#MillionthGirl

Published February 22, 2015 by wanderingthroughnothingness

This spring season Girls on the Run will serve “her” millionth girl.

I remember back in 1997…I was about four seasons in and the demand for the program was growing.  The fabulous Dori Luke​ came on board to help me manage the demand as well as offer her right-minded thinking to my left-brained feeling.  She created more games and lessons and gave so much to the framework that GOTR still uses today!

One day she said.  “Hey…my Mom has worked in the adolescent psychology field for some time now.  She is specifically an expert in the field of eating disorders.  I bet she would take a look at the curriculum and give her feedback on it…some pointers if necessary.”

I remember immediately feeling afraid.  The self-doubt that plagued me for much of my life, reared it’s ugly head.  “You don’t know what you are doing, Molly.  There are others more qualified to write this, lead this, DO this.”

A couple weeks later Dori’s Mom, Sue Luke​ contacted me and invited me to meet her.  We met at the Harris YMCA.  I dropped my almost two-year old Hank off at the childcare and promptly made my way to the food court.

There she was.  I remember her as bigger than life.  Confident, welcoming and strong.

I sat down across from her.  My guess is there was some small talk, but to tell you the truth I remember nothing of it.  All I remember is sitting there waiting…nervous…wondering what this accomplished woman would say.

And as I recall…it went a little something like this.

Sue:  “Well Molly.  I want to thank you for letting me take a look at the curriculum.  I’ve gone through it thoroughly.”

Molly:  “Uh…Your welcome, I guess?”

Sue:  “I think it’s important that I just cut to the chase.”

Molly:

Sue:  Her hands now rest on the front of the curriculum.  “Molly, what you have here is truly remarkable.  It’s amazing.  It is life-changing.”

Molly: A deep sigh.

Sue:  “So, I don’t think we need to ponder another moment about the effectiveness of the program or the loving spirit in which it was written.  Of those I am certain.

I do, however, think you have a bigger issue…a bigger problem…a bigger question…to ponder.”

Molly:  “Yes.  And what is that?”

Sue:  “My question to you is this:  Do you keep Girls on the Run to yourself and affect a hundred girls a year or do you give it away and affect millions?”

I can remember feeling her words fall down upon my shoulders at first like heavy weights.  My mind was in chaos.  “NO!  I can never give this away.  No one could ever love this program like I do.  No one could ever love the girls as deeply as I do.  No…I’m afraid.  I’m very afraid and I do not want to give it away.”

And then the next moments…like grace, like love, like all things beautiful, real and pure… fell down upon my shoulders like wings.  Yes…like wings.

Because it was then…in those moments…where I remembered Sue’s beautiful daughter Dori,  Dori…who had shown up when I needed her, shown up on days when I was sick.  Shown up on nights when I wanted to quit, give up, cry, scream, shout.  Dori who lifted me up when the cynics ridiculed me for thinking something like this could work, or called me names for In their words, trying to masculinize young girls.

I remembered her daughter Dori, who loved our girls as deeply and as passionately as I did…who coached with an open heart, an open mind and the willingness to be vulnerable.  Dori, who shared her full, whole and authentic self with me…

And like magic Sue’s words no longer felt like weights…they were wings.  Wings to set me free from myself…and to know that if Dori could be these things, then surely there were others.

And there were others.  Lots of them.   They are you…reading this now or sharing this with others. Coaches, Council Directors, Volunteers, Sponsors, Contributors…it has taken literally hundreds of thousands of you both directly and indirectly to not only make this millionth girl milestone for GOTR come to fruition, but to support each other in the process of doing so.  The connections run deep…not just between coach and girl, but coach and coach, coach and staff, person to person!

Our millionth girl.  I nearly weep as I write this.  What a day!  What a glorious day!  The world is better because you stepped up to make it so.

I honor you.  I honor you.  I honor you!!!!!

Full Circle.

Published January 31, 2015 by wanderingthroughnothingness

Today will be a day of great emotion for me.

My own daughter Helen…is being trained to be a Girls on the Run coach.

When I started Girls on the Run in 1996, she wasn’t born yet.

