Thursday, December 26, 2013

Let's Talk About Parenting

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season this year and enjoying some quality time with family and friends. Here are a few interesting articles I recently found on parenting and connecting with your kids.

Reconnecting with Your Child During the Holidays
by Cindy Reed (via
Taking risks is a normal part of growing up, and worrying about the risks our children take is a normal part of parenting. The parts of the brain that govern impulse control do not fully develop until a person is almost 25 years old. So parents need to spend some time and energy evaluating where in the developmental stage the child is and communicating with the young person. The holidays are a good time for this assessment. Younger children are on winter vacation and older kids are home from college. The trick for a parent is to communicate in a natural way. The Centre for Suicide Prevention lays out four things that a parent needs in order to effectively have meaningful and important conversations. Holiday activities are a perfect way to set the stage.
Read the entire article>>

Don’t Yell at Your Children. But If You Do, Don’t Yell at Yourself.
By KJ Dell'Antonia (via Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting at
Personally, I wouldn’t yell at my children if they would just do what I’ve asked the first time, or maybe do the thing I’ve asked them to do 463 times in the past. Or if they didn’t chase one another through the kitchen at dinnertime, brandishing light sabers. Or if they got up when the alarm clock went off in the morning, or put their shoes on so we could leave the house, or moved that glass of milk, the one that’s right by your elbow and … too late.

This week’s lively online parent conversation revolves around a relatively recent study from the University of Pittsburgh in which researchers found that negative impact of “harsh verbal discipline” (defined as shouting, cursing or using insults) on adolescents could be “comparable to the effects shown over the same period of time in other studies that focused on physical discipline.”
Read the entire article>>

7 Tips for Helping Your Child Manage Stress
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. (via
Like adults, kids also struggle with stress. Too many commitments, conflict in their families and problems with peers are all stressors that overwhelm children.

Of course, “a certain amount of stress is normal,” said Lynn Lyons, LICSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxious families and co-author of the book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children with anxiety expert Reid Wilson, Ph.D. It’s normal to feel stressed about starting middle school or taking a big test, she said.

The key to helping kids manage stress is teaching them to problem-solve, plan and know when to say yes and no to activities and commitments, she said. It isn’t to “make everything smooth and comfortable.”

“If you don’t teach [your kids] how to manage stress, they will self-medicate with food, drugs and alcohol.” In other words, kids will reach for something to make them feel better right away, and usually it won’t be something healthy, she said.
Read the entire article>>

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Tis the Season of Gift Giving

On a bitterly cold December weekday, driving to Curves, I happened to see a breathtaking vision of snowy white silhouette of Mt. Rainier highlighted by a brilliant sunrise of golds and reds. With all the stress of the holidays, the weather, and the pressing worry for the health of my best friend battling cancer, that one moment was a gift, a moment for me to be grateful to be alive. Doing the circuit at Curves, one friend told me her grandson did not attend the high school Tolo dance, cancelled because of a student’s suicide. Fifteen minutes later, another friend told me her son had donated his kidney to his childhood friend. The one, an act of despair, by definition the absence of hope; the other, an ennobling act of courage and a possibility of a future, the gift of life.

Curious Pandora of Greek mythology, opened a jar releasing all evils into the world; but the last remaining  of the daimones in the jar was Elpida, the spirit of hope. For all the ills of our world--disease, hard work, misery, and mortality that plague mankind--what is given to us to overcome our nature and fate is hope, a wish that something better will come into our life. Especially during this season of traditional gift-giving, we have opportunities daily to do small acts of kindness. Each of us can make a difference in another’s life, from the ultimate sacrifice of a part of one’s body, to the intrinsic selfless acts of taking the time to be with someone, to say a kind word or compliment a friend, family or stranger, and to exchange thoughtful, material gifts.

During this season of gift giving, I encourage you to consider the gift of life: donate blood, give non-perishables to the local food bank, plunk some change into the Salvation Army red kettle, and cull out the usable clothing and household items for charitable donations. Give the gift of time and yourself to a lonely person in a nursing home or volunteer at your local shelters or food banks. Bake cookies for a neighbor, give of yourself to family and friends with time spent with them. And be kind to yourself, so that you may nurture your own spirit as well as that of others.

I wish all of you the blessings of our daily lives, the love of family and friends, good health, and faith in a wondrous New Year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Around the Web: Surviving the Holidays

While writing and researching last week's article on surviving the holidays when you have bullies in your family, I found so many interesting resources on a variety of topics around surviving the holidays that I wanted to share with you. Enjoy.

Coping With Holidays After the Death of a Loved One
By Kim Kenney (via
Grieving for a loved one is never easy, but the holidays seem to deepen sorrow, loneliness, guilt, anxiety and depression. These feelings are completely normal during the holiday season, according to the website Hospice. According to the Office for Victims of Crime, you can manage the holidays better by taking charge of the season instead of letting it take charge of you.
Read the entire article>>

Helping Someone With a Mental Illness Through the Holidays
by Natasha Tracy (via
The first thing that loved ones need to do is to respect the coping mechanisms the person with the mental illness has developed all year long. This means, respect their routine. Respect their need for space. Respect that they don’t drink. Respect that they need to exercise and eat and sleep on schedule. And so on. It’s tempting to say to the person, “oh why can’t you just loosen up for the holidays?” but it’s exactly that attitude that will get them into trouble. It’s critical that you support them in their healthy decisions because it’s hard enough to make healthy choices already without the support of the people who love you.
Read the entire article>>

Interfaith Family Bullying: When Do You Stop Fighting And Just Give Up?
By Rachel Figueroa-Leviny (via
My father’s family is very large. My mother’s family, like too many post-pogrom and WWII Jewish immigrant families, is very very VERY small. My recently deceased grandfather was the last of his surname. So most of my relatives are of the non-Jewish persuasion. My mother insisted that my brother and I engage with the family to the best of our ability, so that we would “have family.” So we did. My mother put up with constant bullying, and my brother and I tried to sort through the lies (straight up lies) that our paternal grandmother spread about our mother. Say what now? Bullying?
Read the entire article>>

