachers or administrators and to ALL graduates. It’s my great honor not to have been invited to speak to you on this momentous occasion.

As members of a species with five digits per hand, you have often been given things in tens; amendments, commandments, Top Ten lists, etc., so it makes sense that I follow that format. In my lifetime I have not amended anything of consequence and most of what I’ve commanded has been ignored; so… Crutcher’s Ten Meanderings.

One: Don’t eat kale.
_ It’s really good for you, but it does NOT taste that great and plays havoc with your false teeth. (Wait…is that just me?)

Two: Don’t listen to me. (If you WERE listening you could stop here…but you’re texting with the kid three rows back).
_ I’m an old guy. I’ll tell you my vast experience is the reason you should do what I say; that I don’t want you to make the mistakes I made, and can smooth your path if only you’ll listen. But that’s a lie. I graduated from high school in 1964 – near the end of the rule of reptiles – and my memory of that time is clouded by wishful and convenient thinking, which is to say I remember being a lot smarter than I was. So high-five your own screw-ups. For whatever reason, “learning the hard way” is accompanied by embarrassment. Welcome it. We are a trial and error species that refuses to embrace our errors. We call them mistakes. Worse, we call them sins. We refuse to celebrate the very things that teach us. Your elders, those surrounding and rooting for you today, cannot make those errors for you. We have our own work cut out.

Three: Stay alive.
_ Be amazed at your existence. Life gets scary sometimes; can make you consider an early exit or take risks that promise to end badly. But you won the lottery times a billion just getting here. One misfired sperm or rotten egg going all the way back past salamanders and you don’t even make this scene. As much as there is a difference in our ages, you and I have a unique thing in common; we’re both as old as we’ve ever been. We have a history we know and a future we don’t. My history is longer and hopefully my future shorter than yours, but we both have the capacity – even the duty – to influence the quality of our futures through our knowledge of our histories; a unique gift we can’t afford to squander, or cut short. So make it last…and make it worth it.

Four: Fight tyranny with your every fiber.
_ Whether or not you believe you live in the greatest country in the world, you live within a legal system structured to allow you to find your own greatness, however you may define that. HUMANS, mostly white men, have tried to diminish that rule of law through exclusion for most of our history, but TRUE rule of law, laid down by our Constitution, calls for HUMAN equality. Which means: policies of racism, homophobia, misogyny, gender discrimination, and whatever else I’m forgetting, are the policies of tyranny. I was born in the year following World War II (exactly nine-months, as my mother tells it, from the day my father returned from Europe) so, though I didn’t live through that war, every adult in my childhood fought against, or witnessed from afar, the ultimate threat to our liberty. That’s long ago history to you; you were born into one of the great MATURE democracies, but you would do well to remember that diminishing freedoms to one American opens the gates of threat to all Americans. If you are inclined to take your independence for granted, don’t.

Five: Do not hit your kids.
_ And no fair calling it spanking and whacking away. If you did it to an adult, it would be assault. Your kids learn one thing from being hit: to hit. It doesn’t really hurt you more than it hurts them. They won’t learn not to do what you’re hitting them for; they’ll learn that the person responsible to love and protect them is willing and able to hurt them, and if you do it often, they’ll realize that a time will come when they can stop you. In my lifetime the two places I most often heard, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” were church and child abuse support groups.

Six: Do not use the word “perfect.”
_ “Perfect” is a word inserted into the English language only to make us feel bad. It is the only word I know defined by what cannot be. “Nobody’s perfect.” We hear it all the time. Well, if nobody’s perfect, there’s no point in talking about it. A perfectionist is someone who spends his life feeling bad because he can’t live up to standards no one else lives up to either. A perfectionist spends an inordinate amount of time scolding herself for every mistake and scolding the rest of us for not feeling bad for ours.

Seven: Do not confuse respect with fear.
_ When I was a lad there was a TV cowboy named Wyatt Earp, who had also been a real cowboy. On television, Wyatt, played by Hugh O’Brien, brandished a sidearm called a “Buntline Special.” It looked like a pistol, but the barrel was nearly rifle-length. An oft-uttered Wyatt Earp line that caused great consternation in me was, “Respect comes out of the end of a Buntline Special.” Uh, excuse me, Wyatt. That’s not respect; it’s a bullet. Wyatt Earp and a whole bunch of flawed cowboys and business-folks and teachers and housewives and househusbands coming after him believe that if you scare someone – if you threaten them with something they believe you can and will do, they will show you respect. And well they might; SHOW it…right up until they don’t have to. Then they will show you contempt. Respect and fear: one’s good; the other, not so much.

Eight: Don’t worry about your mediocre grade point average.
_You wouldn’t have had any fun at Harvard anyway, and those of us who came before you have mucked up our ability to evaluate your intelligence so badly that your grades reflect, more than anything, your ability to memorize stuff you’ll never use.

Nine: Never let beliefs handed down to you before you had the capacity to develop your own, stand in the way of seeking truth.
_ AS you develop your own beliefs, remember this: if they elevate one group over another, if they present themselves in blacks and whites rather than greys, if they disregard acceptance or reject celebration of differences, if they don’t include taking care of your oh-so-finite planet, they need work.

Ten: Celebrate relativity.
_ Nothing exists without its opposite. Things are what they are in relation to other things; a hugely important piece of information for living here on the blue marble. There is no joy without despair, no courage without cowardice, no loyalty without betrayal, no freedom without oppression. Every goal we set includes the possibility of failure; and self-contempt, should we allow it. The laws of probability say everyone here already knows that. But even when you fall short, if your goals are righteous, they remain. The full richness of being alive requires that you recognize and embrace relativity. Ask yourself: Do I appreciate joy more than I reject despair? Do I embrace courage more than I fear cowardice? Do I love loyalty more than I loathe betrayal? And most of all, do I honor freedom – not only for myself, but for everyone – more than I hate oppression?

Eleven: Move.
_ You may have heard the saying “Your body is your temple” in order to get you to take care of it. Well, it may be your temple, but it’s also your car. It’s your bike. It’s your skateboard. It gets you around. When our species came down out of the trees and the frontal lobe – the rational brain – was developing, we moved up to seventeen miles a day, staying ahead of what was trying to eat us and chasing down what we needed to eat; which means our THINKING brain developed on the run. It only makes sense to change our own oil every three thousand miles and refuse to let our fan belts fray. Movement helps us focus; it clarifies purpose while helping us breathe easier. Movement lessens depression and anxiety. There is no mind/body dichotomy. The two are inseparable. Keep them moving.
(Side-note: When someone tells you, “By God MY ancestors never came out of the trees!” offer your condolences.)

Twelve: Allow no time for fear.
_ Most of what you’re afraid of will never hurt you, and you can’t imagine some of the things that will. Either way, you won’t see it coming, so time being afraid is time wasted.

Thirteen: Guns put holes in things.
_ What so often leaks out of those holes, is life. When someone tells you “Guns don’t kill people; PEOPLE kill people,” report them immediately to the Dumb Police. In my youth there was a public service TV ad that began with a set of keys dangling from the ignition of a car. A passing teenager spied the keys, looked quickly both ways, hopped in and drove off. Fast forward to cops pulling said teenager out of the car in cuffs. The somber announcer said, “Remove your keys. Don’t help a good boy go bad.” Keys don’t steal cars; kids do. But not without the goddam keys.

And speaking of the Dumb Police, the mathematical control freaks among you may have reported me at the moment my Ten Meanderings reached eleven, but few high school students have reached this educational promised land without the aid of EXTRA CREDIT. You can throw three out and still get an A…with one exception. You can’t hit your kids.