Greatest Hits of 2013 – a Yearly Roundup

I started blogging in September 2013, and some of the things I wrote really sparked discussions and got a lot of hits. Here are the most popular posts I wrote in 2013. Thanks so much to everyone who read them!

1. The homeless veteran transformation video about Jim Wolf.

This one got a lot of discussion about what it means to provide services for people dealing with homelessness, as well as debate about why we focus on changing appearance instead of substance. Lots of good points on all sides.

  • Why You SHOULD Get Chills From That “Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation” Video 2013 November 08
    Man, we loves us some transformations. Makeovers, interventions, whatever you want to call ‘em. We love the idea of saviors, too: people who come in and do the transforming/making over/intervening. This is enshrined on a pretty deep level of our culture, from religious transformers to Home Makeover shows to boot camps to alcoholism interventions to Teach …

2. You’re so talented!

This struck a chord for a lot of readers: the idea that complimenting people on their abilities often embarrasses them, where praising their efforts often gives them something to feel good about.

  • You’re So Talented! 2013 October 11
    Complimenting people’s talent or intelligence or strength or beauty often backfires because it ignores effort. Here’s how to honor their work instead.

3. How to survive an ice storm

I wrote up a quick guide for emergency preparedness in the ice storm that gripped northern NY in late December 2013. I based it on my experiences in the 1998 ice storm, during which I operated as a radio communications worker for the Red Cross.

4. What’s wrong with your savings account?

I talked about how savings accounts shouldn’t be used as growth vehicles, and how they’re better seen as a form of protection or insurance against loss. Pictures of helmeted guards and Rube Goldberg-esque machines abound in this one.

  • What’s Wrong With Your Savings Account? 2013 November 01
    People use savings accounts for the wrong thing. Savings accounts aren’t for making your money grow; they’re more like insurance policies. Here’s why.

5. Fear and gratitude: giving thanks

I’ve been fighting against Lyme disease for the last year and a half, and I wrote about some of the emotional challenges of chronic illness and how I’ve been managing them. I’m honored that it resonated for so many of my fellow Lymies and other people with long-term disease.

  • Fear and Gratitude: Giving Thanks 2013 November 28
    Nobody told me that Lyme disease comes with constant fear attached. Antibiotics help with the physical symptoms; here’s how I’m working on the mental ones.

6. Start with the feelings: a guide for customer service and support

I teach crisis hotline volunteers for a living, and we often talk about addressing people’s feelings before dealing with the facts. Here’s how and why to do it, with examples and sample phrases to use.

7. Lies my teacher told me about the Common Core

People talk a lot about the Common Core State Standards for schools, but it seems like a lot of half-truths and misunderstandings pervade the public discussion. I wanted to go read the standards and see what they said; here’s what I found.

  • Lies My Teacher Told Me About Common Core 2013 December 03
    I’ve been told all kinds of truths, half-truths, and outright lies about the Common Core State Standards. Let’s look at some data and bust some myths!

8. Play faster and better with this 1 weird old trick!

I wrote this as a semi-serious parody of the ads seem to appear everywhere on the web, giving you suggestions for being better/faster/stronger/thinner/sexier/smarter/whatever in just one easy step. The advice in here is good, though.

9. The grief closet

A serious one this time. The grief closet is a metaphor for talking about complicated grieving, the role of trauma and stress over time, and why it’s important to provide crisis services immediately.

  • The Grief Closet 2013 October 17
    When people postpone grief, it’s like shoving all the pain into a Grief Closet and pledging to deal with it later. Postpone it too long and trouble starts.

10. Hotline directors’ reading list

At the National Association of Crisis Center Directors annual conference this year, we talked about the need for a list of suggested reading for people taking jobs as crisis center directors. So I made one!

11. Jay O’Hara of Bourne (tune)

I write a lot of music, and I wrote this tune to honor my friend Jay O’Hara, who blockaded a Massachusetts coal port with his lobster boat in protest of our nation’s ruinous dependence on coal-fired electricity.  Bob Mills played with me!

  • Jay O’Hara of Bourne (tune) 2013 October 04
    (The recording is at the bottom of the page) Last night, I wrote a tune while practicing mandolin. The first bones of it just arrived in my head and the rest came quickly as I played. I rewrote a few bits this morning to tighten it up, and this tune is the result. I pulled out …

12. How much does grad school cost?

I teach college students, and a lot of them head off to grad school without a firm understanding of the costs they’re going to incur. Some, like loans, are fairly obvious—but they forget the opportunity costs. So I wrote about it, and lots of people piled in on the discussion. You’ll also find a followup.

  • How Much Does Grad School Cost? 2013 November 14
    Grad school is expensive in lots of ways, but people often forget opportunity cost. In this post, we look at how much more money you have to make after graduate school to make up for the lost earnings and growth you missed during school, and we reach some conclusions about how much you need to …

13. Pathologizing language

I use honey badgers to explain why we need to use non-pathologizing language in talking about people who need help.

  • Pathologizing Language 2013 November 06
    Pathologizing Language Most of you have seen the video about the Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger, with narration by Randall, somewhere in your travels around the internet. I delight in using the honey badgers to teach about crisis hotlines; we’re using the honey badger in our initial training to talk about inappropriate sexual callers, frequent callers, the …

14. Car Games: I Kill Your Cows!

Long car rides can be pretty tedious, so I wrote down the instructions for a car game of strategy, estimation, timing, and more. Rural people play it with cows; city folks have been playing it with different categories of people, too. Try it!

  • Car Games: I Kill Your Cows! 2013 December 28
    I Kill Your Cows is a fun (free) game of observation, estimation, and strategy for long car rides. This post provides rules and instructions.

15. Compassion and the Little Prince

I’ve loved Antoine de Ste.-Exupery’s Little Prince for a long time, and this is my meditation on why crisis workers need to love the people they’re trying to help.

  • Compassion and the Little Prince 2013 November 19
    What can we learn about crisis work from the Little Prince and a retired counselor from Mississippi? We can learn how compassion and love connect in crisis.


Thanks! It’s been a great year, and I hope you’ll keep reading in 2014!

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