Wandering Through Nothingness

A Little Something from Molly Barker

One More Time

Hiya folks!

I’m going to be departing tomorrow on a month-long journey that will be captured on the website wwww.theRedBootCoalition.org. I invite you to join me for this excursion by checking in over there. I will not be checking in over here. :)

Molly

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The Red Boot Coalition: An Invitation

Hi ya. Molly here.

If you are dropping in and wanting to get a feel for who I am…peek around a bit on the blog for a number of varied pieces of writing.

But I thought I would invite you to also visit me at http://www.theredbootcoalition.org. That whether I like it or not…seems to be turning into an idea that is big, bold and powerful.

Come on over, won’t you?

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Words…Poland…Love…Silence.

The impact of today will not settle within these bones o’ mine for weeks. But I didn’t want this day to end without at least sharing something about one of the most powerful days of my life.

Today I had the opportunity…no wait a minute…I had the PRIVILEGE to speak with fifteen 16 to 18 year old girls. These brave girls traveled anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to be at the workshop. They hail from some of Poland’s poorest communities and frankly…these girls know poverty in ways that I have only read about in books.

The media was there in full force. Two newspapers including the Warsaw Times (their version of the New York Times) and Good Morning Poland…their version of…Good Morning America were all present. This was a surprise to me. Workshops such as this occur frequently in the US and are certainly not covered by such intense media.

molly shoot2

I began with a humorous and poignant story about my own daughter Helen and then moved into some very simple introductions.

Next. I told my story…the story of founding Girls on the Run. I introduced them to the concept of the Girl Box, but now (as opposed to how I discussed it in the early days) I suggested that there is also a boy box, a leader box, a mother box, a professional athlete box, a celebrity box. Heck there is a cultural box we use to define just about everything in our lives. This in and of itself isn’t a bad or good thing…it’s a way we humans bring order to our physical environment. It is easier…it allows us to make sense of a world that at times can be overwhelming.

Gender is just one of those boxes and when I was a young girl, trying to make my way from childhood into adulthood, GENDER was the box I spent most of my time trying to figure out and make sense for myself. I mean after all, gender is a pretty obvious box, first because usually we can just look at someone and immediately size them up by their gender. (Others may struggle with other boxes that define us: ethnicity, economics, religion or political party.) Mine, though was all about GIRL.

I shared a little bit of this concept with them and then we listed off some of the messages that come from the “Girl Box” as they know it.

“Women should be married and stay at home with their children.”
“Women should remain quiet and if they speak up they should be careful because it is very likely they will be seen as aggressive or unattractive.”
“Women are discouraged from pursuing professional careers.”
“Women who are divorced are not respected.”

I then went on to suggest that my experience has been…that the most effective way to eliminate the negative side of these “boxes” that confine us is to shift our focus from the box and focus on who we are and bring THAT into the world…bring those traits into our reality. Start there, in small ways first and then when we are ready, go for it a little more boldy.

I asked for a volunteer. One brave young woman stepped up.
I asked her to wiggle her index finger…in a “come here” kind of way.

She did.

I then asked her if she could possibly do that funny gesture any “bigger.”

She added her whole hand to the movement.

“I think she can bring even more of herself into this…Do you?”

The girls all laughed. “Yes! Yes!”

Eventually Shaka was pretty much doing a disco dance, arms moving, feet moving and a booty shake that was absolutely stellar…all the while that finger doing it’s thang.

The girls clapped for her.

“So imagine that this (signaling the come here gesture) is a talent that you have…something you do really well and that you really enjoy.

Do you want to do that just a little bit? Heck no! The world needs and yearns for your talents. Focus there! Bring them on. Utilize your talents. Start small if you must or if you want, but know that the more you bring your attention to your talents, the more the Girl Box slips away.”

I then asked the group to share some of their talents. Only two girls responded…

I asked for a second volunteer.

Patricia volunteered.

I whispered to her what her assignment would be. “Whisper your name.”

So, on the count of three, Patricia whispered, “Patricia” to the room full of girls.
“I’m not sure everyone heard you,” I kidded her. “Could you do that a little bit louder?”