How to Deal with the Verbal Bully Over the Christmas Period
By Alex Gadd (via
If you happen to be one of those people for whom the bully is a family member, then the Christmas holidays might not be that much of an exciting time at all.  Throughout the rest of the year, you might have been able to keep your distance from such a person but come Christmas, you may be expected to attend the family functions (along with the bully).  And if the person in question is a verbal bully, they may openly be attacking you in the form of nasty comments right under the noses of others. A perfect example of such a bully is the family member who openly makes comments about you in such a manner that while others in earshot would hear a perfectly innocent interpretation, only you and the bully would get the real interpretation behind the comment.
Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Surviving the Holidays with Family Bullies

Ah, it's that time of the year again when we are often encouraged, cajoled, or even forced into spending time with relatives who may have made our childhoods miserable...and who may be continuing that treatment even today. Trust me when I say that I've never met someone who HASN'T had at least one story about family abuse around the holidays. Perhaps it was a cousin who shoved them aside at the holiday buffet table or an aunt who never let them forget the time they accidentally spilled the gravy all over the pumpkin pie (when they were 5 years old). Or any other number of seemingly funny-in-the-retelling but not-so-funny at the time incidents.

So what can you do? Avoid the holiday gatherings? Confront the bullying family members? Laugh at "yourself" while you seethe inside? Family bullies are still just bullies. And the methods for dealing with all bullies are the same: if  it's safe, stand up for yourself without being hurtful or, if you're afraid of being physically hurt, remove yourself from the situation. Remember, you DON'T have to stand there and take it, even when it's family.

And, don't forget to be a good bystander this holiday season: stand up for the cousin who's being teased and don't laugh at the hurtful jokes or stories.

Here's an excellent article I found at with some helpful advice:

When Bullies are Home for the Holidays Too
By Katherine Prudente, LCAT, RDT via

Families bring up powerful feelings and interpersonal dynamics. It’s inevitable that old family dynamics are stirred up around the dinner table and that’s what makes the holidays so difficult, our past is present…AGAIN. Sometimes the bullies of our childhood were not kids on the playground but our siblings, parents, and extended family members.

As a child, you may have felt unable to find allies and keep yourself safe. Perhaps no matter how often you told your parents that your older sibling was being mean, it was dismissed. Or what if you were told to, “Turn the other cheek, it’s your brother/sister. They don’t mean it.” Worse, what if your parent was the aggressor?

Read the entire article here>>

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good News

This is from, a website that documents instances of bullying:

“The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
  • 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
  • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying
Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person." (source:

In recent national news here in the U.S., 12-year old Rebecca Sedwick and 15-year old Jordon Lewis committed suicide because of cyberbullying; there were nine cases reported last year internationally. So, what is the good news?

As reported by, one hundred non-acquaintances and one loving aunt came to have lunch with student Halsey Parkerson at South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. Their goal? Show their support for him against the young man who had bullied him. Halsey’s aunt had sent out an SOS to one of her car clubs on Facebook and people came from far away as Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Once he understood the reason for the traffic jam and commotion, the school’s principal allowed the visitors to stay. In the end, the young man who bullied Halsey manned up and apologized. Halsey, to quote from the article, stated:  “It’s just unbelievable…I now know that whenever I am bullied I’ll raise my head up and say ‘Sorry, I have too many friends to think I’m being bullied……If you are being bullied, stand up and express yourself.”

This is the best example of family and community support that ever could be illustrated in actuality. Every single person who came that day to be present for Halsey made a positive, humanitarian statement and impact for change. Each individual cared enough to take the time, spend the money and put forth the effort to be there for one person, and ultimately for everyone who is bullied.

I read some disparaging comments on the article including “it was staged with actors” and “too facile in its resolution.” Well, if that is true, I would like to know who scripted that brilliant scenario? Who paid for it? Certainly one more hero on my list.

So many right things happened at this rally. One concerned aunt made a huge difference in the life of her nephew being bullied at school. Halsey literally stood up straighter when he knew he was supported by family, friends and community. The principal “let it happen”, dispelling a potential power struggle. And we, as individuals and as a group, saw another example of how we can make a difference. A simple courageous act effected changes. I wish I knew all the names of those involved so that I could acknowledge the individuals: Halsey’s aunt, the young-man-who no-longer-will-be-a-bully, the principal, and every single person who cared so much to rally for Halsey.

I hope there is a constellation where every hero has a star. One hundred and three new novae appeared on the Friday Halsey Parkerson was no longer the victim of a bully.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Scars in Our Brains

As anyone who has lived through a rough childhood can tell you, our brains remember much more than we realize they do. Learn more about some of the recent research into this area in this fascinating article from National Public Radio.

Childhood Maltreatment Can Leave Scars in the Brain
by Jon Hamilton, NPR Health News

Brain scans of teenagers revealed weaker connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus in both boys and girls who had been maltreated as children, a team from the University of Wisconsin reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Girls who had been maltreated also had relatively weak connections between the prefrontal cortex the amygdala.

Those weaker connections "actually mediated or led to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms by late adolescence," says Ryan Herringa, a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin and one of the study's authors.

Maltreatment can be physical or emotional, and it ranges from mild to severe. So the researchers asked a group of 64 fairly typical 18-year-olds to answer a questionnaire designed to assess childhood trauma. The teens are part of a larger study that has been tracking children's social and emotional development in more than 500 families since 1994.

