Why do we call them soft skills?

Interpersonal people skills such as communication and listening, leadership, problem solving, teamwork, and empathy among others are what are referred to as soft skills.

In our score-obsessed, overly standardized-tested educational system, soft skills have been squeezed out by “core subjects” ...  read more

You are an emotionally naked badass if…

You talk openly (without whispering) on taboo subjects related to mental illness, addiction, suicide or grief

You lost a loved one to suicide and get out of bed every morning

You lost loved one to overdose and manage to brush your teeth daily

You lost a child to any cause of death and you joined a support group

Thoughts of suicide are something you live with and you have reached out for help

You survived a suicide attempt and went back to school or work

You have a mental illness and you have a job (any job)

You are in recovery from addiction and you have a place to live

Talking about these topics makes you supremely uncomfortable but you do it anyway

You are currently using but reaching out for help to find recovery

You had the guts to start or join a mental wellness group at your school

You have the guts to stand up and share your story

You’ve taken any mental health or suicide prevention training

You started a support group or offer peer-to-peer support

If you give back and volunteer for a nonprofit focused on any of these topics

You are not afraid of crying in front of another human being

You are a veteran or LGBTQ and shown the courage to talk to someone about thoughts of suicide

Despite multiple relapses, you keep going back into recovery

Say, “I love you,” to a family member who suffers from mental illness including addiction

You have listened with empathy to a friend who is hurting

You had to tell someone that a friend was thinking of suicide

Random acts of kindness are part of your DNA

A sunset is something you savor even if you have suffered any or all of the above

You have ever shared, commented, or written a post for emotionally naked

You’ve ever worn your emotionally naked shirt in public and boldly answered the question, “What is emotionally naked?”

Are you an emotionally naked badass?

Then you need to sign up for our mailing list because we are now in the thousands and our voices will continue to get louder and stronger and drown out stigma.  Be part of the reason it no longer exists.

 ...  read more

I kicked boys and no one ever asked why

I wore these corrective shoes. One of my feet turned in and these were supposed to help. It must have because it no longer pronates as it once did. Or I grew out of it. I remember they were expensive and I didn’t really want to wear them.

Because they were different and overly retro, I was relentlessly teased about them. But I didn’t kick boys because they made fun of me or my shoes. I just endured that.

What no one every seemed to remember, mention or event know was why I kicked boys. I kicked to defend myself.

There were many times I was surrounded by a group of kids, boys mostly, who threatened me and I was outnumbered. They would close in and when they got too close and started swatting at me I got scared and kicked the living shit out of their shins.

I fought back against my tormenters. And as a girl, that cost me. Apparently fighting back was not lady like. A lecture I got for at least three years from teachers and other administrators.

I was cornered on the playground, at recess, in the lunch room. They’d surprise me in the lunch room, hide behind the line so the teachers or monitors couldn’t see and punch my lunch and smash it. I hated smashed food so I just went hungry. Sometimes I knew I’d suffer consequences and they would not and there were not so many of them and it was not worth the fight. They were having fun. I was not.

I lost recesses over it. I developed a reputation as a kicker of boys that lasted. Think about that young girl with the reputation as a “slut.” There is always more to that.

So one day, I’m walking home from school because we lived very near my elementary school.

I’m carrying my books and my homework which I had gotten done for the most part. No backpacks then. This meant I’d get to go out and play dodgeball in our cul de sac, a past time I loved.

I was surprised by two students my age. Both boys. And they start surrounding me and teasing me. Now I’m really scared because I’m totally by myself. No one would hear me scream in the middle of this field and flight or fight kicks in. I remember trying to remain calm and not panic. I even remember seeing the fort in the woods and thinking maybe I should run over there. I knew I was faster. But they could get up there, too.

They swat at my books and knock them out of my hands. There they go in a mud puddle along with my homework. What teacher will believe my homework got thrown in a mud puddle?

They start coming for me and it’s two against one. I kicked one of them so hard my foot hurts and I fall backwards. The other boy steps back when he sees how the other one is screaming in pain and they both run. I’m a mess but relieved and shaken. I’m filthy from falling in the dirt and my books and homework are muddy.

So the next day at school, the boy I kicked pulls up his pants leg to show my third grade teacher, Mrs. Stutts, the bruises up his shin. I was shocked. Surely she will ask when it happened and I had no idea he’d turn this in his favor. I got him good but I didn’t like hurting others.