Patricia obliged. Now a barely audible “Patricia.”

“Ahhh,” I said. “I’ll bet you can do that even louder. Give it a shot, girl!”
Patricia stated her name.

Slowly but surely, Patricia’s voice grew…and with a final count of three by all of her friends, Patricia yelled her name as loud as you can imagine!

I asked the girls. “What did Patricia have to use for you to hear her name.”

One of the girls responded quickly and quite enthusiastically. “Her voice.”

“Right,” I clapped. “Her voice! It’s so very important to share our voice…to find one soul sister…you know…that one heart friend…that girlfriend with whom you can be your biggest, brightest, boldest and most vulnerable self. To begin there…to practice being your true and honest self with her and once you’ve found her and you are both certain of your voice, invite another girl into your circle. Listen, share, be! Invite another and another…and before you know it, the Girl Box in your world has completely disappeared.”

They Looked at me with an eager yearning…eyes wide…hearts open.

“I need one more volunteer.”

Not sure what was next, the girls were hesitant to volunteer. Everyone smiled…a few giggled.

I chose Veronica. She and I had talked before the workshop had begun.

I whispered to Veronica her assignment.

And on the count of three, she began.

Tall, full of the brightest light you can imagine, Veronica stood there, with her doe-like, brilliant blue eyes and a smile that was authentic not only because of its joy, but the bitter and often sad hardships tucked in beneath the corners there on her beautiful, hopeful face.

She stood there, tall, wise and vulnerable for all of her friends to see.

“What do you think Veronica is doing?” I asked the group.

“She’s standing!”

“Yes,” I said. She is definitely standing, but that’s not what I asked her to do.
“Smiling,” another said.

“Yep…but not what I’m looking for.”

“Being herself,” Patricia shouted, the joy singing out from under the space between her words

“Bingo!” I high-fived Patricia. “That’s it! Good Job!”

“Think about it.” I said. “There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Veronicas in the world, but is there one Veronica in all the world who is this one?”

They smiled.

“I mean think about that. There are trillions and trillions of possible combinations and this Veronica, got this body, this smile, this light, this spirit, this awesome, fantastic combination of so many amazing traits and cells and emotions and all of these we call VERONICA. Think about that!!! Like really. This rare and wonderful combination could not possibly be by accident. YOU, ME, all of us were put together in such a way that the world celebrates, rejoices…yearns for what and who we are. How we ended up simply, at least the way I see it, cannot be a coincidence. It’s too perfect! “in fact it is so unique and perfect that no box can contain it!!!”

Veronica sat down.

“So, let’s talk a bit. Does anybody have any questions, thoughts, remarks they would like to share?”

The room was dead silent. NOT the usual response I get when I am working with girls in the United States.

“Anything? Any impressions? What do you think about what I’ve shared here today?”

Nothing, nada, nil.

I sat in the silence. WE sat in the silence. The discomfort growing.

“I can sit with this…it’s uncomfortable, but it’s okay. Sometimes our silence says as much as our words.”

We sat there together in the room for what felt like a very, very long time.

Every eye in the room was looking at me. Every face directed toward me. Every heart open, spirit willing, soul present and yet…no words.

And then it hit me, as it hits me again all over now as I write.

No one…no one had ever spoken such as this to these girls. Not because they didn’t feel it or know it or believe it…but because the words, THESE words, had just never been said.

This doesn’t make it right or wrong or good or bad; but I realized in that moment that words can be our way out of the box, as powerfully as they can be the way in…that the words we choose to use can contain us or set us free.

And for the first time…the first time I realized how powerful…I, you, we really are.

Molly girl power with EFC

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The Red Boot Ride is Fast Approaching!

So…the Red Boot Ride is shaping up.

50 50 boot

As many of you know I’m heading out on a month-long journey in August. Details to follow, but I’ve made a decision to pinpoint particular cities along the way. In addition to meeting with fabulous folks who “chance” happens to bring onto my path…I’d like to engage small groups of folks in dialogue around co-creating a paradigm shift in how we view political leadership….in other words introduce a new conversation into politics that recognizes what I see as a real yearning, by the American Public, for political leaders who are driven not to win, but to impact.

