Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Just Say No to Negativity

My spouse, CB, and I had just finished shopping. We exited the store and heard a quick yell, screech of brakes and a “thump.” We looked up and saw a woman lying in the crosswalk. CB ran back into the store, yelled for the salesperson to call 9-11, and raced over to the woman. The driver of the truck who hit the pedestrian got out as well. I shut the truck door and helped direct traffic away from the injured woman as we waited for an ambulance to arrive.

CB is a physician, but has always been reluctant to mention it to strangers. It was one of the things I found endearing when we first met. I’m half Jewish and being a doctor is a very big deal. Why someone would have such an important career and not announce it to the world was beyond my comprehension. I come from a family who boast their accomplishments, as well as the deeds of their children and close friends. I’m a little more reserved about my own feats, but I am a PR person by trade, so I get my kicks trumpeting the feats of others.

CB, on the other hand, has always been more egalitarian. In this incidence, my spouse’s modesty was being mistaken for medical ignorance. I had taken some CPR courses with CB, but I’m by no means a medical expert. However, I like to be prepared in case of an emergency. My spouse knelt next to the woman to access her situation. The driver who hit her said we should move her off the street.

CB calmly said, “Sir, I strongly recommend against that. She could have a neck or back injury.” The guy persisted. I informed him CB was a doctor and knew what to do. The guy responded that he had worked in hospitals for many years (as if this made him more qualified than someone who had 12 years of medical education and more than 20 years of experience as a physician.) The guy persisted. This time I loudly said, “no!” He backed off and I proceeded to divert traffic while CB continued to access the situation until the paramedics arrived.

I think the woman is going to be okay, but she might not have been if CB hadn’t been there to prevent the truck driver from schlepping her from the asphalt to another location. My role in all of this was minor, but important. I didn’t try to reason with the driver. With an authoritative voice that surprised even me, I just said, “No!”

In the book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, my friend and co-author Jackie and I highlight stories of people who have overcome dramatic challenges in their lives. At the end of each chapter we also offer simple tips to erase negativity, as well as a few suggestions on how to embrace happiness.

Most of us want to blame outside influences as the source of our problems. My friend and fellow Buddhist, Ed Casper, posted the following anonymous quote on facebook from Buddhist Boot Camp.

“You’re not stuck in traffic; you ARE traffic. We blame society’ but we ARE society.”

Since all of us are members of society we need to own up to the contributions we make toward the good and evil in the world. I thought about this regarding internal negativity. We are bombarded with unpleasant news, grouchy people and sadness. However, we have the power to make positive choices. When the opportunity arises for a nasty thought, word or action, we can train ourselves to deflect it. In our book, we focus on three easy tips:

1. Recognize the problem.
2. Erase the negativity and replace it with something more empowering.
3. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it.

If you want to watch a short video about these three simple steps to happiness visit

Generally I’m an agreeable person. I don’t like to contradict others and I’m more likely to find diplomatic solutions than stir up trouble. However, there are times, such as when CB and I were trying to help the stricken pedestrian, that I had to speak up. The same is true of our own internal demons.

We have two choices. We can take the easy route and give in to the darkness of negativity, whether it is our own, or absorbing the nastiness that surrounds us. The second option is to stop negativity in its tracks.

I hope you will not use this story as an excuse to find a negative friend, co-worker, crazy driver or relative and begin anti-negativity crusade against them. Start with yourself. You are, after all, the only one whose thoughts, speech and action you can control.

Combating negativity isn’t easy. It takes consistent energy and work. We may not have the opportunity to rescue someone from a burning building, or perform medical miracles, but we have the power to erase our own negativity and embrace a happier life. And that is no small thing.

While I hope all of you who read this will buy our book and recommend it to others,
it really boils down to one thing. The next time a nasty thought, word or action tries to sneak out of your life and poison your happiness “Just Say No!”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Green Hair and Peeing on the Tidy Bowl Man

I remember the first time I saw someone with green hair. This was decades before punk rock, spikey hair and cell phones. It was the summer of 1968 and I was swimming at Kino Junior High School’s pool in Mesa, Arizona.