Read the entire article at>>

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Few Good Reads

When You Reach Me
I would highly recommend the young adult novel When You Reach Me by the Newberry Medal Award winning author Rebecca Stead. This story is especially well suited for nine- to fourteen-year-olds who enjoy mystery, sci-fi and time travel. The characters Miranda, her mother, Sal (her best friend), and the Laughing Man are an integral part of a well thought out story line that emphasizes friendships, responsibilities and independence. The main character, Miranda, totes around her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which is the reader’s first clue that Miranda will be involved in something greater than her own reality. There is depth and complexity to this book that reads smoothly all through the conflicts and resolutions. Although an easy read in one sitting for an adult, I found When You Reach Me to be both engaging and satisfying.

The Paris Deadline
Names one of 2012's 10 best Crime Novels by Kirkus Reviews, The Paris Deadline by Max Byrd is a definitive period piece of writing set during the Jazz Age in Paris. The story serves nice slices from a buffet in the historical, detective, romance, and mystery genres. Well-documented, the descriptions of place and time  made me feel, taste and sense the reality of a bygone era, and I thoroughly enjoyed the action and intrigue. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

The Chaperone
What is so fascinating about period writing and realizing one’s self? New York Times bestelling novel The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is a truly surprising exploration of the main character, Cora Carlisle, and the fictionalized character of a young Louise Brooks before her stellar rise as a silent screen vamp. Set in Wichita, Kansas in 1928, the story addresses several political issues including Women’s Rights, treatment of orphans, and the KKK, all of which weave nicely throughout the personal stories of Cora and Louise as the older woman takes on the role of chaperone for Louise's summer in New York City. There are enough plot twists to make the Cora’s transformation from conventional to non-traditional both interesting and poignant. I found the story somewhat rushed, though, that left me feeling like the characters were not quite "fully dressed". But I still enjoyed the book and am glad that I read it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Whatever Works for You...Just Write!

If you're a writer, chances are someone, or many someones, will ask you about your writing process. Some folks swear it's better to write with pen and paper while others are lost without their computer. Some cannot write without notes and a comprehensive outline while others dive right in and write by the seat of their pants. I say the process that works best for you is the BEST process.

Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month? The organization NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days (that's approximately 1,667 words a day). The idea is to get the words down on paper, emphasizing quantity over is a rough draft, after all. This technique can often help reluctant writers jump the hurdle of starting a large project like a novel.

Sometimes I'm asked the question, "What makes it so hard for someone to write?" My answer usually sounds something like this: "A blank sheet of paper. The sheer blankness ignites fear that engulfs our confidence, making it seem improbable that anything as paltry as a few words can impress anyone. My husband once told me that in a drafting class, he was told to draw a line across the sheet of paper; he had a beginning and from there, he could add, modify and complete his drawing. It works wonders for writers, too! Put your name, date, title, or simply start with a simple sentence you can remove later like 'this fascinating story by me is about a boy, his robot, and the girl who lives down the street who take a wild adventure on the planet Otumnu.'"

Another question I'm frequently asked is:  "Do you write everyday?" And my answer is no. My characters live inside my head, so I always have a working story, sometimes several stories at once. I think it is intimidating to some writers when we tell them “You must…” write, read, edit, do…, because it is a matter of style and preference. I don’t keep a journal, but I listen and observe and remember keenly little details that come into my writing. I have on occasion kept a dream record, which fascinates me years later, but I don’t write everyday. Sometimes, though, I will write all day and night, into the next day if I’ve gotten a scene that needs to be written down in its entirety.

It's always interesting to compare notes with other writers about their writing process when I meet them at book fairs or writing workshops...and, with the magic of the web, I can easily my curiosity about how various well-known authors write.

In a 2011 article for O Magazine, Maya Angelou describes her writing process: "I keep a hotel room in my town, although I have a large house. And I go there at about 5:30 in the morning, and I start working. And I don't allow anybody to come in that room. I work on yellow pads and with ballpoint pens. I keep a Bible, a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a bottle of sherry. I stay there until midday. About once a month, the management slips a note under my door and they ask, 'Please, Dr. Angelou, may we change the sheets? We know they must be moldy.' But I've never slept there. I just go in and sit down and work."(How to Write a Poem

According to author Susan Sonntag in a Paris Review interview in 1997, "I write in spurts. I write when I have to because the pressure builds up and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really under way, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little. It’s a very undisciplined way of working and makes me not very prolific. But I’m too interested in many other things." (The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Lev Raphael, author and blogger, says, "I don't urge my creative writing students to write every day; I suggest they try to find the system that works for them. I've also never worried myself about how much I write every day because I'm almost always writing in my head, and that's as important as putting things down on a page." (Who Says Writers Have to Write Everyday?

I firmly believe there is no right process for writing. I strongly urge you to try out various techniques and take some time to discover what works best for you and, please, don't be afraid to alter your process as you grow as a writer.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Victim Mindset and The Power of “NO!”

In Ruth Ozeki’s novel, A Tale for the Time Being, the principal character is a Japanese girl, Nao Yasutani, who has returned to her homeland as a fifteen year old teenager schooled in California. She considers herself a transfer student, already behind in studies and is the object of torture by her peers. She accepts this “ijime”, peer torturing, both physically and mentally by other students as she is considered a “ronin,,,,just means a dummy who screws up her entrance exams”1 (page 673). She walks into the arena with a mind-set of a victim. Nao documents her life, achingly describing every detail in her diary,  chronicling the events that she has determined will justify her suicide. The author nailed the mindset of the victim and the experience of an intelligent young person being bullied to death, with tacit approval of the “system”. One might point a finger at the Japanese cultural norm allowing this, but the heartbreaking reality is bullying, the use of physical and/or mental violence and preying upon the weaker person, as exemplified in the novel, is human nature. Too many recent teenage suicides have been documented in the media, and sadly, this is a universal phenomenon.