She glares at me and I try to explain that they were following me home after school and threatening but she didn’t want to hear it. She yelled at me and said I’d have to miss a week of recess. And pay for the books. Three of them at $6 each. That’s a lot of chores. I was something of an entrepreneur but that was way beyond my budget. I’m going to guess my parents bought new books.

I remember crying that whole week. Being so angry about what happened and that I was always the one being punished. What was I supposed to do? No one ever thought or considered there was a reason for kicking or gave me any opportunity to explain. And good God I was teased about this “kicking habit” all through junior and high school.

It was later in fourth grade that my mother was concerned about my behavior in school, the kicking included, so she took me to a therapist where they observed me behind the glass. They ushered me in the room without introductions and left, went back and perched on their chairs to observe. Three or four of them I remember.  I walked in that room full of boys who were there because of aggressive behavior and they all attacked me almost right after I started playing with some blocks while the “therapists” watched without doing anything. They were all over me. At least eight of them pounding, kicking, and scratching.

I managed to break away because I am a fighter and started banging on the door. Some lost interest and one bit my leg while I pounded on the door and another was pulling my hair out. Clearly the observers were not going to move. I remember looking at them pleading but they just sat. It was like they threw fresh meat into a pool of piranhas. I was the meat. The administrator opened the door and was shocked at what she saw. My hair all array. My clothing ripped. My face and legs scratched and the bite, on my leg.

She asked what happened and I broke down and cried uncontrollably. I remember I cried so hard the salt from the tears ended up in my mouth. I was so thankful she opened that door and even more thankful she closed it behind me and listened. She was shocked no one in the other room intervened. And they weren’t coming out then either. Never said anything to me or showed their faces. This memory is so vivid and I remember so many details including how the office looked and the secretary’s hair which looked like a shorter version of Marlo Thomas’ hair on “That Girl.”

She immediately called my mother and invited me to sit down while I waited. She was the first adult that ever wanted to hear my side and showed me kindness. She was not about to let me out of her sight and she was busy putting bandaids on places that were bleeding.

My mother cried the whole way home. She was devastated I was subjected to this. She was trying to find help for a situation.

The point is that behavior has a root cause. Kids don’t act out because they are “bad.” It’s important to listen to kids and figure out the why. We simply don’t do that. We default to knee jerk reactions like suspensions and punishment. We default to lecture and model our schools after our criminal justice system which is hardly a fair system. We rarely focus on the person. We just want it out of our court. We never teach kids conflict resolution or make it a teaching moment.

I know there are great teachers and educators but this was my experience in the late 1960s. I can’t say there was a big change when Charles was in high school in 2010.

How can we expect our kids to act with kindness if the adults are not modeling it? Why don’t we ever consider things may not always be what they seem to be on the outside and be more curious? There is always more to the story.

I am not angry at those who bullied me because I made peace with them long ago. I hardly ever think about it and I’ve had a lot happen since then, namely a brain tumor and a loss of my son Charles to suicide.

I have to tell you that years later when I was attacked at knife point, I fought off my attacker like a tiger and barely escaped rape and murder. I can attest it was that old instinct kicking in. Pun intended. So it ended up benefitting me in some way.

Someone was talking about bullying the other day and it got me to thinking of the difference between what happened to me and how it is now. The 24/7 nature of it and the fact that more bullies identities are unknown to us. At least I went home and got a break. I knew who my attackers were. And they turned out not to be bad people but very nice adults.

I also thought about my experience and why it didn’t jade me for life. I don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you I didn’t go home to a toxic environment. I had friends and family in town. I never went hungry or without clothing. So I had support I could count on.

It also made me think about all the times I tried to advocate for my child and the situation went south and ended up resulting in adults making knee jerk reactions because they had a zero tolerance policy. They never considered there might be a reason for Charles’ lack of motivation. Curiosity and fairness is not as much a focus as discipline.

If we want to see more kindness in kids, we need to model it not lecture it. We need to foster connection and talk about differences and educate our kids on disabilities. And offer opportunities for kids to show kindness. We’re so busy cramming them with math and science.

I’ll admit that some forty years later I wanted to set the record straight, too. Things are not always what they seem.


Charles always reached out

Feeling defeated today

So I’m going to vent because I am so frustrated. Then I’m going to end it with things that are good to help me change my frame of mind. So I’m doing this in public because right now I’m not there.

So venting comes first.

