There's a pretty simple way we can raise kind girls instead of 'mean girls.'

I remember walking into the cafeteria of my new school and it was like someone punched me in the stomach.

I was in sixth grade. My family had just moved from Virginia to Ohio. At first, I attended the local Catholic school. Within the first two months, I was begging my parents to go to the public school because the girls were so mean.

And when I look back, wow, they were cruel. My maiden name is Ackerman. They’d call me “Lisa Acneman,” as sixth grade brought with it oily skin and some breakouts. When my parents decided that I would change schools, I felt relieved.


I won’t even tell you about the last day at school there when all the girls knew I was leaving.

Off to public school I went. But soon I was to find out that it didn’t matter whether I went to parochial or public school.

Instantly a group of girls took me in. They invited me to sit at their lunch table.

All photos by iStock.

Little did I know that they had kicked another girl off the table so I could sit with them. I was so grateful to have friends. I was a bit naïve. Maybe that’s because I grew up in a home where we were all out for each other and my assumption going “out into the world” was that everyone was like that too.

Then one day, I walked into the cafeteria. I nearly dropped my brown paper lunch bag. I looked at the table where I had been sitting for the last week. My first week at school. I counted the number of girls at the table — eight. Eight was the maximum number of people who could sit at one table. The two girls who were the “leaders” looked at me, whispered to the other girls at the table, and everyone turned around to laugh at me.

My heart sank. I actually went up to the table and feebly asked, “Is there space for me here?” Hoping maybe I was wrong, that it wasn’t as it seemed. I couldn’t feel my feet beneath me. I felt dizzy. I swear my heart was going to jump out of my chest.

"My ears were ringing, my hands were clammy, my heart was beating so fast."

I can’t remember what they said, but I must have gotten the picture because I turned and I quickly looked around for a place to sit. It was a small cafeteria and soon someone would notice me. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. My ears were ringing, my hands were clammy, my heart was beating so fast.

I felt the eight girls’ snickering whispers like daggers in my back. There was no “physical fight” or blow up so the teachers on lunch duty were none the wiser. I saw a table with no one at it. So I sat down. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t.

This is where I sat for two months. Alone. By myself.

Once, a male teacher came up to me — after whispering to another teacher — with a sympathetic, pleading look on his face and asked me something I can’t remember now. But I didn’t see him as a resource.

I know that eventually I sat somewhere with some group.

For the next two years that we lived in Ohio, I had some good experiences. I still have a friend from there who is one of my best friends.

But the two girls continued to be bullies. Yes, that’s what I can call it now as I understand as a psychotherapist and adult what was really going on. They were the kind of “friends” who would invite you over and you’d feel like “Oh good! We are friends again!” Only to have them talk about you or put you down.

We have all had experiences like this, where other girls have been mean to us.

Just the other day, another mom friend of mine told me that she waved to two moms talking and they looked at her and laughed. It happens in childhood. It can happen between adult women.

As a psychotherapist, I intimately know that when someone hurts others, it’s because they are hurting. I have counseled both the bully and the one being bullied.

I know, too, from counseling parents how, when our children’s lives eclipse our own, we remember (consciously or unconsciously in our body’s cellular memory) our own experiences of hurt, rejection, and betrayal. And those old experiences, though healed, come back up and make us tender.

I had an opportunity this last week to feel such tenderness. I’ll share that story in a moment.

But first, I want to share this — the trump.

What came out of my experiences with "mean girls"?

I can look back and see how I became an “includer.” I became someone who sees the outsider and looks to include people. I became someone who is good at bringing people in, making them feel a part of things.

I also became an “includer” with my own inner world of feelings and experiences. I learned through years and years of mindfulness and compassion practices how to create space to “include everything” and how to abide with whatever is arising. Even the nasty, hard-to-look-at, shameful parts. I practiced forgiveness. Those two bullies? I forgave them (they didn’t ask for my forgiveness). Other people who have hurt me? Other people I have hurt? I’m working on receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others. Nothing excluded from forgiveness. Everything included.