Beyond her own acceptance that she somehow deserved this treatment, there are factors that Nao cannot control:  primarily the lack of critical knowledge withheld by her parents who conspire to enforce the victim mindset, and witnessing her father’s demoralizing behavior after he supposedly lost his job in California. But one pivotal point saves her:  she owns her inner strength, empowering her. She herself knows that she has this “superpower”, as she states herself, thinking about her life that she “…grew up in Sunnyvale, in my heart I’m American, and I believe I have a free will and can take charge of my own destiny.”(page 2,003), but it is her grandmother, a Buddhist nun, who gives her the gift of insight.

Two things are going on here:  one, Nao does not have the skills to fight back against the bullies until she steps outside the acceptable role she has been forced into, and, two, it is vital that parents and teachers and family reinforce self-worth in a child and teach life skills. Nao’s  mother, beleaguered by marital and economic crises, does go to the school once she discovers the physical wounds all over her daughter’s body, but, as so often happens, confronting the principal, making a scene, only worsened the situation for Nao; there was no agreement that the situation would change or that there would be consequences for those who participated in the bullying, and no follow-up. Nao’s mother merely threw a Nerf ball at the problem; but fortunately for Nao, her parents had the good sense to send her to the temple where her grandmother lived for the summer. Although this is a fictional account of a young woman’s travail, it is too often the scenario that bullied children endure.

Oh, sure, blame the victim. It seems more than unfair to put all the responsibility back onto the very one who is being targeted, but the truth is only by changing one’s attitude, internalizing “NO!” can the victim step outside the reality of being victimized. Ultimately, Nao could choose to live her life without blame, through enlightenment, or continue down the self-destructive path. This is a lot of responsibility for a teenager, to determine the course of her life when she has the victim mind set.

How can a parent differentiate typical teen angst and drama from serious self-worth issues? That is the most daunting task for a parent, because there are few teenagers who will confide in a parent that he or she is being bullied. Physical signs of abuse--bruising, scarring, withdrawal, anxiety, avoidance behaviors, food issues, change of habits, and deteriorating grades--are certain red flags. A parent must initiate the conversation with reassurance that the child will not be judged, that you, the parent, will listen respectfully, and discuss the course of action to be taken on behalf of your child. Physical abuse is never to be tolerated, but there are many methods of mental abuse including taunting, name-calling, shunning and stalking. The most insidious bully game now is cyberbullying and cyberstalking through social media sites.

While not every child who is bullied has an advocate who is a Buddhist nun, parents can be role models for children, primarily by treating the child with respect and expecting respect from the child. I would not tell my child that he or she could hit, punch, pinch, bite or swear but I would give permission to fight back with words or attitude; if, and only if, threatened with physical violence, then strike back. The one empowering ploy for my child was taking a program in self-defense; although she never had to use it, she knew she had the physical strength and skill to defend herself. The important change was her attitude, her vibes made it clear that she would not be anyone’s victim.

I outlined in a previous article what parents and educators can do. It  bears repeating.  It is in the school classrooms and especially on the playground where a child is most likely to be bullied. It is the primary arena where teachers, principals, crossing guards and supervisors can effectively intervene.  Aggressive behavior cannot be ignored or shrugged off as something that children must learn to deal with--bullying is never a normal experience for children. There is a difference between conflict resolution and bullying; and that must be clearly defined, stated and enforced by teachers, cafeteria workers, crossing guards, playground supervisors, parents, and the students themselves.

Awareness of the problem can be highlighted in the classroom by the teachers openly discussing the effects that bullying has on others. The act of isolating a target, making a child vulnerable to taunts, physical and emotional abuse has to be clearly stated and outlined as unacceptable behavior. Oftentimes, students stand by, not knowing how to help another child who is being attacked verbally or physically, and both the target and bystander suffer from anxiety, fear and insecurity. This has severe consequences on concentration and feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

Another way of helping children to understand the effects of harassment is by role playing; having the student act as the target, and reverse the role and be the bully. This can be done in the classroom with the teacher participating in the discussion and redirecting the aggressive behavior towards resolving a conflict, or as a written assignment. Children can be told it is okay ignore the jibes, walk away, say “NO!”, or get adult intervention for a physical threat. Adults must be available and understand it is important for a child to have protection against the bully. The school administration must have and enforce a policy against all forms of bullying, even having students sign pledges that they will not participate or tolerate bullies. A parent can role play at home, literally and figuratively standing behind your child and encouraging the child to stand tall, speak up, speak out, and take ownership of the power of “NO!” Let that be the mantra that changes the mindset of the lamb to the mindset of  a lion.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Anti-bullying Efforts Creating Victims?

Found this article about a recent study that suggests the anti-bullying efforts may actually increase the incidences of bullying or, at the very least, the reporting of incidents. I can see where this could be a concern but I don't believe it is enough of a concern to stop these bullying prevention programs. Perhaps some adjustments are in order?

Bullying Prevention May Have Unintended Consequences
By Rick Nauert PhD, Senior News Editor at

School-based anti-bullying initiatives have become standard across the country, but a new study finds that the programs may increase the risk that a child may be a victim.

This finding from a new study is contrary to the common perception that bullying prevention programs can help protect kids from repeated harassment or physical and emotional attacks.

“One possible reason for this is that the students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language from these anti-bullying campaigns and programs,” said Seokjin Jeong, Ph.D., of the University of Texas – Arlington.

Jeong was lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Criminology.

“The schools with interventions say, ‘You shouldn’t do this,’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.’ But through the programs, the students become highly exposed to what a bully is and they know what to do or say when questioned by parents or teachers,” Jeong said.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Connecting through Writing

This week teachers, students, writers, and bloggers around the country are celebrating how writing makes connections in honor of National Day on Writing (October 20th). For more information about National Day on Writing, visit the official site.