While I was pregnant with her, (I knew I was having a little girl), I wrote the piece that follows for our local newspaper. Runner’s World picked up on the program as did four very brave women who attended our first ever Girls on the Run training in August of 1998. I was SO pregnant and it was SO hot, and I was SO elated.

At that point, in my life I hadn’t experienced anything quite so beautiful, as being pregnant with a little girl and expanding (in more ways than one might I add :)) the program that was so dear to my heart to four cities outside my own.

Well, I can say that TODAY is as beautiful a day and one that brings me more joy than I thought possible.

Helen, my girl, I am proud of your strength, your courage and most of all your willingness to, as this piece first introduced to the world, shatter the Girl Box and choose a life defined by no one but You!!! Go get ‘em.

Here’s that article:

” In 1976, I bought my first pair of running shoes. I was fifteen, and like most girls that age, trying to figure out who I was inside a changing body. I desperately wanted to fit in with the popular crowd, but I couldn’t fit into the box it placed over my spirit. The box told me things I knew in my heart weren’t true: That the way I behaved and looked was more important than who I was inside. That being a woman meant being quiet and submissive. That having a boyfriend meant having to mold my body and actions to meet prescribed cultural standards. But I stepped in anyway. The years I spent trying to mold my thoughts, body, lifestyle and being into what the box required were extremely painful.

So I ran. I’d put on my running shoes and head for the woods, the streets, wherever my feet would take me. I felt strong. Beautiful. Powerful.

July 7th, 1993 – I remember it well. I put on my running shoes and went for a sunset run. I am not sure during what point of the run the box disappeared, but like a glass womb, it shattered around me and pushed me out, born to an entirely new freedom. It was a moment of personal awakening.

A year later, I began to write the Girls on the Run curriculum. The concept, however, was born long before. It was born in 8th grade when a boy in my class told me that I looked like a boy. It was born when a young woman, weighing 85 pounds and starving herself, told me she needed to lose weight to be beautiful. It was born when a pregnant thirteen-year-old and I took a long walk in the woods.

Girls on the Run is a lot more than a running program. It will, I believe, lead to an entire generation of girls living peacefully and happily outside of the Girl Box.

In the year 2030, I’ll be 70. My daughter will be 32. If I have anything to say about it, she will never have to climb out of the Girl Box. Girls on the Run will shatter these constraints, like the spirit did for me that July night and help her and other girls feel comfortable simply being themselves.”

(Helen is second from the right.)

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An Open Letter to The President

Published January 21, 2015 by wanderingthroughnothingness

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Molly Barker.

I am the founder of an organization called Girls on the Run.  You may have heard of it.  I believe your daughters’ school has a team.

I am writing you after having just seen your State of the Union Address.  Regardless of where Americans land on politics, policy and economics, you articulated beautifully the frustrations a large majority of us feel about the highly polarized and dysfunctional gridlock that now paralyzes, not just our government but our lives.

You spoke from the heart.  I believe this to be true.

This fall, I founded a program entitled the Red Boot Coalition.  (www.theredbootcoalition.org)  Our mission is to get beneath the labels, ideologies, anger and fear, by creating safe spaces for people to engage as human beings…to see the humanity of ourselves in the humanity of another.  One hour in length, the meetings are easy to facilitate (there is a very disciplined script utilized at every meeting) and are based on the Eleven Red Boot Steps.  Here is a copy.  http://theredbootcoalition.org/the-eleven-steps-some-background

The content for the Eleven Steps came from insight I gained last summer.  So distressed by what I had seen and experienced with a failed attempt to address the polarization issue by engaging Members of Congress in dialogue about it,  I decided to get to the heart of the matter.   I took the entire month of August and drove from one coast to the other (and back) interviewing hundreds of Americans about “what’s underneath all the vitriol, anger and highly polarized dialogue.”

The results were just as you suggested in your State of the Union Address. We do not know each other anymore.  Face to face encounters have become fewer.  24/7 news stations, our smart phones, technology, decreasing spheres of connectedness…we are a nation of stereotypes, sound bytes, labels and ideologies.  This “us versus them” mentality is, as we have witnessed across the nation (and world) not just a political issue, but one that impacts us at a deep and often painful level.  Whether it’s race, religion, economics, sexuality, gender or politics the “us versus them” mindset is tearing us apart.