It was summertime and this brand new, Olympic-size pool was the city’s newest gem. I spied an athletic, female lifeguard. It seemed she was supposed to have blond hair, but her short, golden locks had a serious shade of emerald running through it.

I rubbed my eyes and looked again. I saw a couple other young men and women with jade-infused tresses.

“They can’t be doing that on purpose,” I thought to myself. “Was this part of a sorority or fraternity prank?”

I didn’t think too much about it until school started in the fall. Low and behold, one of the P.E. teachers, Miss Driscoll, had limey locks as well. I asked one of my friends (either brainy Beverly Berres or well-informed Janet Loughrey) and they set me straight. If you bleach your hair and swim a lot in a chlorinated pool it turns your hair green.

Who knew? I was saavy enough to acknowledge that if one urinated in a toilet with Tidy Bowl in it the water would turn green. My friend, Michele Fitzgerald's mom used Tidy Bowl in their commode. After I used their facilities I would exit and sing, "I turned the water green."
Why I felt I needed to sing this little ditty every time I peed on the Tidy Bowl Man, I'm not sure, but it became a tradition I kept up for years. It was much like my odd habit of donning an ugly curler cap even when my hair wasn't in rollers.

But I digress.

Decades have passed since that hot summer day at the pool, but apparently hair color catastrophes continue to be an unwanted experience by thousands of unsuspecting men and women each day.

Consider these true stories of wayward color gone bad.

• A young woman tried to color her hair and didn’t realize until it was too late that she missed a huge spot in the back that was obvious to everyone at the gym when she put her hair back in a ponytail.
• A truck driver let his new girlfriend color his hair but left the color on too long (they were drinking wine and having fun) and an hour later his hair was bright orange. Nothing to do but let it grow out for three weeks and keep on trucking.
• A minister wanted to appear more youthful and let his wife color his white hair. Even prayer didn’t help when his locks turned green.
• Linda Cobb, aka the Queen of Clean and author of numerous books on cleaning says the only safe place to color your own hair is in the backyard. Before focusing on the money you might save by forgoing the salon, consider the value and time of replacing your clothes, bathroom wallpaper and rugs, as well as the time spent scrubbing your sink and skin.

One of favorite clients owns cosmetology schools in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas. I’ve learned a lot about hair while promoting their hair products and beauty schools. Apparently providing hair coloring services is a big chunk of a stylist’s business. Now that my brunette hair is turning grey, I understand why folks would want to use any methods to turn back the clock and restore their locks to their natural color, or experiment with other hues. However, it seemed there were only two alternatives.

1. Pay a bunch of money and have a professional stylist take care of the situation.
2. Buy a box of color and take a chance you won’t make a mess of things.

However, there is a third alternative. International Academy of Hair Design in Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix and West Phoenix is offering a 50% off discount on all color services at their award-winning cosmetology schools. The regular price of color services begin at $24 (long hair is extra.) and the special takes place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through Aug. 31. The same deal applies to ITS Academy of Beauty in Texas and Oklahoma, Olympian University in New Mexico and Hair Benders Academy in Florida.

All the locations, phone numbers, as well as information about services and student enrollment can be found at

Looking back at my childhood memories of swimming and playing in the sun brings a smile to my face. So does the thought of my naiveté regarding chlorine and green hair. I think it’s great that we have so many options available to us for hair color.

However, if you want a change in color and style and don’t want to take a chance of a chromatic catastrophe, why not check out what services (or even career options) are available to you at Beauty School Rocks?

That said, I’d like to close with a quote from Frank Gelett .

“I never saw a purple cow; I never hope to see one; but I can tell you, anyhow, I'd rather see than be one.”

Friday, July 5, 2013

Interdependence Day

I was in San Francisco for the 4th of July this year. My spouse, CB, and I staked out a small plot of ground near the Bay to watch the fireworks. It was cool and crowded, but I was filled with anticipation. We listened to a live band and watched the hordes of people and pups that came out to celebrate our nation’s birthday.