These “new” candidates are the innovators, the social entrepreneurs, the changemakers, the open-hearted and the vulnerable…a set of very brave and very dedicated individuals who are committed to finding solutions not by holding firm to any particular agenda, party platform or ideology, but by engaging diverse groups of individuals (basically the people they serve) to explore and create new solutions to age-old problems…people to whom we can all relate because of their willingness to be human, humble and transparent.

I believe that change begins first with a vision, but in order to bring any vision to reality, we must bring it from the mind’s eye into form through words.

If you are reading this and something in it resonates with you and you’d be interested in pulling together a small (or large) group of folks to help “craft” the words for this American Leadership Vision, please message or comment here. I will be determining my route along with stops…in the next four weeks.

Why this matters? I guess to many folks it doesn’t matter and that’s totally cool. But it matters to me because inevitably I believe, deep down in my heart, that the leaders of any nation, represent the soul of it’s people. And based on the many beautiful and truly empowered people in my life, who, with love, strength, compassion and humility, bring about transformative and action-oriented solutions to many of our world’s most pressing challenges, I do not believe the current leadership represents this kind of “soul.”

This is not a right or a wrong “thing.” I just think things have gotten very lopsided and I believe that “righting” the balance is not only necessary, but a journey I find highly intriguing and if truth be told, downright fun.

Imagine…Joy! Innovation! Courage! Humility! Love! Leadership!

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It’s All Good

I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve been struggling for some time…my whole life I think.

The first of the words came when I gave birth…to my son. Hank is almost 19 years old. I’ve watched, struggled, cried, laughed, loved, liked and worried more than I ever thought possible raising this highly spirited and out of the box thinker. He has, as of late, magically become one of my best friends. We talk for long hours into the black of night…dreaming, scheming and creating words from thought. He is my kin, both by birth and by spirit. We are wonderfully and frighteningly similar.

fooling around

A couple of weeks ago, he and I took a short road trip to my sister’s house. We were each captive to the other on the two and a half hour car ride. I shared with him how fascinating it seemed to me that “my story” changes with each year that passes…how my levels of awareness increase and hence the story that explains my life does as well.

“Hank, when did your story begin…the story you currently claim as your life story?”

He thought for a minute or two. “That’s a hard question,” he said.

And then the words flowed. “I’d have to say it started the day you and Dad divorced.”

My initial gut reaction felt like knife to heart.

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“I remember our pulling out of the driveway. And I knew that my relationship with my Dad would be different. It had to be. I was only five, but I knew even then that my whole life was changing.

My whole life since then has been trying to find the man in me…to define the man I want to be. That’s why I’ve been through a lot of what I’ve been through…sometimes trying to find that man. Sometimes it feels lonely and sometimes I’ve made unhealthy decisions trying to mold myself into how the world defines man…but now I know, it’s all good.”

I didn’t say a word. We drove a few more minutes.

“Actually,” he continued. I think it’s less about finding the man I am…and defining the PERSON, I want to be.”

hank with vinnie

I’ve learned so much from Hank. He has so beautifully integrated the feminine I live into with such ease, with the man he has become. He is both strong and vulnerable…loving and firm…compassionate and protective.

And he got me thinkin’…I wonder how things might be different if we stepped outside the gender box and allowed people, regardless of gender, to bring their full selves forward in whatever way and capacity that revealed itself.

Because I think, if we get really honest with ourselves, beneath the gender dialogue is the continuing belief and unspoken reality that those who continue “devaluing women” either consciously or unconsciously, at the highest levels of leadership (and in certain cultures, do not value them at all), has more to do with devaluing those traits we typically label as feminine…compassion, love, tenderness, empathy and understanding. In spite of the fact that nearly every spiritual teacher, across all religions and centuries has shouted from the mountain top, the transformative power of love, compassion and acceptance…the expression of these, are for many, still seen as signs of weakness.