And yet…while on my month-long journey I experienced quite the opposite.  I was able to engage with people from all walks of life about these typically volatile topics because we engaged in a way that got beneath the surface…got down to our shared humanity.  We mattered to each other.  The Eleven Red Boot Steps are, in essence, the eleven “rules of engagement” I used in each of these dialogues. Red Boot meetings utilize these same “rules of engagement’ to get to know each other again…to bring down the walls of indifference, anger and demonization and lift us up to what really matters…people.

Red Boot Meetings are now being held in several communities across the nation.  People from all walks of life are gathering together “to matter” to one another.  I am humbled by the response and even more humbled by the willingness of people, within those rooms, to share their true selves with one another.

The ripple effect from these meetings is only now beginning, but it is beginning.  Attendees walk away with a new understanding of those who are different or who have opposing views.  Once you engage at this deep human level, it becomes virtually impossible to demonize or minimize the “other.”

Based on the remarks in your State of the Union Address tonight, I believe that you and many others on Capitol Hill, long for a new way to engage.  I believe, because I am living it, that the vision of which you spoke tonight (and that others have called idealistic) is achievable using the Red Boot Program.

I smile as I write this. I can only imagine what I will be labeled in writing this letter to you!  Crazy!  Idealistic! Unrealistically optimistic! And to the cynics and naysayers I shout joyfully and unabashedly, “Yes!  Yes I am!”

And so Mr. President, you and I know the current model of engagement is not working.  I have a tangible, doable, achievable “solution.”  I would be immensely honored and infinitely grateful to sit down over coffee, face to face, and tell you all about it.

Sincerely,

Molly Barker

Near Death

Published January 13, 2015 by wanderingthroughnothingness

Several weeks ago I experienced something that has taken me until now to figure out…to talk about.

Returning from an event in Hartford, CT, I was on board an airplane that experienced depressurization.  What does that mean exactly?

First…the mechanics.  Airplanes are pressurized to accommodate the humans on board.  At extreme altitudes, earth’s air pressure is much lower.  This means that oxygen molecules are further apart.  Each breath in, brings in less oxygen than is necessary to function.  If air pressure remains low for any period of time, humans will pass out.  Airplanes are pressurized so that when the airplane is at high altitudes, the folks on board continue to breath normally and feel no ill effects from the diluted oxygenated air that is outside the plane.

When a plane becomes depressurized, it is not a good thing for the passengers, but really not a good thing for the pilots.  The pilots are, after all, responsible for guiding the airplane.  Should they become unconscious…well…the outcome is obvious, I think.

We had just reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, when my ears began to pop…rapidly and uncomfortably.  Like small jackhammers or repeated pop guns…not like the tell tale one or two pops you experience on board a plane as it rises or lowers, but a repeated kind of pop, pop, pop.  I reached my hand up to “adjust” my ear when the oxygen masks fell from the ceiling.

Quietly…they descended.  As if in slow motion and with little urgency they just dropped.  Not like the dramatic scenes I had seen in countless scary movies when the plane is tilting to and fro and people begin screaming…they just dropped, with a  kind of gentle clicking sound.  I think if they had been able to talk they might have quietly said, “Oh, here I am.”

I looked to the passenger next to me and we did as had been instructed on all those videos that I had never really paid attention to…reached up and placed them on our faces.  She looked at me…her eyes wide above the plastic mask and said, with little fear or panic…”Are we crashing?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

And then the plane began to descend dramatically.  The nose dropped and the plane shook as it headed “south.”  The metal rattled and the items in the overhead shifted with the angle now taken as the plane rapidly headed down. The flight attendants came on for one brief minute and instructed everyone to be sure to put their oxygen mask on.

Now if this sounds awful and scary and you are wondering why I would possibly be sharing any of this with you…well…hang on…because it actually gets kinda beautiful.

