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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When we think of what a Tyrannosaurus looked like, we picture a gargantuan dinosaur with a huge mouth, formidable legs and tail, and inexplicably tiny arms. When we picture how it behaved, we might imagine it stomping and roaring onto a peaceful scene, single-handedly wreaking havoc and tearing the limbs off of anything it can find with its steak-knife-like teeth like a giant killing machine.

The image is probably fairly accurate, except for one thing—there's a good chance the T. rex wouldn't have been hunting alone.

New research from a fossil-filled quarry in Utah shows that Tyrannosaurs may have been social creatures who utilized complex group hunting strategies, much like wolves do. The research team who conducted the fossil study and made the discovery include scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colby College of Maine, and James Cook University in Australia.

The idea of social Tyrannosaurs isn't entirely new—Canadian paleontologist Philip Curie floated the hypothesis 20 years ago upon the discovery of a group of T. rex skeletons who appeared to have died together—but it has been widely debated in the paleontology world. Many scientists have doubted that their relatively small brains would be capable of such complex social behavior, and the idea was ridiculed by some as sensationalized paleontology PR.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.