New Offering for August: Girls’ Empowerment Camp

In high school, my  list of activities included the gymnastics team, yearbook,  running the charity dance marathon, playing the flute in a swing band and various menial jobs.  At the time, I was keeping busy and even way back then, heeding advice to collect sought-after resume-builders for college applications.  My memory tells me it was fun to juggle, but I am certain my parents would describe me as a whirling dervish.

My penchant for juggling and keeping occupied continued for decades, until I hit my mid-forties and decided there was a better way than constant mayhem. Or at least it would be better to slow down periodically.  Often in our lives, we pursue seemingly disconnected activities that tap into our various interests.   I love having various interests, which now include cooking, yoga, paddle boarding, writing, knitting, walking, training teachers, learning, reading.  It still does make me feel like a whirling dervish at times, but I love all the things I do.  I’ve learned it (“busy-ness” and “have-tos”)   can create stress. Unhealthy stress.

I am  deeply intrigued by how our kids grow up and am committed to better understanding their journey, busy or not.  It’s become a desire of mine to learn ways to support them and celebrate with them, so they learn to manage the stress in healthy ways.   You or I will never know their true experience –  what it feels like physically, mentally, emotionally. We know far more now about the toll stress takes on them than we did in the ’70s and ’80s.  Unless you’ve been under a rock for years, you are well aware that the stress our kids face and how they manage it is not our kind of teen stress.  We know more about how their brain works (the folks over at Grown and Flown wrote about this, highlighting Dr. Jenson’s book,  The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults ) and we need to help them learn to make good choices, explore what they love, manage stress,  and enjoy this period of life.

When my various interests overlap like a Venn Diagram, I tend to geek out and get wildly tickled.  It’s thrilling and exciting and makes me work harder to understand how all the pieces fit together.  And that’s where I am now with my various pieces.

My passion for teaching, children and emerging adults, yoga, mindfulness, and health in general, are coming together in a new way.  As school ends for the year, hopefully, that brings down time for all. But then August will roll around and for many tween/teen girls, that transition will resurrect old stress.  Stress doesn’t have to consume us, especially our young girls.   It can be managed with things like exercise, yoga, good eating, trusted friends,  honest conversation and a whole host of skills I will be exploring and sharing with local middle school and high school girls in Girls Rock! Mind Body Empowerment Camp.

If your girl is in the Annapolis, Maryland area in August, why not sign her up to come work with our group?  This course will be offered over five afternoons and includes exercise, mindfulness, lively and honest conversation, skills practice and of course, some healthy eats.  Have questions? Want to bring it to your site? Shoot me an email and we’ll make it happen.

Take care,






Judy Judger, Parent

It’s been a while since I wrote. Maybe you missed me or maybe you didn’t notice.  I did write, but like most writers, only a small percentage of what I write ever shows up where others will read, and lately, most of my writing was crap.  Writing is one of those things I  file under my mom-judging practice.  I know…. there’s no point in that.  (My self-criticism was mitigated after listening to the inaugural episode of #AmWriting With Jess and KJ as  they celebrated procrastination and writing.). A story on the  Today Show this week reminded me how unproductive mom-judging is, no matter what the source, so it was time to stop judging and revise some writing.


Most of us do  shame and judge ourselves at some point unless we work hard to combat the tiny heckler that rides on our shoulder.  When I’m aware enough to notice that heckler, I try to say hello and then I say goodbye.  Sort of like welcoming an unexpected guest to a cocktail party and quickly dispatching them on an unsuspecting guest who will engage in conversation with them when you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do it yourself.


I’m also aware of how often we  – parents, teachers, caregivers – all judge each other and ourselves. My curiosity was piqued by my friend Cynthia’s post,  Keeping Things Cool,  where she identifies the many flaws in Judy Judgers‘ visits and why we need to keep our own Judy under wraps, or at least far away from us at the internal cocktail party.  Judging others rarely serves us, right? If you really feel the need to speak your truth to friend or foe, then for goodness’ sake, take a deep breath and find a way to do this respectfully, maybe even in the future when you can respond rather than react. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism nor speaking the truth, but there is also no need to rush to judgment, inflict shame, or rip someone apart just for sport.


If you’re a parent, you know this happens, and not just with kids.  I’ve witnessed moms in coffee shops look  at strangers and wonder aloud how she got out of the house “like that.”  I’ve heard parents muse about how one could simply “not” get their kids into SAT tutoring as high school freshmen. I’ve heard men speak unkindly about the physical appearance of another guy’s wife. As a teacher, I’ve wondered what makes a parent send a first grader with a lunch that is 97% refined sugar.  And then there was a period when people wondered how I let my four-year-old son out of the house in a Disney Princess bikini (in retrospect, the bigger issue was why we even owned such a sequined-get-up).


I’ve also witnessed, and participated in, the self-shaming that comes when Judy Judger looks in the mirror.

  • “Ugh…should I  bring my kid his homework/lunch/cleats?”
  • “My daughter hates me because I took her phone away.”
  •  “I really need to make my kids a more healthy snack/dinner/breakfast.”
  • “My teen hates me… I can’t seem to say anything right.”
  • “I should really purchase clothes from this decade.”