As a matter of fact, these “softer” sides of our humanity can be scary…threatening even…especially to those of our brothers and sisters who haven’t experienced or actually lived into the power and strength that comes when we allow love, compassion, vulnerability and tenderness to fully integrate into all facets of our lives. It is a blessed and beautiful day when the breakthroughs occur for folks, but the build-up or prelude to our breakthroughs often require breakdowns that are soul-wrenching, humbling and certainly not “fun.”

Hank is one of the most compassionate, loving and tender folks I know…and has struggled immensely trying to be heard, seen and understood in a world that values the man, but not the “feminine” qualities a man such as he, possesses.hank and macie

I’m not satisfied with these words yet, but they are coming…

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Batman Bill

I met Batman Bill (Caloviras) several years ago. He emailed me with an incredibly eloquent essay about coaching Girls on the Run. (His nickname was given to him by his team of girls.) This was years ago, when his now teenaged daughter, was in the program. Male Coaches for Girls on the Run continue to be far and few between, but I gotta tell ya…the men who DO coach are incredible role models for the girls and are, just as we all are, on their own journeys to break free from societal stereotypes.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Girls on the Run 5k in Lancaster, PA, where Batman Bill lives.

Bill was there with his family…each of them were volunteering. His wife, Jessica; his daughter Lianna; and his son Josh were all working diligently with the film crew there to document the experience on video.

Bill is…I shall I say it. A man’s man. He is not a small man…strong in stature…right now a bit on the as he says “I need to run more” size.

Bill and Jessica

Bill and Jessica

Bill and I have communicated over the years. He and his family stopped by the Girls on the Run office a while back, on their way through Charlotte. He and I have emailed and “Facebooked.” Jessica, his fantastic wife and Lianna, his GOTR alum daughter are always posting awesome links on my Facebook page!

So spending time with him and his family in Lancaster was just like hanging out with ole’ friends. We talked, laughed, snapped some photos.

bill and molly

So, it was no surprise when a text from him, showed up on my phone several days later. It was the CONTENT of it that made me laugh, out loud and it goes exactly like this.

Batman Bill: Zoe (his youngest daughter) asked if she cold paint my nails. Every family member in unison said no way. I surprised them all by letting her do her artwork. Even she was surprised, but she will remember it all her life…

Molly: Love this! Send me a pic of you and Zoe with your beautiful painted nails. Makes me smile.

Batman Bill: I will. It was funny. At first when she asked I was thinking to myself “No way in hell.” Then I thought, “What the Hell!” She had a blast. Then in walks Josh (his son) and he says, “Dad I am taking your man card away.” Even at age 10 society has created this machismo thought pattern. Amazing how we are brought up in this macho homophobic way of thinking. I am sick of it and glad I let Zoe paint my nails. And you know what? I am wearing flip flops to the neighborhood Memorial Day barbecue and when I get weird quizzical looks, I can’t wait to explain how much I love my kids and this simple silly thing made a memory on my kid’s brain to last a lifetime. #soworthit.

Molly: YES!!!!!YES!!!! YOU GET IT!!!!

Aren't these awesome?

Aren’t these awesome?

Molly: You Rock. You were already pretty close to the top of my cool dad list. Now you are at the top! Lol

Batman Bill: I just figured you would appreciate a funny story about livin’ outside of our box. You know what really made me let go and let Zoe do this? About three months ago I called on a plant manager of a large manufacturing company. I had met this guy before so we have a good relationship. I walked into his office and his fingernails were painted bright orange. At the end of our meeting I had to ask why. He had acted totally normal, not explaining it when I first walked in or apologized. He had no embarrassment whatsoever. Keep in mind, he worked in a plant with over 100 men and women who answered to him. Talk about gutsy. He said he lost a bet to his 8 year old daughter and so she decided to paint his nails. Now Zoe asked to do my toenails. And wear shoes to work so I am not sure what I would have done if she asked to paint my fingernails. But I did wear flip flops to the cookout so my neighbors could see them! Lol.

There really is not a whole more I can add to this. Perhaps there is a little something trending here? And I’m not talking about painted nails on men. I’m talking about the tenderness of men and a new and inviting world opening up for them. I’m excited to see that the Boy Box is beginning to crack.

