Me By the Numbers

Judge Lynn Toler

Age: 56

Height: 5’1”

Weight: 5 pounds more than I’d like. 10 pounds more than my mother would like.

Kids: 6 (4 that came pre-assembled; 2 BigE and I made from scratch)

Years on Divorce Court: 9

Years on the bench before Divorce Court: 8

Years Married: 27

Years Happily Married: less than 27 more than 15: (not bad I’d say)

Number of Siblings: 1

Number of Siblings that I am taller than: 1

Shoe size: 5

Shoe Count: indeterminate and growing.

Twitter Followers: 27,000

Facebook Fans: 400,000+

Instagram Followers: 1500

Books Published: 3

Unfinished books looming on my hard drive: 5

Hours a day I say I’m going to write but don’t: 3

Average time spent in the grocery store: 15 minutes

Visits to grocery store each week: 6 (I think we all can see the problem here)

Minutes I can talk on the phone before I get cranky: 7

Days a week I play tennis: 0 (I hurt myself and I’m mad about it.)

Days a week I would like to play tennis: 7

Jobs I have: More than 3 less than 10 (Frankly, I’m unsure)

Number of things I am grateful for: Too many to count.







It’s On Us

Sooner Than We Think


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It IS on us, just like Joe Biden said.

It is on us to step up and step in when we see the potential for abuse.

I’d like to take it one step further though. I think it is on us to step in sooner. Changing the culture requires a comprehensive approach with an audience that’s young. That’s why I am on the board of GoPurple.Org. a non-profit organization that sponsors a program called Bloom365.

Bloom365 is a 7-day, school-based educational program that addresses the epidemic of abusive relationships by targeting its root causes. Abusive relationships can take many forms from bullying, teen dating abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault to workplace harassment and stalking behaviors.

Abusers and their victims often learn the behaviors that lead to those roles early in life. Bloom365 intervenes at the middle school level. It teaches young people about healthy relationships, empathy and boundaries. Meanwhile, we serve as a conduit to safety for those in the school that are already being abused. We hand out cards in the beginning if they want to write a confidential note. These are the things we see:


“I did not realize that if he choked me that I have a good chance of getting killed.”

“I am afraid to go to the mall with my friends because he gets so jealous. What do I do?”

“She keeps stalking me and has threatened to hurt herself if we break up. I did not know I should tell someone about this.”

We also get a glimpse of those who might be struggling with insecurity, depression and the effects of experiencing or being exposed to abuse and get an early opportunity to intervene. They send us things like this:

“You know that empathy thing you keep talking about? Well, I don’t have any. Nobody cares about me and I don’t care about anybody else.”

“Now it all makes sense. I understand why my mom doesn’t leave, she’s stuck in a cycle.”

“I just realized that my first boyfriend coerced me to have sex with him and that is considered rape. I wasn’t ready and did not want to do it, by the said he would find someone else. So, I did it.”

We don’t just educate and go though. Upon conclusion, Bloom365 leaves behind avenues for on-going involvement and continuing student participation in an effort to help create a new generation of adults fluent in the behavioral language of healthy relationships thereby decreasing relational abuse.

I know it sounds like a herculean task, changing the way we see relationships in general. But Bloom365 has been evaluated by the Arizona State University Morrison Institute fir Public Policy and is shown to be effective at changing attitudes, increasing knowledge and motivating teens to break the cycle before it starts. What if we implemented something like this countrywide?

We can effect mass cultural change; we’ve done it before. Remember when we jumped all over seat belts and smoking, targeting a generation of young people across the board to change habitual behavior? When I was young there was no seat belt use and smoking was welcomed everywhere restaurants, planes, you name it. Things change when we get serious and start early.

Abuse starts sooner than you think. It begins in the hearts and minds of both the abusers and the abused when they are young and forming ideas about what’s right and wrong. Because peers exert more influence on each other during their adolescent years than at any other time, we should start addressing the situation sooner than we do. In addition to stepping in when it’s about to happen or responding when it’s over what would happen if we made a concerted effort to keep it from happening at all.

That’s why I support Bloom365. Go to and see what we do.