I love how my writing connects me with  my readers, often in ways I would never have expected. In sharing my ideas and stories through my books and blog, I am slowly exposing bits and pieces of my "self" and my soul. I like to think that my readers can look beyond the words to see the "me" that is swimming underneath.

My writing has also created new connections and deepened established ones with so many amazing people:  other writers at book fairs; parents of my readers at book signings; my editor, publisher, and publicist; old friends and new via social media; family members seeing our shared past through my eyes; and, of course, perhaps the most important connection of all, my inner self.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shifting Viewpoints and Time

In the extraordinary book, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, a diary written by a suicidal Japanese teenage girl, Nao, is found on the beach by a Canadian writer, Ruth. Shifting viewpoints and time, the enthralling story touches upon timeless themes of man against man, man against nature, and man against God.

Nao is more than bullied, she is tortured physically and emotionally at school, but has her Zen Buddhist grandmother to mentor her and show how Nao can discover her personal power, which evolves from her present situation connected to her ancestors. A Tale for the Time Being is a tale woven in the past and present--the now and future--of both place and time.

I found myself pleading with the young woman not to let the bullies take her self away from her, becoming passionately entangled with Nao in a way I rarely do with a character. But, unfortunately, I could not become emotionally engaged with the second narrative voice of Ruth and found myself constantly having to reacquaint myself with her husband, Oliver. He did provide the vehicle for the ecological concerns so well addressed in the story, but it was not nearly as interesting to me. That, however, is a minor road bump in the journey of a thoughtful and beautifully crafted novel. The author, Ruth Ozeki, has received deservedly high critical acclaim for this book, and it is definitely a keeper in my library.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Teens Feel Safer at School When They Have Cross-Ethnic Friendships

It's becoming increasingly clear that the key to preventing bullying among children and teens is to help them build strong communication and relationship skills at an early age. I ran across this interesting article at discussing the results of a recent study that having a diverse group of friends seems to help a teen feel less vulnerable at school.

Cross-Ethnic Friendships Help Teens Feel Safe at School 
By Rick Nauert PhD, Senior News Editor

Middle-school kids are less lonely and feel safer when they have friendships across ethnic groups as the connections help teens feel less vulnerable.

Social support and friendships are important in all stages of life with early adolescence an especially important time as teens need validation and emotional support.

Experts say the findings are important as the childhood population is becoming extremely diverse in the United States and educators need guidance to monitor student interactions.

Read the entire article at>>

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

To the Lighthouse: An Exceptional Piece of Writing

I do love a really good latte in the morning; when I get it to perfection, my whole day resonates with positive energy. It is like reading an exceptional piece of writing, with lyrical prose that plays through my thoughts and in the depths of my being. Virginia Woolf can do that, with a literary voice that is evocative with imagery and intelligent, insightful observations of human nature and perspective. To the Lighthouse is said to be her masterpiece. Done in stream of consciousness, without a plot, and no definitive narrative voice, To the Lighthouse is a dense read, requiring the reader to engage intellectually and emotionally. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, and for myself, I am coffee drinker; but I can appreciate perfection and craft, and I am keeping this book in my library.

Monday, September 30, 2013

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Unity DayPlease join me and thousands of educators, parents, students and community members in observing National Anti-Bullying Awareness month this October. Some communities are holding awareness events and many schools are hosting guest speakers and celebrating Unity Day on Wednesday October 10th. How You Can Help with National Bullying Prevention Month:
  • Wear Orange on 10/9/13 for Unity Day: Join thousands of people around the country to send one large, ORANGE message of support to students who have experienced bullying.
  • Wear Purple on 10/17/13 for SpiritDay: Stand against bullying and show your support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth
  • Run, Walk or Roll Against Bullying: Organize your own event to raise awareness or find one nearby here
  • Share Your Story or Read About Others' Experiences: Share your poem, story, or video about your bullying or anti-bullying experiences. Or be inspired by the experiences of others. From one story, " I just wanted to pass this story on in hopes of reminding kids/teenagers who are going through bullying that it will pass for you too. No amount of bullying is worth your life. Life is too precious to waste on the people who pick on you."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dragon Slayer

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

After re-reading what I wrote a few months ago about sibling bullying, I thought about my own experiences. I wrestled with writing about my own personal experience, but, in the end, decided that to do so would illuminate my points more effectively than citing someone else’s research. And, because patterns in my life have changed, most notably a significant shift in my relationship with my brother, I put a choke hold on the trepidation that I would unnecessarily expose myself. After all, I reminded myself, a writer is bound by a tacit code to tell the truth. And, in the telling, hopefully offer something of value to the reader.

I was bullied as a child and young adult by my brother and his friend:  physically hurt, verbally tormented, having my possessions taken or destroyed.  I quickly became apprehensive all the time. At first, my escape was to write in a diary. That, too, was stolen by my brother and eventually shown to my mother, who punished me for writing such “awful things about her and my brother”. So I went underground with my writing. I penned page after page of imagined stories where I was the heroine slaying the dragons, always named after my brother and mother, of course. I would then tear up the pages into tiny bits to throw away.

Although I was a very good student and a very good girl, I grew into adulthood angry and anxious, striving to please the wrong people. My first, early marriage was a disaster; after leaving the hospital for an attempted suicide, I came to Seattle to be with my family. Working in a mind-numbing job as a receptionist, I met and, became engaged to, a man who was a mean alcoholic. I later moved with him to California, where one night, for reasons I never understood, he took his twenty-two rifle and blew my kitten off my lap.

I returned once again to Seattle to be with my family. But this time, I told myself, everything would be different. My brother and his wife generously let me stay with them until I could afford to get a place of my own. I had a challenging and interesting job that paid well, found an apartment on Alki Beach, and spent a lot of time reading the psychology books that I had lugged around with me since college.  I dated but did not commit to anyone. I made friends, women and men. I enjoyed a deepening friendship with my neighbor and his son; later, that friendship with my next door neighbor would burgeon into a romantic liaison that has lasted thirty-seven years.