That's Bill in the middle.  He coaches his son football team.

That’s Bill in the middle. He coaches his son football team.

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Lucy Can Drop It LIke It’s Hot

So, my mom used to embarrass me.

A lot.

Mary Wilmer was a beautiful woman, charismatic and charming. She had a humble yet humorous energy about her that included talking pretty much to anybody within a mile of her airspace. Her smile was that big!

Going shopping with her was, at least when I was a teenager, torture.

We would walk into the department store and it didn’t matter who or what the FIRST person she saw was doing, she would march right up to them and ask, “Excuse me, but which floor is the lingerie on?”

department store

Yep. That’s right. It didn’t matter if this particular person worked at the store or not. She would just ask.

Well…I’m afraid (although secretly I’m very excited) I am just like my mother. I will pretty much give the googly eye to anyone who is willing to make eye contact and then if they are so inclined, I will hone in on a conversation that, if I’m lucky, leads to that BAM moment when a brief but powerful connection is made.

It kinda hit me yesterday when my fifteen year old daughter and I were out. A four year old girl was marching through the grocery store, with red cowboy boots on, and we all know my fascination with Red Boots. (If you don’t please check out http://www.theredbootrevolution.com) I practically chased her through the aisles, wanted to chat with her and her mom, and query her about those darn red boots.

Helen in that tone all mothers know well said, “Moooooom. You are scaring the poor child. Stop, PLEASE!”

All of this to say that this August, I’ve decided to go on a journey where I can put my “joy-in-connecting” skillsets to real-life use…I’m calling it “The Joy Ride: In Pursuit of Happiness.”

fluffy dice

I’ve been toying, as many of you know, over the last couple of years, with what we…heck I…can do to bring balance back to our nation’s political leadership. For me this is a very intriguing question and leads me to believe that our system is basically all outta whack.

After spending nearly a year in DC I’ve observed that the people in elected office mostly live on the left side of their brains. We seem to be missing the right-brained people who ask the deeper questions, like “Why?” “What for?” and “How come?”

The innovators, question-askers, creative-types, artists, social entrepreneurs…they just don’t sign up for the political game. They don’t WANT to sign up. These people don’t enjoy competition, agendas and strategizing how to BEAT someone. They aren’t opposed to these concepts, (because we need both the right and the left brain to make a whole and sustainable system) but they are not attracted to games that are ruled by these concepts. These concepts are simply not in alignment with how they see or live their lives.

Nope! These folks find joy in: uniting, exploring the solution that lies several layers beneath the presenting problem, connection, systems change thinking, connecting dots and exploring the determinants of human nature.

So…in August, I thought it might be interesting to set off on a journey that explores “the pursuit of happiness” (as so eloquently outlined by our Founding Fathers) but come at it from the social entrepreneur, innovator, creative-type, right brain and see if we couldn’t get below the surface “what makes us happy” to the deeper “what makes us happy.”

Not too long ago, I thought I would put this question to its first test. I was getting dressed, after an awesome workout, at or local Y when I just felt so inclined, to for no reason other than I loved the fact that she was putting the coolest wig on her head that you can possibly imagine, ask the awesome 60-something year old woman getting ready for work next to me, “So, what makes you happy?”

She paused for a moment, hands atop her head moving bobby pins here and there.

“Church.” She stated with conviction.

“That’s cool.” I said.

We continued in silence for a minute or two. I thought we were at a dead-end. Clearly my enthusiasm for the question didn’t intrigue her in the least. I’m putting on what little makeup I wear and she is continuing to mess with her wig.

“And cookouts.”

cookout

She smiled at me. I smiled back.

“Cookouts? What do you mean by cookouts.”

Well, that was all I needed to ask. Lucy (that isn’t her real name, but it is the name her family calls her. Her real name never suited her and so everybody just started callin’ her Lucy) simply began.

“Cookouts are when we all get together. I’ve got a big family. We all get together. Eat. Drink. Spend time together. Usually on Sundays after church. You know you gotta pray hard and play hard.” She continued for several minutes. All about her kids, her husband for 40-some years, her grandkids, her job, her church, her best cookout foods. She was totally delightful.

