Friday, August 31, 2012

Plastic Surgery for Victims of Bullying

When I read the news story (and reader comments) about the Georgia girl who received free reconstructive surgery after being bullied for years, I wavered between being pleased that someone was willing to help her and outraged that she would need to have surgery at all. (Read the article at HuffingtonPost.) In a perfect world, a child born with “dumbo” ears, uneven facial features, and non-life-threatening deformities would not be penalized or stigmatized, but would be judged and accepted as a person. Our self-esteem would not be based solely on our peers’ assessment of how we should dress, talk, walk, and think, but come from our core values that define our individuality.

In reality, we all are judged, and we all judge, by appearance. We are bombarded daily with advertisements showing us how we are supposed to look, and with the right products, we surely can resemble that model. And, of course, we would be so much happier if we just got the right “look”. If we don’t get that “look”, we are not worthy of acceptance. Sometimes it is being ignored or passed over and sometimes we receive an ongoing barrage of insults, taunts and verbal abuse. For any child who has suffered the verbal lashings of children--and adults alike-- who took offense at some perceived deformity, I'm sure an opportunity to have the “problem” resolved would surely be a step to gaining self-confidence. Perhaps getting the “look” would be the first step inside the circle of peers, a step toward self-realization that need not focus on the outward appearance.

In a perfect world, we would not be judged by our looks or teased about them. In the real world, we are all different and, unfortunately, we have to deal with bullies who choose to judge us by our differences. Thank heaven for an organization like Little Baby Face Foundation that helps a child become a person, not just a victim.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What is the Value of Art in One's Life?

An interesting and thought provoking read, the book Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland weaves a tale using the history of a painting by Vermeer to explore the perceptions that people have of beauty and values. The painting transforms and affects lives of all ages, classes and genders. It poses the question of value: is art for art’s sake, for monetary, intrinsic value or personal gratification?

The painting itself saves the life of an innocent child and is the reason another innocent child’s life is taken. And throughout the history of the painting and the lives of those it touched, the questions come back for the reader to answer, transforming the past to the present, asking the reader the value of art in one’s life.

See what else I've read and am now reading by joining me on Goodreads and Shelfari...see you there!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About Bullying: Letters to a Bullied Girl Can Start the Conversation

“Living well and being happy is the best revenge on those who bully us.”

“As you go through life, you will realize that there are a lot more of ‘us’ holding you up than ‘them’ putting you down!”

Letters to a Bullied Girl is a collection of some of the thousands of letters sent to Olivia Gardner, a teen who became depressed and left school after being relentlessly bullied there and online for being an epileptic. Teen sisters Emily and Sarah Buder read about Olivia’s ordeal in the local newspaper and decided to take action: they contacted Olivia’s mother with the idea of asking members of their community to write letters of encouragement and support to Olivia. After local and national coverage of the project, the sisters received thousands of letters from around the world. Some recount stories of being bullied now or in the past, some came from those who had been bullies themselves...all included words of insight, comfort and hope.

One former bully wrote, “I, along with several of my friends, made a girl’s life utter hell during middle school. I have never spoken about this to anyone because I feel so horrified that I had the capacity to be so mean to someone. It was heartbreaking to see your sad face on TV and hear you talk about your depression as a result of the bullying. I am sure that my actions created similar wounds in this girl. I will always live with the pain of knowing that.”

I highly recommend this book as a starting point for discussing the issue of bullying with the children in your life. The stories are touching and the emotions are real. My friend Jacquie Ream, author of several young adult books about bullying, has shared with me that she is often amazed at how often the children she speaks to about bullying say that they were “just teasing” and had “no idea” their words or behavior were causing so much pain. I wholeheartedly agree with Jacquie's approach to the problem: Let’s stop the cycle of bullying by bringing the feelings out into the open.

I hope you’ll be as moved and inspired by the stories in Letters to a Bullied Girl as I was. I’ll leave you with a parting thought from one of the letters in the book: “We as humans go through things in our lives that will be handled one of two ways: they will make you bitter or they will make you better. If they make you bitter, you will take it out on everyone else or blame other people for what has happened. If they make you better, your personality will be one that people will want to be around. You’ll be a person with a lot of hope in yourself and others.”

Read the book: Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner (Harper Paperbacks, August 2008)

Additional Note: if you visit to purchase this book (or read the reviews) you will see a video review from the author who shares information about her story that may have you question the authenticity of the book. I believe that the book stands as a valuable resource on its own merits even if portions of Olivia’s bullying story were not accurate as reported in the news (or in the book). The letters Emily and Sarah Buder received are real and there is still much to be learned from the stories the letters tell.

Guest Blogger Bethany Mitchell is a writer, artist and designer living in Seattle, WA. Reprinted with her permission.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Predictable and Satisfying Read

Predictable and satisfying, The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard presents the characters of the small town of Rose, Kansas. The story is rich in mystery, romance and murder, loves and betrayal, revenge and forgiveness. Jody Linder is seeking the truth about her family, and a lasting, real love. Can she find either? A good fast read until the end.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Am I a Character in Forcing the Hand of God?

I am often asked: are any of the characters in your novel Forcing the Hand of God based on you or your life? Yes, like many authors, I will admit that there is a bit of me in all of my characters and their experiences.

I was taking private flying lessons at the time of writing Forcing the Hand of God and had the great opportunity to have Colonel Jack Hayes as a flight instructor at Queen City Aviation. He flew in Korea and Vietnam and had quite a reputation as an ace. He and I simulated some maneuvers in the Cessna 150, he let me interview him for hours, and he read over my early manuscript, helping me to flesh out the character and events. Larry Vogel, my good friend and primary flight instructor, loaned me videos of the P-38 with detailed narration of the instruments and actual flight scenes. 

I also had the good fortune to be introduced to Bob Jarvis at the Hillman City Boxing gym who let me in the door and allowed me to spar a little. This was in 1982 when females rarely went into the smelly, testosterone-filled bastion of the boxing arena. I nearly wet my pants when Bob made me glove up and learn to dance a few steps. I remember pleading with him not to hit me in the face. He didn’t. Actually, the young man in the ring with me didn’t even touch me. But I sure did provide everyone with more than a few laughs, especially when I tried jumping rope. I won’t mention those hard, heavy stuffed body bags that swing unexpectedly right into you when you punch one and stand to admire your perfectly executed right jab. Well, one learns to pick oneself up and go on to another lesson.