These are real and they  could even be your thoughts.  Some of these are old-fashioned natural consequences – often hard for kids and parents to accept. Forgot the homework? The kid will learn new skills so she’s more likely to remember next time.  Take a phone away?  If it’s related to the misbehavior, he’ll learn actions have consequences.  Need more healthy meals – enlist the kids to help out since you’re definitely not the only one who eats.


The point is, we are all imperfect.  We mess up, we learn to fix things, we learn to move through the tough stuff. It’s easy for Judy Judger to show up  when we’re feeling stressed, vulnerable, and human. But that does not mean you need to engage in conversation with her.



Parenting and family life is messy for everyone. It doesn’t need to be complicated by judgment.  We each have skills, strengths, and flaws.  Our kids, whether they are four or seventeen, need to see us as flawed humans who are doing our best and who are lucky enough to have the support of others.  They need to see us struggle, fail, and pick ourselves up.  They need to see us exercise the compassion to help others do the same.


Even though you feel like you have so much control and influence over your kids’ lives, the day will come (very) soon when you will not be able to shield them from struggles.  They will need the skills to navigate challenges on their own  and they will experience failure.   Our mission as parents is to raise them to fly solo – with us to observe, listen, and coach.

They can’t do this if they see witness us judging ourselves and others as if we expect perfection.


Let’s make room to allow ourselves and our kids do their best, live with natural consequences and learn from the process.  We’re all in this together – and we will be better – if we just sequester Judy Judger and instead, act with compassion, honesty, and integrity towards ourselves and others.

Take care,



Lisa Dewey Wells


What is Creativity?

creativitycre·a·tiv·i·ty – [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee, kree-uh-] noun

The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.


Creativity may be becoming a lost art, no pun intended.  Days of roaming the ‘hood or just messing around in the back yard are dwindling for many kids.   We – parents and kids – are scheduled, overscheduled and busy, distracted.  Just look at the proliferation of adult coloring books as a creative and mindful antidote to adults’ busy lives. Or look at the wide variety of pre-packaged creative projects available to kids, so long as they follow the directions to complete the craft. Or look around in a public space and see the heads (big and small) with necked bent forward over a screen instead at another human being.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”  – Dr. Seuss

What does this lack of authentic creative processes mean for our kids?  How do we let them tap into their creativity, let alone nurture it and find meaningful ways to tap into it? Why does this matter, now and as they develop?  Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, cites research from Dr.Kyung Hee Kim (College of William and Mary) that says:

“creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today.”  

Furthermore, as most working adults know, few questions have one black and white, single correct answer.   A creative thinker can look at a problem from different perspectives and offer different solutions.  Schools face their own challenges and demands which, unfortunately, often stifle this type of creative problem solving and thinking.  At home, kids often have to overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure to find their most creative selves. But then cannot if they are scheduled and entertained. If you’re looking to spark creativity and let kids learn to be bored, what can parents and caregivers do to foster creativity at home?

I’m curious to know how you allow your children the space and time to explore creativity?  I asked this recently on the WOC Facebook page.  Some response includes science experiments seen on video, freedom to explore outside, craft projects are done around the kitchen table.  What opportunities are available to them to explore outdoors or with materials inside? Where do you allow them the freedom to try things and perhaps fail? To learn and grow and feel self-efficacy?

What else do you do? What are opportunities available to them to explore outdoors or with materials inside? Where do you allow them the freedom to try things and perhaps fail? To learn and grow and feel self-efficacy?  Please drop a note in the comments below or just shoot me a note at

One final note, with a full disclaimer that this falls under the heading of “parental pride.”  My son, one who struggled and persevered through school, is now a senior, destined for art school next fall. Years of wondering how all his creativity and quirky tendencies will play out – and still wondering – we are thrilled that his efforts have allowed him to develop art like this:

Nathan Barrier Ollie by J. Wells


Creative art like this mixed-media, has won him national recognition with a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art Awards, along with a couple other Scholastic Art Awards. Our family is not one to college trophies and awards, but this is an amazing affirmation of the kind of stuff he can create and as parents, the affirmation that letting your kid be who he is destined to be is a joyful process and sometimes, comes with external recognition. If you’re in NYC this spring, NYC students’ creativity recognized with Gold Key Awards will be exhibited at the Met, March 11th- May 30th.

Here’s to a creative week!

Take care,






Your Family Jewel

Cause here’s what we call our golden rule

Have faith in you and the things you do

You won’t go wrong

This is our family jewel

    – Sister Sledge


So sitting down to write your Family Manifesto may take more time that you’ve got right now. Fair game. In this post, you’ll get the short cut, speed-date version in just four steps.

Untitled design

1. Hit the pause button.  Carve out just 10 or 15 minutes to think of what you want for your family and your kids.  Need a list of virtues or ideas to spark your thinking? Click here.