There was a slight pause. She glanced at me in the mirror. I glanced back.

“And of course,” she said almost nonchalantly. “I can still drop it like it’s hot.”

I laughed, as in OUT LOUD.

She chuckled. “My grandkids thinks it’s hilarious and are always asking me, ‘Grandmama, Drop it like it’s hot. Drop it like it’s hot.'”

To be clear, up to this point, I wasn’t sure what she meant by “drop it like it’s hot.” There are a number of references to that expression and there was, of course, that one song by Snoop Dog.

So I asked her, because if her grandkids asked her I knew it had to be G-rated, to “drop it like It’s hot.”

Well, what happened next was truly a miracle. Lucy, (I have now learned is 62 years old) broke into some of the most amazing dance moves I’ve ever seen. I mean…AMAZING. And then it came…what I would assume is the “Drop it Like It’s Hot” move that would, if I attempted it, keep me on the injured list for weeks.

She dropped down to the floor…knees bent WAY past (and I mean WAY past) 90 degrees, to where her derriere was only millimeters from the floor and then popped back up.

I think I said something like “Whoa…I would hurt myself if I did that.”

She did it a couple more times, dusted off her hands and then said with the most beautiful mischievous grin on her face, “See? I can still drop it like it’s hot.”

We bantered back and forth. She finished up before I did. We both looked forward to seeing the other again.

In pursuit of happiness…I definitely found mine that morning at the Y and I’m pretty darn sure Lucy found hers too.

happiness road

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Joe Dirt: America’s New Superhero

I’ve just spent a week in Alaska. Juneau first. Sitka next and Ketchikan to round it out.

Last night I attended the season-ending Girls on the Run 5k in Ketchikan.

I’ve learned a lot about Alaska. It’s about one of the friendliest places you’ll ever want to travel. It’s also, hands down, one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever been. The moment I stepped off the plane in Juneau, the air just felt…different.

Alaska is also located in what’s called a temperate rainforest. THAT means it rains a lot. As in a whole lot. It had been raining off and on all day in Ketchikan…mostly on. The temperature had dropped into the mid to high 40’s. A bit too cool for this Southern girl’s taste.

So…I decked out in the closest-I-could-find in my North Carolina spring attire to keep me warm. Ill-prepared for the weather, I was extremely grateful, that as a parting gift in Juneau, one of our fabulous coaches had knitted me a beautiful hat. Warmed by her spirit, I put it on and headed out into the rain and the chilly air.

hat and Molly

Not like any other GOTR 5k venue I had ever been to, the Ketchikan course was beautifully tucked under a luscious canopy of huge trees…majestic trees that spoke of spirit, magic and grace. Three covered huts, each complete with burning firepits, kept participants cozy and warm while we waited for the run to begin. Pictures were taken. Faces were painted. Hair was sprayed with glitter and rainbow-bright colors. The energy, despite the cold and rainy weather, was warm and radiant.

The run begins and unlike other GOTR 5k’s I decided to run one lap of the two lap course. The soft pine needle-covered path under my feet…the cool air…the rain now reduced to small drops of floating moisture there beneath the arms of those nurturing mother-trees.

I stopped after lap one to cheer on the girls behind me, when he caught my eye.

The beauty of him…a smile as soft and gentle as warm-summer-breeze, crinkles around his eyes and mouth…telltale signs of a life hard-lived…a life well-lived with laughter and love.

…And dirty. Covered in the stuff. There was so much dirt on his face I wanted to laugh out loud…the boy-like wonder, mischief and joy there in the body of this man…strong yet vulnerable.

I wandered to the finish line…to cheer on the girls.

After the race…some of the girls were gathering…when he and his daughter walked over. She and her team had a box full of cards…each one decorated with words of gratitude for the “founding of Girls on the Run.”

He patiently and humbly waited there, while a group of us giggled, read through each card and shared stories.

The day was done. Kids scattering. Fires extinguished. Darkness approaching.

They were walking away.

“Hey…Hey!”

He turned.

