Why and How to Run Student Created Simulations in Your Trainings & Classes  (Online & Offline)

You Can Still Have Grandparents

Survivors at the U.S. Capitol. I’ve met many of them. They are fascinating and lovely.

“Oh, my grandparents died,” you tell people.

You sigh and maybe recall for a moment how nice it was to have older generations in your family.

You remember the birthday cards, gifts and the yelps of glee when you arrived to visit.

But then you’re resigned, right? That’s it, they’re gone. That’s life.

Well, I wanted to let you know there are thousands of grandparents available.

In interviewing dozens of Holocaust survivors, I have found so much more than material for my dissertation. I have found friends and, dare I say, grandparents:

Jacqueline gave me cloth napkins to take to Paris this summer for my picnics on the Seine.

Last week, I received an anonymous donation to support my research and “my happiness.”

Vivianne slapped my hand today as I picked veggies out of her potluck dish. “Use a fork!” she commanded. I told her she was right, but I was born in NY and she in Paris…Americans are savages, I told her. She said “use a fork, anyway.”
Perla, who lost 47 members of her family at age 14, spent 20 minutes consoling me on my parents divorce that happened 20 years ago. Without any hint of irony, she kept saying “That must have been so hard for you at age 12.

They glow when I call. They tell me I’m pretty and smart. They love spending time and they have delicious stories to tell. That’s how I remember my grandparents. They made me feel special even when I had disastrous teeth, couldn’t spell, was overweight and had a terrible haircut.

They can be a dream.

But they’re spectacular in their own right.

Today, Marty talked about surviving 4 concentration camps. Somehow he has a sparkle in his eye even though he watched his mother and sister sent to gas chambers in Auschwitz.
I dare say at 85 he’s actually strikingly handsome. He boasts about his great friends in their 30s. I’m not surprised. He’s a catch!

My goodness!

Things I’ve learned about the elderly:

1. They have paradoxically more and less time than we do. (They have all day, but probably less days.)

2. They have all lost something precious.

3. Their lives didn’t go as planned.

4. They appreciate many things we have not yet come to appreciate.

5. They have seen more change than we have.

6. Many are busier than I am.

7. It’s easy to hang out with them. You don’t have to be charming, they just talk.

8. They are seeing their friends die and/or get sick.

9. Being around younger people enlivens them.

10. Regarding holocaust survivors, at this point I think most would rather tell you their story than receive reparations. Please listen.

11. Every tragic story has some moment of hope.

12. They were once young.

13. They are afraid of losing their ability to move about.

14. They appreciate your time.

15. They’ve beat incredible odds to be alive so long..consider they know something.

I cannot handle all these grandparents alone. There are so many!

Please volunteer your cheeks for pinching whether you’re 20 or 50. It’s a cliche, but you will get far more than you give. Start talking to someone eating alone at a restaurant or riding the metro. Help them with the door and talk to them like people.

You’ll be old too one day…if you’re lucky. How would you like to be treated when old age finds you?

Just askin’

Why and How to Run Student Created Simulations in Your Trainings & Classes  (Online & Offline)

It’s Never Too Late to Support Someone

Sometimes a loved one or colleague experiences a death of someone close, an illness, a major life transition, or loss of a partner and we are too deep in our own lives to really take notice or be there for them. We feel guilty; we just were not able to really be there.

Then months later or even years later we surface from whatever occupied us and we feel embarrassed that we failed our loved one. We may tell ourselves, “I will be there next time.” Or we withdrawal from the relationship.

In this blog, I want to say that you can still support the friend through that same issue.

The following two examples, one from my personal life and the other through my academic research in post-conflict contexts and trauma, show the importance of being there now…whenever “now” may be.

Missing the Cancer Treatments

The first involves a a friend who went through a double mastectomy last year. At the time I actually did not want to bother her; I figured she had many people taking care of her and I was buried in my research.

Instead of burying my embarrassment, I decided I would just be an amazing “aftermath friend.” I have learned from spending time with people who survived persecution or lost family to senseless persecution that the aftermath can be the worst.

I told her my plan and she said, “Thank you. Most people do not realize how difficult it is after the cancer even when you are in remission.” The experience was really difficult for her and changed the way she saw her life. Her children and husband were still struggling to emerge from that difficult period. So we talked about what life was life for her now.

Not many people paid attention to this phase of her recovery and I was able to step up and be there.

Missing the Atrocity

Then there are the atrocities that occurred either before we knew the person, overseas or even before we were born. Holocaust survivors, for example. I am not able to go back to the 1940s and help them during the persecutions or even in the immediate aftermath when many told me they starved and barely survived homeless and without work.

The assumption here might be that, “well, it happened before I was born. It’s too late for me to help.”