What changed me so significantly? Well, I decided to tell a different story. The story I wanted to live. I sat for hours filling in the details of my story as I wanted to live it. And, in the telling of my new story, I recognized several factors that had replayed themselves throughout my history. I was tired of being afraid, of being fat, and I was just plain disgusted with myself for betraying my values, most importantly, devaluing myself. Although struggling with weight is still my issue, I confronted the ghosts that haunted me, ripped the shroud of illusions and woke up to becoming a woman I respected. Do I make this sound like it was an easy process? On the contrary, it was far from easy. But along the way, I found forgiveness and acceptance, which has been empowering.

Of course, this is only a fragment of the truth. The story plays out in myriad versions, all true, all equivocation. But I like reminding myself regularly that dragons get slayed by the most unlikely heroines.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

You Don’t Need a Helmet for This Ride

Writing is like a bike that can take you on an imaginative path to anywhere; but, unlike a bike, with the written word you can go anywhere, anytime, to any universe without restrictions. Most people I know are quick to tell me they are not very good at writing. I look at them skeptically and tell them, “Yes, you can. Writing is a learned skill. Anyone can write, just like anyone can learn to ride a bike.” Sounds easy enough, if you know how to start. Put the training wheels on and climb onto the seat of your bicycle and I will take you for a short ride.

The purpose of writing is to inform a reader. The most commonly used of the four major categories--exposition, argumentation, description and narration--is exposition, which, to quote from Wikipedia, is used for: business letters, how-to essays (such as recipes and other instructions), news stories, personal letters, press releases, reports (such as scientific reports, term papers, also, textbooks), wills, and encyclopedia articles. Argumentation is persuasive writing to convince someone of an idea or intent, such as resumes, advertising copy, editorials, reviews (such as reviews of movies, books, etc), job applications and evaluations, and letters to the editor. Descriptive writing is for journaling and poetry. Narration is to relate events, such as the novel, autobiography, short stories and oral history. If it is not clear to you already, hear this: in your lifetime, you will need to write. And it is a skill you can learn.

There are three basic parts to writing: the concept, the form and the presentation. I will give the ABCs of writing from my book, KISS Keep It Short and Simple:
  • A. First, put your name and date and title on the paper and it is no longer blank. (A blank piece of paper sometimes seems to be the most intimidating part of a writing project.)
  • B. Build the paper using the ‘3’ principle: a sentence has three components, a paragraph has at least three sentences, and a paper has at least three paragraphs.
  • C. Fill in the details using the KISS principle CCI: Compare, Contrast and Interrelate©. Compare is to tell how two, or more, subjects are alike; contrast is to illustrate opposite characteristics; and interrelate is to show the relationship between subjects using the like/dislike elements.
The best tool I know to organize thoughts for expository writing is CCI: compare, contrast and interrelate. It might not be necessary for all forms of writing, such as recipes, textbooks and wills, but it is useful for most of the writing you will do. Any writing you do is organic, coming out of fragments of ideas that need to fit together as a whole, like a jigsaw puzzle. It is like taking a photograph and turning it into a jigsaw puzzle: the concept is the whole picture, your ideas are the fragmented pieces that your writing will put into a picture again. Your reader has to grasp the concept that you are conveying through the written word; each word is the puzzle piece that you lay down to create a picture. But unlike a jigsaw puzzle, those ideas do not have to go into just one slot to form a picture, but the whole has to end up comprehensible, in multi-colors or black and white, or free-form expression.

So, now can you imagine yourself riding a bicycle, snapping a photograph and doing a jigsaw puzzle at the same time?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More than Bystanders

Teaching Kids How to Be More Than Bystanders And Stand Up to Bullies - See more at:

I found the following excellent article by Dr. Michele Borba with specific suggestions on how to teach your children to safely be "more than bystanders" when they see someone being bullied. One of my favorites:  teaching children the difference between reporting a bullying incident and tattling. Enjoy!

Teaching Kids How to Be More Than Bystanders And Stand Up to Bullies
by Dr. Michele Borba

In this NBC’s Dateline special: “The Perils of Parenting,” I appear as the expert on bullying. Producers asked me to teach middle school students–when bullying peaks–specific bystander strategies to deal with bullies. I developed the techniques after reviewing dozens of studies on the “Bystander Effect” and have trained hundreds of educators in how to use them with students. The US Army also invited me to teach these skills on our 18 of our bases in Europe and the Asian-Pacific. They work (so says the students!) I’ll be sharing these in with educators in Washington DC at School Safety Summits and the National Character Education Partnership Conference in October.

How to Teach Kids to Be Active Bystanders
Studies show that active bystanders can do far more than just watch. In fact, student bystanders may be our last, best hope in reducing bullying. Active student bystanders can:

~ Reduce the audience that a bully craves
~ Mobilize the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
~ Support the victim and reduce the trauma
~ Be a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
~ Encourage other students to support a school climate of caring
~ Report a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs when an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses

When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. [Pepler and Craig]
Read the entire article>>

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Flight Behavior

For my summer reading this year, I cast about for a favorite author. In this case, Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Flight Behavior landed in my net. What I truly appreciate about Barbara Kingsolver’s first-class writing--as in The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, and Animal Dreams--is the finely crafted story with complex plot, characters and themes.

Her novel Flight Behavior, however, snagged a heavy environmental message, with the characters, plot and my interest draining out of every page. Set in rural Tennessee’s Appalachian mountains, the main character, Dellarobia Turnbow, happens upon a wondrous sight of Monarch butterflies; the miracle turns into a nightmare that awakens her from her apathy, creating changes in her life and the lives of those close to her.