“You are…well…you are a beautiful dad for being here. Your daughter, Dyllan will remember this forever.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

My phone was dead. “Could I take a picture of you and your daughter? And then would you send it to me? I just…I just don’t know what to say but something about you and your daughter really touches my heart.”

“Sure.” He hands me his phone.

I snap the photo.

joe dirt
And then it comes…it always does. That moment of connection when the rest of the world ceases to exist and we just are…there…together.

We embrace that kind of hug that isn’t anything but appreciation…one for the other…real big love…the kind that changes the world, opens hearts and empowers. The kind that says “I see you.”

“You are a special man.” His daughter by his side, the three of us smile.

“They call me Joe Dirt.”

The three of us laugh out loud.

“Joe Dirt is a perfect name for you…just perfect.”

His daughter snuggles up next to him…his arm around her. She looks up at her dad…proud he is her father. Proud of the man she sees. Proud.

The photo shows up only moments later in my messages. The message with it…Joe Dirt.

I followed up with a text today, thanking him for allowing me to take the photo. I wanted to let him know that the photo of him and his daughter had received more “likes” on my Facebook page than just about any other photo, I had ever posted. He called right away.

“You are fast becoming a social media sensation!” I smiled. “There’s just something about you Joe Dirt.”

He was silent for a moment and then it comes…I could hear the emotion in his voice.

“This program…Girls on the Run…it brings out a very positive attitude from my daughter. It’s been hard to be positive lately. I work 65 to 80 hours a week…am going through a tough time. She makes me very proud to be her dad.”

I listen…want to cry for reasons that even now elude me.

Joe Dirt may be a superhero, but Joe Borer…now HE is a beautiful, beautiful man.

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In Pursuit of Happiness: The Joy Ride!

As you guys know, I spent a lot of time in our Nation’s Capital, exploring, dreaming, thinking up ways we can incorporate joy and love into our political dialogue. The outcome wasn’t quite what I had thought it would be…but I’m happy to say, I think it’s bigger and better. The Red Boot (R)evolution emerged.

After having spent a year on the Capitol Hill project, I was able to draw some conclusions that have been confirmed and documented by others…that the sustainers of any large entity that has been around awhile, can easily lose sight of the vision of its founders. We move into a space of institutional forgetting and become so focused on the tiny tasks at hand that we forget the big picture…the why for why the whole thing started in the first place.

Every start-up that grows up deals with this institutional forgetting at some point or another and if you think about it, government was at one point a start-up. The men and women involved in its formation were innovators, out of the box thinkers…basically the Steve Jobs of their time. They MADE-UP a manner of leading a nation. How freakin’ amazing is that?

When I was in 7th grade, my history teacher, Mr. Bristor, required his students to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. We are all aware of that famous line that goes like this: (I still have it memorized.)

declaration of independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Well, I’ve been thinkin’ a lot about happiness and joy lately. Seems to me that we’ve gotten a bit off track. We have, as a nation…heck a globe…gotten so focused on our right to be happy that we’ve forgotten what makes us happy in the first place.

If one of the tasks assigned our government is to create a nation where people are free to pursue happiness, might it be helpful to explore what happiness looks like? How can we create systems, laws and rules that allow people to pursue their happiness and their joys if we don’t know what the thing they are pursuing looks like to them?

happinessthree

And to be even more honest here…I have a theory. I think we’ve somehow confused happiness with money…our things. We’ve somehow, as a government…heck as a culture, gotten caught up in a belief that if people have money (how much is a huge debate as well) they are then free to pursue their happiness. (I’m not suggesting that money isn’t necessary…but I am curious to see how money and happiness are, if at all, related to one another.) I think, though, if we really got into it, really sat down and asked each other the question “What really…as in really…makes you happy”…we would discover a different story all together.

happiness four

Now since I can’t be sure of that, I’ve decided to go on an excursion to ask the question. In August of this year (2014) I’m packing up a truck with some lounge chairs (for chatting), a sleeping bag (for sleeping), a coffee maker (all Red Booters need strong coffee), a couple of pink flamingoes (just because I want to and they are funny), some clothes (duh), my running shoes (so I don’t go crazy), a yoga mat (so I don’t think too much) and last and of course not least, my red boots, to set out on a cross country journey… and ask Americans “What makes you happy?”

happiness five

I plan to chronicle the event mostly through the written word, but will include video and photography. Every evening I will check in with ya’ll providing updates on who I’ve met and what amazingness has transpired. No GPS. No maps (tucked away in the event of an emergency of course), I’m just going to Go West…and talk to the amazing people I will meet. Coffee shops, Walmarts, bars, fitness centers, barns, anywhere the mood strikes and the question can happen, I will be there to ask, “What makes you happy?”