I became an “includer” in my work — how I go about being a psychotherapist and coach with individuals and groups. I can hold space for someone to include it all, to hold the parts of them they might have abandoned, ignored, tried to keep quiet, kicked to the curb. I can abide with a client as they learn that excluding anything creates more suffering, and including facilitates healing and integration. True freedom.

I became an “includer” in my family. As parents, Brian and I are about modeling compassion and empathy to our children. We try to create “abiding space” for our children to mindfully name and express whatever is happening within them. On the good days, I can say, “I’ll abide with you. I’ll be with you in this.” And of course there are days when I am short and I snap at them. And then we begin again. We come back together and include even that in our human and imperfect way of being family.

And our family has become “includers.” We are about community and creating space for people — in our home, in our lives, in our hearts — for adults and children to feel loved and included just as they are.

Through gentleness, compassion, and mindful attention, these early experiences of rejection, betrayal, and hurt transformed me.

Through loving attention, through learning to include it all with mindfulness and compassion, I transformed these hurtful experiences and others into compassionate, inclusive arms to hold, words to speak, hands to give, and presence to offer.

And … they still make me tender. And that’s good, even holy. Because they open me to see the hurt in others and be tender with them.

It makes me really tender when it’s about my own daughter. It challenges, brings up and, offers an opportunity for deepening my practice of mindfulness and compassion... for opening my heart even wider.

Like this week, when my daughter came home from pre-K and told me yet again about an experience at school with another little girl.

“It starts early,” a friend said to me.And my heart breaks. My daughter is 4.

The details aren’t mine to share. But my heart was breaking. I talked with a few other moms. God, am I grateful to be alongside other moms who are “includers” — in our circle of moms and in the lives of our children. I talked with my husband. And, most importantly, I talked with my daughter. My dear, 4-year-old daughter.The details are my daughter’s to share someday.

When my daughter — your daughter — is looking back on her childhood, she will tell her own story and it’ll be one of how we walked alongside our girls.

How we empowered them.

I hope all our girls will someday share stories like:

My mom would listen to me as she stroked my hair, as she lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”

My mom wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. She wouldn’t freak out and panic out of her own fears and hurts and unconscious stuff she was holding. She would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. She would wait and listen — listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”

My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”

My mom wasn’t about sweeping me up and saving me. She was about empowering me. She knew when to step in front of me and be the mama bear, protecting me. And she knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”

I learned to say, “That's not OK!” and “Stop!” and “I am walking away now.”

I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with me. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”

I learned to name with compassion what is happening, for myself and others. I learned to name it, state it, and own my response.”

I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls and women in ways that honor and regard each girl and woman’s body, feelings, experiences, and needs.”

I learned to find my tribe of women. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”

I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice — on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”

I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”

This is what I am modeling to my daughter. This is the space I am creating for my daughter. Not perfectly. But, my God, as best as I can. I know other moms who believe the same thing. I am blessed to be around other moms who want this for our community. They want this for our world. They want this for our daughters and their daughters.

I know you want to model this to your daughter too. You are this sacred space for your daughter. And I know you are doing it the best you can.

Because this is how we heal the "mean girls" culture: We hold, we include, we love, we empower, and we regard our girls.

And we model this in how we treat other women.

If you are a parent to a daughter, no matter the age, can you imagine your daughter telling such a story? Can you imagine creating the space for her to share, to abide with her, to empower her? Can you imagine raising "girls who include" instead of "mean girls"?

Can you imagine if we all model being an “includer” and resolving conflicts or hurts or insecurities with regard and compassion?

Can you imagine what this would do for our world if we raise daughters who know how to name what is happening within them and a situation, who know how to speak up in the face of injustice, who believe in their innate goodness, and who include rather than exclude because they have an inner confidence and have been raised to listen to the wisdom of their inner voice?

We have to imagine it and create it — for all of us women, for our daughters, and for our world.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.