I have been having breathing, voice and swallow issues since brain radiation for my tumor. Side effects of the radiation that may or may not go away. With a microphone or voice amplifier, I have been able to present and keep up my schedule.  But at an event that’s crowded, I sound like I am whispering. Add to that, my issues with swallowing and I feel anti-social. Eating takes a lot of concentration and effort and I’m tired of it but I have to face it three times per day. Thank God for soup.

So to overcome these issues, I have been going to speech and swallow therapy. Yes, it’s as much fun as it sounds with a ton of homework which I have done diligently. My voice has not changed. My swallow has made some modest gains and I’ve been at it for about 6 weeks out of the total of 12. To add to that, the radiation tripped up a problem with silent reflux, something for which I have never suffered before. So I have a very strict eating plan and just about anything has some ingredient I can’t have.

I just want to yell and scream and throw things it’s so frustrating. But. I can’t scream! The left vocal cord is floppy  due to radiation. I can stomp which I did today in my own little fit. I’m so tired of it.

Now on top of all this, I got a wicked sinus infection, something I’ve been able to avoid for 4 years. During the day, I’m OK. Not fabulous. But at night, there is a brick in my face and sleeping is miserable.  It takes forever to get rid of one and mine are resistant to antibiotics. Lack of good sleep is also making me less tolerant.

I had to put the book on hold due to developing hives every time I write. That doesn’t happen usually. But during the birthday month, it has. The grief rashes and reactions are not making me more beautiful.

So I work like a dog on our programs for Beacon Tree and so far ticket sales are not where I’d like them to be. I go to other events like ours and their attendance is over the top. I know comparison is the thief of joy so I’m trying not to panic.

Now, most of you all know it’s Charles’ birthday month. I keep showing up at the wrong time, at the wrong place, and overall, I’m a space cadet. I won’t rehash all the hurt of birthday month since I covered that in a post already. But I know that’s why I’m less tolerant of life’s curve balls. And I just miss my boy. Not to mention my boy in California.

Why can’t I get a break?

So done with the misery part.

Now for the grateful part.

We got our tax return today and didn’t have to pay ten thousand dollars. So there are benefits to working free! (I now have worked up to slave wages which is also exciting.) We plan every tax year but there has always been a surprise that has boosted it way up. But I’m thankful for once that we don’t have a huge tax bill.

I got to see my best buddy Martha today! Brightened my mood considerably.

My brain tumor is dying a slow but humble death! Since 1999, this benign tumor has wreaked havoc. I know how deadly both benign and malignant tumors can be and I know despite the issues I have now, I’m lucky.

I had a fantastic conversation with a guy named Alexander at a major company on speaking engagements with their group. The company is really

embracing young professionals, LGBTQ+, minorities, and those with
 ...  read more

A happening day for speaking up and out!

Friday started out with a message from Connie. “Are you interested in seeing Glenn Close at the Richmond Forum?” I’m thinking, whatever I have, it’s cancelled! Yes, I am interested! A friend of hers has tickets she can’t use.

Connie says Kristi is expecting my call. Kristi gives her tickets to me and my husband. So thoughtful and I’m so grateful. I run around all day jumping up and down like a 10-year old.

Glenn Close started Bring Change 2 Mind, a nonprofit about breaking the silence and stigma of mental health. It was like I won the lottery!

I pick up the tickets Friday night.

When I drive home, I buy tickets to the Virginia Recovery Foundation (VRF) fundraiser for Saturday since it’s 4-6pm. Beacon Tree, the organization for which I am President, VRF and VCU Institute of Drug and Alcohol Studies are partnering in a pilot to bring Preventure to Virginia. They are all excited about bringing the fall 2018 pilot.

When I get home, I get a text reminding me that we are doing the Women’s March in Carytown. So we went! Charles loved a march or protest. He’d have gone with us and joined the other men who were supporting women.

Later that day, we go to the VRF fundraiser. Great turnout and a lot of familiar faces. My weak voice (from the brain radiation) drives me crazy.

Bill Maher and Tom Bannard

My friend Jenny Derr tells the story of her son Billy, who died of an accidental overdose in 2016 after being clean for 14 months. Definitely a hush over the room. I know the loss she feels.

After that, my husband and I go to the Richmond Forum, my first Forum event, to see Glenn Close.

All in all, a full day. And a good day.


Is your child or spouse using? Signs of drug use

That’s what I get for putting ‘naked’ in the site name

Totally swiped and photoshopped naked Anne Moss

Let’s face it, the keywords I do see that lead to this website are not usually “happy.” The site is about addiction, depression, grief and my son, Charles’ suicide.