Now to be clear…for some folks this would not be fun…but for me this kind of journey makes me very, very happy! So double whammy right? I’ll be asking the question while I’m living my answer!

I’m in search now of a name for this excursion. Got any ideas?

happiness

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Bring Back Our Girls: The Mother in Me

I have been on a three day road trip with four beautiful teenage girls, one of those being my daughter. We laughed. We talked. I felt privileged and honored to be included in their conversations…our talk of boys, love, life.

I come home…and allowed myself to address and awaken to a kind of sorrow and outrage…not like any I’ve ever known. At this moment, nearly 300 of my young sisters have been kidnapped by a man and his militia…a man so asleep in his own life that he cannot see nor understand the insanity—cruel and deviant nature of his behavior.

I feel anger. I feel frustration. I feel helpless.

As I read through the various stories on the kidnappings, I see a world that is, in a uniformity I wouldn’t have seen twenty years ago when I started Girls on the Run, crying out, laying claim to the power of the feminine. We will stand for no more, not here, not there.

The woman in me feels so much outrage. Outrage! What can I do? What can I do?

The most obvious place to start will be for many of us, to use our voices, to speak of our outrage, to sign petitions and plead to those who can directly influence, to do so. Please check out Amnesty International’s website on the Bring Back Our Girls Effort:

bring back out girls

But it’s the seemingly smaller efforts that I plead with those of you reading this to consider. We can do what we can to influence those in direct contact with the efforts, but it’s in the frustration of feeling powerless, we might also look deep within our own hearts and ask ourselves…how might we bring peace and love…to our own backyards, where our impact as well as “who we are” can directly change the world.

Here are a few I’ve thought of…simple, doable and real…that can directly change the world we live in and, I believe, directly influence a world where this kind of tragedy occurs.

If you have others, please share them with me. You can jot them down in the comment section or email them to me directly at mollybarker1960@gmail.com.

1. (Continue to ) Do good work with our children. Create open space for their little spirits to thrive. Children who are loved, seen and heard grow up to be adults who love, see and listen. Where there are children, there is hope.

2. Talk with your friends and family members about what’s going on. If your children are old enough and mature enough, discuss the details of the current situation with them. This doesn’t mean gleaming small bits and pieces of the crisis from sound bytes and social media. Research, understand and become confident in your knowledge. Become (or continue to be) an engaged and educated global citizen.

3. Do not be afraid to speak the truth about this incident. Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, Abram…all our religious founders would be deeply saddened by these events and the efforts of these religious fanatics to correlate them to anything spiritual/religious/moral.

4. Be willing to question where and from whom our own beliefs and values come from.

Our political views, religious views, how-to-parent views, gender views…everything “view” or opinion we have is based on a set of values and beliefs that we have integrated into our thinking and believing as our own.

Question always. Why do I believe this? How did I come to have this belief? Where did that idea come from?

We can be strongly grounded by our core values (particularly those acquired through experience) yet always remain open to the views and values of others. Living into a life that integrates both strength and vulnerability is where true growth happens. All systems…religions, governments, corporations, communities, families…that live in this integrated strong and vulnerable space thrive, sustain and grow as well.

As I close out this short piece, I wish I felt better, but the truth is my feelings of helplessness are heavy…And all I know is that rather than stay stuck in the feelings of helplessness, and do nothing…I will do what I can.

This afternoon I will be spending time with a group of girls in Juneau, Alaska…and I plan to love every last one of them…with every bit of me I can.

Bring-Back-Our-Girls-Michelle-Obama

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