I had been using the internet on my cell phone to check messages and so, as the plane rattled and shook I very calmly group Imessaged my kids.  “The plane is experiencing mechanical difficulties.  I don’t know what’s happening, but I do know that I love you both with all of my heart.”

The reality, folks, without being overly dramatic, was…I thought I was falling to my death.

Now grim as this may sound, let me tell you.  After I had settled the “love message” to my kids and been sure to communicate that to them…I settled in for my end.  For several minutes, (truth be told, it could have been three or ten…time lost all meaning) I surrendered to the fact that in moments I would be dead.

And unlike the movies where people are crying, screaming and holding on to one another, there was a peace like none I had ever experienced.  I’m not kidding.  Like NONE I had ever experienced.  I was present in a way that I had never known really.  And to try to give this experience words, simply is impossible.  Just know that when I was facing, what I perceived as my only moments left before death, I knew peace, surrender and contentment in a way like I had never known.  It was magical, mysterious and beautiful.  There were no tears.  No regrets.  Just complete and utter surrender…to It. Peace.  Breath.  Presence.

At 9,000 meters, the pilot let us know that we were going to make an emergency landing in Charlotte.  We could now take our masks off and he briefly explained what had happened and that in fact, the plane had done exactly the right thing in descending dramatically as it had done.  We had to get below 10,000 meters so we could breath….so HE could breathe.  And as odd as this might sound…for one very brief second, I felt sorrow.  Weird, right?

Assimilating this experience back into my life has taken a while.  That night I went to dinner with a friend.  We talked about the trip…little about the incident.   But in hindsight, I remember nothing about our conversation.  I was stumbling through our meal, in a weird kind of suspended state of shock.

For some time after the incident, I had a hard time focusing.  Scattered doesn’t come close to what I was experiencing day in and day out.  I was having a difficult time deciphering what really matters.  I mean, after all, as the plane is going down (my perception of course) all I’ve got is the moment I’m in.  That’s it.

That’s all. This moment.

For a couple of months after the incident, I was dealing with an intense amount of anger and depression.  All the things I’ve ever fought over, argued over, had to have and had to accomplish, simply lost their power…because as I was swirling to my end…I realized I couldn’t take any of that with me.  All I’ve got is this…whatever this is.

But now…here I am…in a new place.  I am experiencing this new, joyful and faithful kind of surrender to the swirling chaos of this beautiful thing called life.  Whether on an airplane or living until I’m 90, I am swirling to my death.  This is not to sound pessimistic, morbid or dramatic.  It’s simply the truth.  We are all falling or rising to our eventual end.  I think now that I’ve seen it, come to peace with it and understand that there is really nothing to fear (even  the process of it) has made each day something to behold…each minute actually.  This is it.  This is all I’ve got.  All the things that mattered have simply moved into grayscale, the background, the backseat.

And so…I think I will bring love to each moment and be at peace with what each moment brings to me…because that’s all I’ve got.  It’s really pretty simple.

 

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My Own Hypocrisy

Published December 21, 2014 by wanderingthroughnothingness

This will be short and sweet.  I am often intolerant of intolerant people.  I often judge judgmental people.

And this is why the world is in the mess it’s in.

Today I will make the effort to listen for that hypocrisy in my own thinking and question it.

Why is it there?  Why do I have to be right?  What do I gain by thinking like this?

We have to begin somewhere.  I figure starting with me, is as good a place as any.

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Going Crazy

Published December 19, 2014 by wanderingthroughnothingness

Oh my Gosh…does it feel like the world is just going crazy?  What’s happening?  At some point we have just got to sit back, take a look and say what’s this all about?

I don’t think it’s really all that complicated. The way I see it there are two things at work here:

1.) Ego. Part of being human means struggling with ego. Ego slips in and out of our lives. What fueled my ego when I was young, is not what fuels my ego now. The older I get the more aware I am of my ego. Managing ego requires high levels of self-awareness and internal dialogue. Egos, in order to sustain themselves, need to make themselves feel better than someone else. It’s just how they work. And so…the Ego picks on people. Makes fun of people. Demeans people. Separates people. Egos surround themselves with like-minded egos so they can feel more right…more justified in what they believe. Egos fuel themselves by “othering” people. Ego is fired up by other egos. Egos enjoy when other egos want to duel. Egos like to fight. Egos need to be right. Egos use comparison as a means to fulfillment. Being better than, richer than, more powerful than, stronger than, prettier than, more religious than, more educated than, more than matters to the ego. Inevitably, Unbridled ego hurts people.  Even kills them.