But guess what? We deserve a break. Yes we do. Because every once in a while there are some funny search phrases. Charles would think this was hilarious, so that gives us permission. In fact, I think he’s joking me now with this list.

Here are some of the google keywords I can see that have led to this website.

  1. anne moss naked

When you are middle aged, this is better than getting carded. My first impression was pure joy. Someone wants to see me naked which is super exciting! But on further reflection, I realized no one was really looking up to see if there was a naked picture of me.

I think the searcher was just lazy. Emotionally is a long word and typing is such labor! So they just did “anne moss naked.” The good news is that is they found the site and it was the first result. The bad news is that I don’t have the movie star body I’ve stuck my face on.

2. Pizza village moss

Apparently, I own a pizza joint. I can’t eat pizza because of a yeast allergy but I can feed it to all of you and make loads of money! Not only do I own a joint, I own an entire village. This is very exciting and I will continue to search to find the bank account attached to my pizza empire.

3. Ugly naked people

I am perplexed even why someone would specifically look for unattractive naked people. I am actually super insulted someone looking up would land here when they did.

4. I hate high and mighty mothers

Not sure why someone would be looking this up. To make sure they were not alone in this declaration? Looking for a club to join where the mission was hating high and mighty mothers? I know it refers to this post.

5. the top most backdated village where people are naked

Say what? I wonder if they found National Geographic. I can’t even fathom in what context anyone would ever want to know this information.

6. naked speaker

I am a public speaker but I do tend to keep my clothing on. I know that is supremely disappointing. Or maybe not. I’m supposed to picture all of you naked not the other way around. But this would be a niche that would definitely help me stand out. Maybe my differentiator? How about I just wear my emotionally naked sweatshirt instead?

7. i lost my brain

I’m not a doctor but chances are if someone literally lost their brain, they’d not be able to look anything up on Google. So I think this person is mistaken. Perhaps they lost a toe and just thought it was their brain. Those two are so closely related I can see why they might get the two mixed up.

8. peeing in bottles

 ...  read more

Warning. This is gooey

When I started this blog, I had no idea where it was going. I just knew I hurt like crazy and had no idea what the grief journey after a suicide loss might be.

I had to write and I didn’t expect anyone would want to be exposed to my ugly, naked grief. After all we tried to do for Charles, suicide was the worst possible ending I could imagine. In fact, I never imagined it. It was never even on my radar.

Then someone asked, “How do I subscribe to your blog?” I was shocked and I still didn’t know exactly what this would be. I had not thought like a marketer. But I added a subscribe feature. All I knew was that I had a lot to say and I was tired of being quiet. Tired of suffering alone. Tired of judgement and implied shame.

And a funny thing happened. You guys showed up. Day after day. Week after week. We made a sort of ragtag tribe and you guys starting sharing the posts and other people who had lost a child, lost someone to suicide or addiction and those still suffering with mental illness came, too. And they starting talking.

From there it blossomed into a true grassroots effort and thanks to you, our voices carried further so that we reached over a quarter million people in the first 18 months. People are finding these posts from google now. From Facebook. And from you.

Seven years ago when I started speaking about mental health, drug abuse and addiction, no one wanted me. I had to beg to get any speaking gigs. I could not dynamite a door down. And now people are inviting me to speak on those subjects, including suicide.

I did want to be public about what was happening with my family when it was happening. I was angry at the broken mental health system that ultimately failed my son and my family. Charles didn’t want me to talk out loud. Out of respect for him, I didn’t. Well, I did once. But he didn’t like it so I stopped.

I know that being emotionally naked made people uncomfortable right at first. I didn’t care because I had lost one of the most precious people in the world to me, my child. I had nothing to lose.

I want you to know, I wouldn’t have the reach I do without your support and sharing.

Alone, I was not effective. Together, we are. Let’s kick ass in 2018.


Would I do it all over again?

Shirts that make a statement! Literally

You can get your Emotionally Naked shirt or sweatshirt! 

Who got their shirts? I’m pretty happy with my Carolina blue sweatshirt and my black and white t-shirt. I am going to be the brand. How many times can I answer the question, “What is emotionally naked?” As you can tell I’m pretty excited. Crazy kid excited. Richard, my oldest son chose the quote on the back of the shirt. And now that he actually has an address in Los Angeles, I can send him one.