Come Bloom with us!











February 8, 2016

Better Than Yesterday

Part I

“She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”


Shanika asked for my thoughts on self-improvement. When anyone asks me that I invariably start with this. All improvement requires you to embrace what’s wrong with you.

Owning your weaknesses is not always an easy sell. It’s no fun to stare at the least of yourself but …

Do it anyway.

There is no shame in it. In fact, you actually need to get comfortable with it. You can’t fix something you are hiding from. But if you can look at where you’re weak without feeling embarrassed or ashamed then you’ll be able to pick apart what you do so you can figure how to do something else.

I have always thought that the easiest way to make others comfortable owning their weaknesses was to do it myself. So when I wrote my book, My Mother’s Rules back in 2007, I listed as many of my inadequacies that I could put my arms around. This is how it went:

I too much and I talk too fast and if I’m talking to someone who I think talks to slowly I will finish his sentences for them. I tend to look for the worst in everything and the best in every body. I bore quickly and spooked even faster. I have been known to get distracted by my own thoughts. I engage in worry as an art form and let the most mundane things unnerve me. Details can walk right by me and I’ll never even see them. I have no domestic abilities despite my ongoing and deliberate attempt to acquire them. I am a control freak and tend to suffer from all of the fears and power absorption that this trait often inspires.

My Mother’s Rules p. 19


The funny thing is as I look back on it now I realize that the woman I laid bare in my book doesn’t live here anymore. (Further supporting my contention that getting up close and personal with what’s wrong with you is the best way to be a better you.)

Of course, I am not perfect. In fact, I have a whole new list of things that I’m working on. But my new weaknesses are lower order inadequacies. I am better than I was. Which just goes to show


You can be true to yourself without

being glued to yourself.


Here’s what I realized the other day.

The woman who engaged in worry like it was an art form, while not gone, rarely gets a hearing anymore. She’s still there, to be sure, but when I see her coming, I can give the hand, “Bye, Felicia!”

 The chick who couldn’t find a detail to save her life has been replaced with a grown woman who can decide to be focused and well-oriented when circumstances require and dog a detail with the best of them.

 I can, again when focused, slow my speech and let others get to the end of their own sentences.

 Most importantly, the little girl whose peace was in pieces all the time has simply grown out of it. Took her 50 years but she’s gone. I can find peace On the Regular. Not On the Always but On the Regular.

 Still can’t cook. The only change there is I don’t care as much anymore. Kids are grown. Eric’s a big boy. I have nothing to prove.

Here’s my list of new weaknesses:

I over-mother sons #5 and #6 and (according to popular local opinion) the dog as well. I want things to work out. I tend to dip in when I should lean back. I understand that I drive my men a little crazy.

 I have not seen nor do I know anything about the concept of moderation. I am either at dead stop or over-drive. I am either taking over the world or taking a nap. I am an exhausting woman to live with.

 I still talk too much … I can curb that propensity when it’s brought to my attention, but otherwise I am all words all of the time.

 Though I no longer engage in worry as an art form I do it far too often. I am pressed, stressed and under duress when there is no need for it at all.

 I start things that I don’t finish. My life is a series of sentences that end with an ellipsis.

 I am cheap. I can hold on to a dollar so hard it makes George Washington squeal.


So there it is, my first recommendation:

Don’t just put your best foot forward focus on the one dragging behind.

That way you know what needs fixing.


In Better Than Yesterday Part II

I’ll tell you a few things I use to help me improve.























February 1, 2016

The Disposable Man Theory


When I was 16, I thought men were disposable. . If one did anything I didn’t like, he was out. I disposed of them, regularly.

By 26, I thought men were indispensible. Wanted marriage and a baby. Not having one made me feel like a failure, fleetingly.

At 36 I had a husband, kids but in misguided effort to make the marriage seamless I lost my voice. My Disposable Man theory came back to bite me. I never learned to work things out with one. I was frustrated, increasingly.

By 46 I was unhappy and unheard. The constant calm I sought required endless one-sided compromise. I was resentful, relentlessly.