2.) The virtual world is really screwing us up. We don’t know how to engage with each other anymore. Small talk, a hi, how’s the weather, what’s up, how’s your day…these simple acts of “I see you” while standing in line at the convenience store have been replaced by engaging with our smartphones. News is no longer real. It’s entertainment. Entertainment is no longer entertainment, its reality shows. World leaders are no longer people, they are characters in a movie or comedians on Saturday Night Live. Violence is no longer frightening, it is gaming-fun. We’ve lost sight of what is real and what isn’t. We have forgotten that we exist. We no longer interact, engage, see the essence of a person. We see their persona, their avatar, their celebrity, their box, their facebook post, their instagram photograph, their comment, their car, their ass. We see these things because these are what come across our computer screen. We see these things instead of seeing the person standing next to us in line at the convenience store…the woman crying because her son was killed…the blood of those injured in school shootings, car accidents or war zones…the child dancing with the street performer. And inevitably We hurt people when we do not see them because they do not exist anymore. The image of them is all we see. We cannot touch their tears, their blood, their pain.

I am human. I have an ego. I have a smartphone. I am not perfect…and I do not claim to be.

For many years I struggled with an unbridled ego. (Heck…I’m human. I still struggle with it, but I try to keep tabs on it’s impact on my behavior and thoughts.) I measured my worth to this world through the eyes of my ego…appearance, education, achievements, relationships…there was always one better, one more, one additional thing I needed. No matter how much I tried to satisfy the insatiable ego, I could not. On July 6, 1993, at the age of 32, I hit bottom. It was messy. It was dark. It was scary.

And it changed my life forever.

Three years later, I started Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run was and continues to be, a safe place for girls and the people who love them, to come together; to laugh at ourselves; to be present with each other; to see, listen and love another; to get outside the ego’s need to box in by gender, race, economics or nation. Girls on the Run is a safe space for people to live into something richer, more meaningful, more real than our egos and the separation they create and to connect instead in that real, authentic, physical space. Since founding the program, nearly a million children have experienced the program. Clearly there is a yearning for what the program provides.

In January of 2014, I retired from Girls on the Run. After nine months of listening, researching, collecting data and writing I have founded “The Red Boot Coalition.”

The Red Boot Coalition addresses our unbridled ego, advanced technology use and the unwanted consequences of each, by gathering real, living, human beings together once a week in a variety of locations, to discuss and practice the Eleven Red Boot Steps of engagement. (See below.) The Eleven Steps serve as the framework and the context for our Red Boot Coalition meetings. These steps appeared one morning when a few of us were gathered at a local bagel and coffee shop. These steps have been taught and implemented by many of our world’s most effective and revered leaders. We’ve been practicing these steps for a while now and we can’t say enough about how a new way of seeing has cracked open for us. We are at peace.

We then take the positivity and skillsets we’ve obtained as a result of practicing these steps with each other, into all aspects of our lives; and by doing so create communities where people and leaders engage with respect, joy and compassion.

If you want to break the hold ego and the virtual world have on our culture, please consider joining me. This isn’t funny anymore. I’m not sure it was ever funny. People are getting hurt. The meek shall inherit the earth, but first, we’ve got to be meek in a loud and “it’s time for change” kind of way. Things are getting a little desperate here.

Start a meeting and let’s get to know each other again. If you are interested please visit the website http://www.theredbootcoalition.org.

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The Overview Effect

Published December 17, 2014 by wanderingthroughnothingness

This morning in one of our Red Boot Meetings, we were discussing The first Step…”We Matter.”  One of our attendees brought up something many of us had never heard of:  The overview effect.

The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.

It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, “hanging in the void”, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.

From space, astronauts claim.national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.

Pretty cool stuff.

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