Other members of the tribe got their shirts, too. Thanks you guys.

Jamie’s shirts. She modeled them at her support group
Tucker Holt. One of Charles’ childhood friends
Tim Alexander, videographer and a person in recovery


My favorite of Charles’ quotes

Your kids are not trophies

It’s so weird watching from my perspective now. Parents losing it over a bad call by a referee or a bad test score. That one moment is not going to define a life.

You gotta let go of the high achievement thing.

Let it go! Next week you won’t even remember that lousy call by the ref. We have forgotten to let kids be kids and to allow them to fail, grow and learn from it. We have forgotten to let them have free time for fear that a moment of unstructured time will mean they’ll not get into college or fall into the wrong crowd. Or God forbid be bored!

We’re too invested in how our kids make us look. Like once we grow them up we can shine them up and put them in a trophy case to show we did a good job.

But trust me. When things start to fall apart, the last thing you worry about is bad test scores because you are hanging onto your child for dear life. For the short time Charles was in high school here in Virginia, teachers would call about missing assignments. With one exception, no one was asking about the bigger issue–why he was not motivated to do the work he was clearly capable of.

I felt like I was seeing the achievement thing from a different perspective once our lives started going off the rails. The “I don’t give a rat’s ass” perspective. Which was only magnified after Charles’ suicide.

Nothing like your kid killing himself to really whack you in the side of the head to let go of the little stuff.

When I have days that I don’t “achieve” what I want to, I remember this quote Charles wrote. It’s so perfect.

“I want everyone to relax a little. Life ain’t a board meeting.”


Dear high and mighty parent

How gummi bears saved my brain

I didn’t tell you how my brain tumor was discovered.

Charles was 3 years old and wanted to take a shower. No more baths! Daddy didn’t take baths. Daddy took showers so Charles needed to take showers.

I had to tell Charles that he could not eat his pack of gummy bears in the shower. He didn’t want to leave them because he knew I loved them. But I scooted him in the shower. And yeah I ate one. ONE! Charles gets out of the shower and notices one damn gummy bear is missing out of 20. “Hey mom, you ate one!” (I bought them after all.)

I say, “No way, I wouldn’t do that.”

Charles says, “Stick out your tongue.”

He wanted to see if my tongue was a color as that would prove I had eaten the gummy bear. I stick out my tongue.

He says, “Mom. Stick it out all the way.”

I say, “I am.”

He says, “It’s crooked.”

I look in the mirror, stick my tongue out. It is crooked. I try to move it side to side. On the left, it’s paralyzed. I suddenly feel like a freight train has hit me. Holy cow this is not good. Charles is calling my name and I’m just stunned. It takes me a minute to get myself together and get him in bed.

I go downstairs and show Randy. He says, “Maybe it’s a dental issue.” Something is nagging at me. I remember something about the tongue. I can’t place it right then. But at 3am I shoot up in bed and remember it’s a cranial nerve. It’s a brain tumor. I know it is. Holy cow this is not good.

Of course, I had to go through some tests and it turns out, that’s exactly what it was. And you know the rest of the story.

So what was the outcome of the gamma knife?

gamma knife frameStuff hurt for sure. They have to fasten the frame on your head. And the anchors have to touch the skull.

Two MRIs (one without the frame and one with), an x-ray, CT scan and 2-hour gamma knife treatment and it was over. About 8 hours. Taking off the frame hurt, but only for 30 minutes. Stuff hurts tonight.  But compared to pain I have felt after two craniotomies, this was so easy and very manageable. I was prepared for much worse.

At one point, I was waiting for my turn with the MRI, alone in the hall and a wave of grief hit. I was drugged by this time and I let those tears flow. And then the young men who scooted me up there appeared and asked me what was wrong and I told them.

Just grief. Lost my son to suicide and sometimes it just hits at odd times. I just needed a minute.

It was Charles who saved my life or at least my quality of life with his accusation of a crooked tongue. If I had waited to the next symptom, that could have been a strangled carotid, complete hearing loss, facial paralysis, double vision or loss of my swallow. I can live with a crooked tongue. Charles and gummi bears saved me. I wish I could have saved him from suicide.

I will know in a year or so if I have to go back, or not, for follow up treatment. They think it will be this one treatment and we’ll know by MRI if we turned it to toast or not.

I just want to say how much I appreciate the outpouring of support. Thank you. I know you’ve probably heard enough!


Grief: Going all ‘hallmark’ on you