Not so. Many Holocaust survivors and likely survivors of other life traumas are isolated and alone with memories that resurface during their final years. People think that because they married, had successful careers, and children that they “made it.”

If you were open, you could be there for all kinds of people years after their actual suffering. Some of my most profound moments this past year have been with people who suffered long ago and said after our time together things like, “Wow, I haven’t told these stories to anyone. I wish you could stay; there is so much more to say.”

Call them now…

If someone came to mind as you read this, send an email or call them. When you reach them just say, “Hey, I know you went through a rough patch and I was not able to be there for you. I wanted to see how you are now and how you feel about what happened.”

Just be honest…they will be touched. And surprised!

Let me know how it goes…

Why and How to Run Student Created Simulations in Your Trainings & Classes  (Online & Offline)

Turning Collision Into Compassion on Thanksgiving


This lovely photo is of Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C. taken from the Virginia side.

It’s also the site of where two cars and I crushed each other yesterday.

Virginia has some lovely crosswalk right where bridge traffic meets the highway on the roundabout.

A man stopped for a bike.

I screeched to a halt.

The man behind me couldn’t stop his car.

Three car crunch.

We’re all ok, thank you.

The man behind me felt really bad. He waited patiently as I spent 1 hour talking with the insurance folks and trying to see if my headlights worked.

He was so apologetic. I said, “It’s okay, I just really wanted to use my car tomorrow to deliver food to homeless people.”

He said, “Ugh, now I feel really bad.”

So, I invited him to come with me on Thanksgiving to serve the homeless, elderly, poor and sick.

He said, yes! I welcomed him to our home for dinner afterwards.

So we made a good thing out of an-almost devastating situation.

I think we’re a little far out from being able to ask ISIS’ help to tend to the refugees. Since they’re fleeing in part from ISIS.

But, still there was something hopeful in this Thanksgiving story.

As a scholar of language and conflict, I pay close attention to story lines and make sure I don’t fall into problematic ones.

So, I consciously chose to not play the angry victim at the scene of a crash. I chose, instead, to make a friend.

He wasn’t really at fault. It was a terrible intersection. No one got crunched, just our cars.

I will carry a reminder of this day with me. I want to apply it on a larger scale though still unsure how to apply it to ISIS.

Unlike my new friend, I cannot invite ISIS to thanksgiving dinner for at least three reasons:

1) It’s a felony,
2) They’d probably kill me, and
3) They’d likely be terrible company.

That said, at least on a smaller scale, we don’t have to perpetuate hate and react with anger when we receive a relatively small bop on the head.

Why and How to Run Student Created Simulations in Your Trainings & Classes  (Online & Offline)

It’s Not “Rejection” It’s “No Fit”

If you have ever searched for a job, house, tried to publish your book, tried to land an acting role or dated for an extended period of time you know what feels like an endless stream of what feels like rejection.

It’s basically what feels like the Daily NO! Emails, phone calls etc. when they are nice tell you how talented you are but after careful consideration, you’re not wanted.

In many cases, you just never hear back. The potential love interest, home buyer, employer just disappears. POOF!

It can feel like rejection and after several months it can feel like despair. “Just keep going!” friends and family will tell you. You hear them and then get a good night’s sleep to muster the energy for another day of self-promotion.

Sales Begin with NO!

My father, a master of sales, always taught me that sales meetings begin with “no!” This works in business. You can speak to what’s missing in the product or service. But this doesn’t work so well when applying for grants or dating, for example. No means no. Or no means, “apply next year.” Or simply just an invitation to walk away and don’t come back.

It’s not Rejection, it’s No Fit

A recent PhD graduate looking to publish, teach and practice, I have had my own six months of no, no, no, no, no. Of course there have been some YESes in there, but sometimes the Nos just seem louder.

A survival strategy during this period, I decided to rename these kindly worded emails “No-fits” instead of “Rejections.”

I don’t really know if whatever organization that rejected me was what I really wanted anyway. Sure, egos want to be admired and chased by everyone. That doesn’t mean these positions were a fit for either of us.

The other advantage of shrugging and just saying “No Fit” instead of “I’ve been Rejected” is that you cannot then spend the next hour beating up on yourself. Rejection thoughts lead us down the emotional scale…not up. You head towards depression not possibility when thinking about rejection.

By contrast, thinking about “No Fit” turns your attention towards what a “good fit” might be. It’s a more solution oriented framing and one that honors the needs of both parties — you and them!

Perhaps trying to get a job, partner or house that isn’t ours is like the evil step-sisters trying to fit into Cinderella’s shoe. In the original story, these sisters even cut off their toes to win the prince.

It honestly doesn’t seem worth it. I suspect things would have worked out better for the sisters had they just shrugged and looked for the right fit.