Here I am at 56, balanced and calm. I have an “Us Outlook” that doesn’t offend my Need 2 b me. I speak freely, compromise wisely. I am contented, completely.


January 30, 2016


Forgiveness is a peaceful thing. It neither excuses nor rationalizes. It just frees you from the emotional baggage of other’s wrongs.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person acknowledging their wrong. It’s all about how the person who has been wronged decides to feel about it. You forgive someone when you decide to let go of the hurt feelings the offense caused and no longer hold it against the other person.

The beauty of it is the other person isn’t involved. Forgiveness is YOUR POWER to take not theirs to give.

I know it is neither an easy nor instinctual thing to do but it’s a decision that you make about how you want to live. Do you want to hold on to an emotion that is doing you harm or are you going to let it go and be peaceful? It doesn’t mean you let people run over you but it does mean that you no longer volunteer to carry around the hurt caused by something that already occurred.

If you need to say your piece to that person before you let it go that’s cool. But if saying your piece will do more harm than good write it down on a piece of paper then tear it up. Let your feelings out and move on.

TO BE CLEAR, Forgiving isn’t re-living.

It doesn’t mean you keep letting people continue to treat you badly. Forgiving can be the period you put on a relationship that is not good for you. It allows you to move on without carrying any of the baggage they created on your back.



January 25, 2016

Photo on 11-28-14 at 10.19 AM #2

“Silly has Value”

Today is a singularity.

There will be other days.

For most, but not all of us, there will be a tomorrow.

But Today, this particular twenty-four hours is a one-time thing.

Once it’s gone you cannot get it back.

Of course, this idea is neither novel nor hard to grasp. Today and its singular nature happens everyday, which, in part, is the problem. Its regularity often obscures its singular nature. The very fact that there are so many Todays keeps us form realizing the immense value in any particular one.

And then there is the business of living that so often gets in the way. It is very easy to become consumed by every day emotional adventures. Traffic, bosses, schedules, children, waiting … it can be so constant and so immediate that it sucks up all of your attention. You can easily get overwhelmed by all the things you have to do just to get from one day to the next. You work, you handle problems and you put out fires. The business of living often leaves us feeling we have time for little else.

That said, I’d still like to make a plea for celebrating Today. To honor it doesn’t take much time and the benefits are enormous. There are a whole lot of different ways you can live any particular moment. Each one, in and of itself, is both an option and an opportunity.

You can fill it with worries despair or regret. You can spend it nursing old hurts and anger. You can zone out on the couch and binge watch your way into feeling nothing at all. Or you can take a moment, just one or two, and acknowledge the singularity that is Today. Then you can decide to do something special with it.

You can do one small thing that helps you achieve a dream you haven’t thought about in a while. Small acts in pursuit of a distant goal will get you there eventually. You can perform an unexpected act of care for someone you love. You can take a moment to care for yourself by entertaining a pleasant memory or get together with others who appreciate Today as well. Community, fellowship, support in general works wonders for all involved.

Valuing Today is all about taking the time to be grateful for it and doing something worthwhile in it. The context and meaning of your life is established from moment to moment. Don’t get so distracted by the day to day that those moments just slip away.


January 20, 2016

Ten Things I Learned in 27 Years of Marriage

Number 1:

I had more June Cleaver, Claire Huxtable genes than I thought. Nothing like love to make you feel oddly domestic in ways you swore you’d never do.

Number 2:

I don’t know where they got this from but I did not find that 2 can live a cheaply as one.

Number 3:

People have financial personalities. Savers gotta save. Spenders … have to get with the program.

Number 4:

A marriage will glide for a while but sooner rather than later you have to put your thrusters back on before you lose too much altitude.

Number 5:

A sense of humor is invaluable.

Number 6:

You never get to stop talking about it.  Ever.

Number 7:

Marriage counselors should be a go-to-whenever event, not a near-the-end-of–the-marriage event.

Number 8:

At some point you and your partner will find yourselves hanging on for dear life trying to survive the kids.

Number 9:

Number 8 can last a very long time … just sayin’.


“Hugging BigE”

Number 10

You know you’ve got the right guy when the both of you forget your wedding anniversary and both of you think it’s funny.