We pulled up to San Francisco the Sunday before. As we approached our neighborhood the last remnants of the Pride Festival that had taken place that weekend were being removed. However, the court house was still bathed in an array of lights and rainbow flags wafted in the breeze in honor of the celebration. The mood was joyous for the GBLT community and their supporters fresh from hearing the Supreme Court ruling that ended California’s ban on same-sex marriage and struck down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act earlier that week.

Now my spouse and I were gathered among a throng of Americans sitting near the proverbial dock of the bay awaiting a fireworks display. I don’t like crowds. In fact I’m a bit claustrophobic, but since it is rare that I get to celebrate Independence Day in a balmy environment, I decided I could endure the crowds for a few hours.

We knew what to expect. CB’s co-workers, and the friendly cashier at Trader Joe’s informed us that the festivities were impressive, but the crowds were daunting. We had walked some five miles earlier that day and enjoyed a bright, sunny day meandering through the city, walking alongside a stream of cars ready to descend Lombard’s crooked street, popped into the Maritime Museum, chatted with a woman about America’s cup and then through the park on our way toward a bus stop near the Golden Gate Bridge.

We boarded a crowded bus (standing room only) and rolled along to within a few blocks of the studio apartment we were staying at for CB’s temporary assignment. We were both exhausted from our long walk. Once we entered our small apartment we fell into a deep sleep. It would have been easy to blow off the festivities and give in to nocturnal bliss (and give my aching dogs a respite) but I really wanted to enjoy a fireworks display in less than the triple digit heat that I had become accustomed to in Arizona.

The buses were even more crowded than before, so I forgot about the $2 I had stuck into my pocket for bus fare and we followed the throng of folks walking to the event. We arrived shortly before 9 p.m. and the place was jammed with people of every conceivable background. A young father in dred locks and his boisterous son sat in front of us, a Korean family sat to our left and several young men stood behind us, happily chatting in a mixture of Spanish and English.

At 9:30 p.m. the first fireworks were launched in sync with a variety of patriotic music. Further down the bay, a simultaneous display of sight and sound filled the air. The fireworks were awe inspiring. Everyone was silent except for the ahs and ohs and occasional bursts of applause at the spectacle.

I looked across the bay and thought of the thousands of people around me. People of all ethnicities, ages, religions and sexual orientation gathered peacefully together in very close quarters without a single fight. Even though I do not like being in a crowd, I thought it was a mild inconvenience compared to what my Swedish grandmother must have endured during her long boat passage to Ellis Island. How I wish I would have asked her more about her journey. What did my paternal grandfather and his elderly mother think as they exited the pogroms in Russia to find their way to Canada, and eventually the U.S. to begin a new life?

I am a second generation American on three sides of my family and potential DAR member on my maternal grandfather’s side. Yet I know I am the product of ancestors who faced great hardships to settle in this magnificent country. Most of the time it is something I take for granted. But sitting in the diverse crowd I thought of how grateful I was to be an American. As I looked around me I had new respect for the people surrounding me who, despite individual differences, wanted the same things I did.

Truth be known, we admire our individuality, but we cannot exist without each other. From the farmer who grows our food, the bus drivers who drive us to our destinations, the police officers directing traffic, to the sanitation workers hauling away our garbage, all have an important role in our lives.

As CB and I headed homeward and followed the throng through the streets (again the buses were too crowded and we had to hoof it) I thought of how this 4th of July would be forever etched into the hearts of the GLBT community. Although there is more work to be done, definitive steps have been taken in guaranteeing the rights of all Americans.

I am truly grateful to be an American. I may not always be at peace with the prejudice and hatred that still exists in the hearts of so many, but after spending a few days in San Francisco during a very historic week, I am hopeful we can attain the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that is promised to us in our constitution.

On July 4th we celebrate our independence from Britain. My hope for the future is that we take a look around at our fellow human beings who silently take a role in our lives and recognize and honor our interdependence to one another. Then, and only then, will we truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.