They say you need a role model in life: one you want to embrace, or one you want to run from. I had big doses of both, big enough that my earliest memories were ponderings on human nature: what works, what doesn’t, how to make healthy choices in the gray areas.
I was born to first-generation immigrants — my mother’s side from Norway, my father’s from Italy. Both families arrived during the Great Depression, and, shattered by poverty, both were forced to give up some of their children. Growing up in that shadow, my parents did their own shattering into alcohol and multiple divorces.
Through love and willingness to evolve, today my family of origin is extremely close and functional. But it didn’t start out that way. My mother, when sober, is the most loving, creative person alive. Drunk, she is Erik the Red reincarnated. In her wake, I moved 12 times in eight different Northern California towns, attending 10 different public schools. Upon high school graduation, I drove as fast and far as possible landing in Oregon where I eventually worked my way through college and began a career as a geologist.
Seven years, four scientific publications, and countless personal growth seminars later, it became clear that saving the planet meant working with consciousness, not rocks. I decided to move in that direction.
After surviving cancer and teaching a year of high school science, I had my first child. Three more children followed, and I stayed home, the good farmer, to “raise” them. During this time, I tethered myself to a slow master’s degree in Consciousness Studies, similar to a counseling psychology degree, only edgier and more diverse.
From there, I blended my interdisciplinary expertise in parenting, science, art, athletics, wellness, psychology, and philosophy into a non-profit organization called Teens-Matter where I designed and taught self-development classes to at-risk teens.
It soon became clear to me that young people are society’s truth serum — the way young people think and behave is the essence, or “seed”, of who we are becoming as humans. To bring their voices forward, I organized a handful of recovering at-risk teenagers, along with my own teens, and in 2004 we began writing Straight Talk TNT (formerly Straight Talk for Teens).
Today the column is widely syndicated with over 70 panelists representing 12 states. The column bridges the communication gap between young and old, and provides peer role models young people so they can see what works, what doesn’t, and how to make healthy choices in the gray areas.