Unfortunately, I was bored throughout the book with the drudgery, mind-numbing life of poverty and Dellarobia’s personal angst about her life, her future and her past. I quickly got the message that we are screwing up the environment; by the end of the book, I had stopped caring.Still, I would highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver, as she is a skilled author who can make one think; and I will go on to read other works by one of the truly fine writers of our time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crossing the Line

The Transgender Child
The young man cannot go into the boy’s bathroom, nor the girl’s, at least not until all the girls have left, for fear of being harassed, verbally or physically. He cannot be a team member of a school sport, because he will not sign up on a girl’s team. Yet, he told me, these are small sacrifices for claiming his rightful self.
I recently had the opportunity to interview this young man, whom I will nickname Anon, transitioned from girl to boy, daughter to son, sister to brother. At five years old, he knew that it was not right for him to wear girl’s clothing, nor did he act “like a girl.” But his family simply accepted his behavior as tomboyish and dismissed his inclinations to be a boy. In his late teens, Anon made the decision to cross the border, rightfully own his “self”, and actualize his manhood.

Yes, he has been bullied, by both girls and boys. He has been threatened and asked inappropriate questions, about his sexuality and other personal issues. Former girl-friends want to “fix” him, make him feminine enough to “fit in”; but he does not want to fit in, he wants to be who he is.

Imagine yourself on the most difficult journey of being born and then discovering that you have been transported into this world in the wrong body. By age six, our gender identity--if we are female or male--is formed. Overwhelming testimonies of transgender youth knew they were “different”, trapped inside an alien body, even before they could articulate their need for the right name, clothes, toys and recognition for being the “other”.

Until a transgender person can transition into their true identity, this constant opposition of two identities, known as gender dysphoria, can be confusing, mentally painful and disruptive on many levels in their lives, as well as for their families. Then, when the individual makes the decision to transition to the right body, she to he, he to she, the real struggles begin. This is evidenced by the statistics reported by the CDC:
  • "33% of transgender youth have attempted suicide,
  • 55% of transgender youth report being physically attacked,
  • 74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school,
  • 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression,
  • 78% reported having been verbally harassed,
  • 48% reported having been victims of assault, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault or rape.
CDC reports regarding transgender youth state that such victimization, in turn, is associated with HIV risky behaviors. Youth who had been threatened or bullied at school were more likely to have been diagnosed with an STD, injected drugs, had more than four sex partners, and not used a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse than those who had not been threatened or bullied at school.
Nine out of ten transgender youth feel unsafe in school because of gender identity or expression. The rate of drop out, suicide and homelessness is disproportionately high for our transgender youth." (Source:
A national study reported an even higher incidence of suicide:  41 percent. This is more than 25 times the rate of the general population; among trans people ages 18-44, the suicide attempt rate was 45 percent.
One of the biggest issues many trans people face is the difficulty of changing gender. Transitioning from one gender to another can take many forms, but often requires hormone therapy and sometimes surgery on breasts and/or genitals. Yet transgender people overwhelmingly say it's worth it.

After transitioning, transgender people show a significant decrease in substance abuse problems and depression, for example, and their mental health significantly improves, says clinical psychologist Gail Knudson, a professor in the department of sexual medicine at the University of British Columbia and medical director of the Transgender Health Program at Vancouver Coastal Health.

Anon has a good chance of beating the odds; he is one of the few lucky teens who have the support of family, friends and a girlfriend. His school is also supportive with programs for transgender youth as well as gay, lesbian, and other youth who have chosen a non-conforming lifestyle. As well as seeing a therapist, Anon goes to POW!* (Proud Out Wonderful, an organization for LGBTQ youth 13-21 years old; the term "LGBTQ" stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer") and finds community with others who have stories to tell. A staggering 1.6 million LGBTQ youth are homeless, rejected because of their non-conformity.

I also spoke with Anon’s parents, who had their own challenges with their child’s transitioning. But throughout their struggles, one thing remained constant:  their love for their child and that held true throughout the tumultuous times. As Anon’s mother explained so well, “We mourn the loss of our daughter, but celebrate the birth of our son.”

Interested in learning more? Anon and his mother recommend two essential books to read:  It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living by Dan Savage (Editor)--which is from a wonderful website featuring the project, IT GETS BETTER (this is so worth exploring for its compassionate and erudite resources for the LGBTQ youth)--and the excellent The Transgender Child by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper. These are invaluable guides for anyone--parents, siblings, family, friends, schoolmates, social workers, co-workers--who want to understand someone who may be in transition, who may be-coming of self. We may come into this life alone, but we should not be forced to live a life apart from others.

I firmly believe that we, all of the people that make up the community in Anon’s life and the lives of the LGBTQ, owe it to these individuals to use the tools, such as the programs, literature and anti-bullying laws, to actively seek justice, equality and acceptance into society for all of our children, so that they may become vital and productive adults. This is, after all, in all of our own best self-interest; these are the future caretakers of our planet, community and senior citizens, which ultimately, will be each and every one of us.

*Notes: Through West Seattle-based Navos Mental Health Solutions, a new organization in Burien called "POW!", or Proud Out And Wonderful, assists 13 to 21 year-olds who may identify with being gay or lesbian. The organization states it welcomes "all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and allies". According to Intersex Society of North America, "Intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation.” 

POW! meets at an anonymous location in Burien every Wednesday from 4:00 pm to 6:00 p.m. Those who attend are also promised anonymity. According to the POW! Facebook Page, "We are a Queer Youth Group providing support and activism in South King County." Its mission, "To provide a safe space for LGBTQ youth to support each other, access resources and wellness tools, and gain the leadership skills to create positive change in their communities." 