1-2-32. Start Small.  Make a 1-2-3 list each day that foster these virtues or traits. Do it every day for a week and keep it simple and attainable. There are a dozens of things you must do for your family today.  But what is ONE thing you can do to support one fo those virtues and traits you identified?  Keep this list laser-focuses on those traits.  It might mean modeling kindness and then explicitly saying, “it was important to me to be kind to that woman who was having trouble carrying her groceries.  Did you see her smile when I offered?”   Or it might mean reading a picture book after school that talks about playing fair or showing perseverance.  Or it maybe asking your kids during dinner, what they enjoy doing most as a family.  Your 1-2-3 list covers the one must-do, two things you’d like to do and finally, three things that would be nice.  Disclaimer: while I am a voracious and obsessive list maker, this comes from last week’s Lifestyle Challenge on the Whole Life Challenge .

affirm reinforce3. Affirm and Reinforce.  We all do better and feel better when we start with the positive, rather than feeling broken or that there is a deficit.  Affirm to yourself and others what is doing well, what you love, what works for your family.  Use your language – verbal and nonverbal – to reinforce those behaviors and attitudes.  When you see your child struggle with homework, rather than swooping in to “help” or fix or email the teacher about what a crazy assignment it was, ask your child what would assist them in or if they need to take a break and walk away. Notice their effort and tell them that (“you sat there reading for 15 minutes, I know that it hard for you, but you did it!).  Be specific. Be genuine. Support, reinforce and coach.

family jewel


4. Have, faith in what you do.  Know that you are doing the best you can do each day.  Sure, we can all be better parents, co-workers, partners, but most of us simply cannot give 100% every day in every arena. Have faith in your abilities and efforts. When you show up with honesty and a willingness to try, you’re modeling some pretty amazing virtues for your kids. And that, my parenting-friend, is your family jewel.

There you have it – the shortcut version to writing your family manifesto.  If it sparks your interest in working through this process – as I hope it does – simply subscribe to the newsletter (just to get updates on the blog posts and stay in the loop with future special offerings).  Once you’re subscribed, I’ll send you a free PDF template to help you write your family manifesto.

Take care,



Family Manifesto


The word manifesto comes from Latin, and it connotes something that is very clear and conspicuous. Merriam-Webster defines it as a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about defining family in Ways We Want Our Family to Be, asked Who Will Your Family Be? and defined the 8 Traits the Wonder of Children blog focuses on.  Now it’s your turn.

Coming off the holiday of love, why not channel that love for your family by taking some time to put it into words, define your priorities and top traits, and outlining how you want your family to be?

I’ll make it easy.  I’ll go first in just a bit. I’ll also give you DIY Guide. It’s a cheat sheet with three easy steps and five thought-provoking questions to get you moving ahead.


All I ask in return is that you subscribe to the newsletter, and consider sharing on your social media networks or with like-minded friends.  I won’t share your info (of course!) but I will send you the DIY Family Manifesto Guide.
Now I’ll go first.

In our family, what we do, how we treat others and how we view the world matters.  We are each unique and gifted. It’s our challenge to share our gifts with the world and to accept the gifts of others. We need the time and space to know ourselves and the courage to share what we know, to learn from others and to offer the world what we can. Our job is to find what and whom we love, and to work diligently to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We need to see the joy in this work and our relationships and to remain positive even during those times when we cannot always do what we love.


Everyone brings different experiences and struggles to the world and into our lives.  We can never walk in anyone else’s shoes, so it’s important we try to be free of judgment and be willing to accept the perspective, needs or gifts of others. We must stay true to our values and ourselves. This may mean speaking up again intolerance, unfairness or bad choices, and again, being honest.  This includes respect and openness to the views and needs of others or taking action when needed. We willing to help solve problems, rather than to blame or wrestle with anger over inaction.


We must recognize the good in our lives and the grace whatever higher being you believe in has bestowed upon your life.  There will be many in our lives who need our help, from a warm smile to our time to help them to our efforts to make them breakfast or donate something material.  Life is challenging and requires us to work hard. Sometimes we can give 85%, but often we must give at least 100%.  Conserve energy and put it towards what is most important but do those things required of you (such as taking out the trash) with the same sense of dignity and care.


We can’t always be together; it’s natural to spend and time apart. Stay connected. Check in to say hello and mean it when you ask, “How are you?” Be present or be absent, but not both at the same time.  Know what each person enjoys and do your best to enjoy these together. Sometimes being together is more important than what you do together. Be willing to listen, say, “I’m sorry,” or otherwise make reparations when you mess up or are wrong. It will happen to each of us. We all have bad days. We support each other through those and it may mean putting someone else’s needs or desires before your own. That is called being gracious.


We take care of the spaces we share so we can be together. Wake each day grateful that we are privileged inhabit this earth together and be happy or thankful for the same as each day draws to a close. Our time together may be long or short, so our daily interactions must be rooted in love. Say, “I love you” and remember that love is a verb.


So there it is. Do we live this every day?  Heck no!  We’re flawed humans, but we get up each day willing to try and try again.

Over the years, this has evolved as we have grown. Start simple. Get input from others. Post it where you can see it. Read it. Discuss it. Be it as best you can.

Now it’s your turn. Subscribe to the newsletter and I’ll send the DIY Family Manifesto your way. Share your love with your family. Share this post with your friends, won’t you please?
Take care,