The term "LGBTQ" stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer". The POW! site explains that, "We join with others in reclaiming the use of the word 'queer'. This word, which was used as a weapon against LGBTQ folks for years, is now being used by us and others as an inclusive term. Many people who do not feel that they fit in traditional categories (of gender and sexual orientation) or do not feel that these categories are useful, can come together under a shared identity."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is Good Writing a Talent?

I strongly believe writing is a skill and skills can be learned. Writing is a form of communication:  a way to tell a story and to share information with another person. Good writing communicates its message in a clear, easily understandable way. A well organized grocery list is an effective piece of writing.

So many people are put off by the thought that one must have talent to write well, but if you think about it, that just does not make much sense. If I am asked to write a book report, and I convince you that I have read the book and know the plot, characters and author’s intent, then my writing has done exactly what it was supposed to do.

The secret is to make that essay easy to read and presentable. To do that, you need to know basic skills; how to read a book, how to organize what you know, and how to build sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into a paper. You also need to know how to choose the best words and how to share your opinion effectively. That is not talent, but knowledge.

If you really think about it, talent is simply that magic ingredient that lies in the recipe; if you make a cake by the rules, you will, nine times out of ten, get a good cake. If you are inspired to throw in an extra “something” to add your own personal touch, the cake could be extraordinary, a culinary coup.

I honestly think talent is the ability to define the world from one’s own perspective, the uniqueness of one’s vision. And, while we all seem to be so similar, we all have a unique story to tell. So, by my definition, we all have talent. Maybe we just don’t know how to use it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why Teaching Self-Respect to Young Children Can Make a Difference

I recently came upon the following interesting article on the importance of teaching self-respect to young children. I agree that modeling self-respect and respect for others is key at any age but so important to children under 10. If we can help a child build a strong foundation of self-respective behaviors, he will have a solid base to make good choices as he grows up.

Teaching Kids Self-Respect Early is Critical
by Lorna Blumen, parenting and bullying expert
Respect for self and others drives important life decisions, from the friends we choose, to the opportunities we reach out to (or hide from). It affects the way we approach school and work, and influences the quality of our relationships.So when do we need to start talking to our kids about self-respect? The answer is early - when kids are under 10-years-old.

Why focus on self-respect in young children? Though there's a big difference between a four-year-old and a 10-year-old (or even between two 10-year-olds), at the end of the day we want our kids to be competent, confident, and independent. Respect for self helps build those traits - traits which will help kids through the challenging preteen and teen years, when kids start making choices on their own, with lots of peer influence. Respect for others encourages empathy and helps kids learn behavioural boundaries, especially under duress.

Read more here>>

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And the Winners Are...

The 2013 NO BULL Teen Video Award Winning Short Films and Public Service Announcements have just been announced! Visit their Facebook page for links to all the winning videos.

One of my personal favorites won the Best Message award! I invite you to take a few moments to view "Words"  by executive producer Bryce Detweiler.

Congratulations to all the entrants and all the winners...what a talented group of youth you are!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Recent Good Reads

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is an inspirational parable about a shepherd boy, Santiago, who pursues his Personal Legend. Along his journey he makes many discoveries of Self, and through Truth, finds his treasure(s). The story itself is simply written and beautifully crafted to present no new ideas, but nonetheless, touches and reverberates upon universal truths that are forever in need of retelling. A wonderful gift for the young reader and a delight for the mature reader.

Black Dahlia and White Rose by Joyce Carol Oates
The first story in this collection of shorts by Joyce Carol Oates is about the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia and her roommate, Norma Jean Baker. It sets the tone for the macabre and ironic other stories that, like all of Oates' novels, have an impact upon me; sometimes with extreme distaste, sometimes with deep appreciation for a great writer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bullying in the Workplace

Did you know that up to a third of U.S. workers may have experienced workplace bullying? Workplace bullying ranges from being singled out for subtle manipulative behaviors (like someone habitually "forgetting" to give you messages or deliberately delaying getting back to you with information you need) to outright verbal abuse and practical jokes. Workplace bullying often goes unnoticed by those in charge and usually results in lower productivity, a tense or even toxic work environment, and higher employee turnover.

Recently I heard from a reader requesting more information about bullying in the workplace. I've gathered together some resources including websites and books that I found to be helpful. If you've found other resources to be useful to you, please share them in the comments below.
  • Site - Workplace Bullying Institute: FAQs for individuals who think they may be experiencing bullying at work. This comprehensive site also includes resources for employers, managers, and counselors as well as advocacy information.
  • Site - Are you being bullied in the workplace? This site offers specific suggestions for understanding workplace bullies and manipulators as well as how to effectively deal with them. Includes what to say and when to say it.
  • Article - Grown-up Bullying (Workplace Bullying Institute): Excerpt from a Counseling Today article featuring WBI counselor Jessi Eden Brown “In the U.S., there are deep connections between one’s career and his or her identity,” she points out. “Work-related stress is a common topic of discussion in the counseling relationship. With nearly half of all working Americans reporting direct experience or witnessing bullying in the workplace, it cannot be overstated how important it is for counselors in all settings to be aware of this phenomenon.”
  • Article - When the Boss is the Bully (Psychology Today): "They verbally abuse you, humiliate you in front of others. Maybe it's because power hovers in the air, but offices tend to bring out the bully in people. We offer strategies for handling such bad bosses."
  • Article - What makes someone a potential workplace bullying target (Minding the Workplace): "Potential workplace bullying targets usually stick out in some way to potential aggressors. By some characteristic or behavior, they unwittingly trip a wire that unleashes abusive behaviors." Be sure to browse the other articles on this site as well.
  • Article - When good things happen to bad people: Disturbing news about workplace bullies  (TIME Magazine): Article highlighting the findings of a recent study on workplace bullying. "But many if not most are allowed to keep abusing colleagues because their bosses aren’t aware of their behavior, either because it goes unreported (many victims are too frightened or embarrassed to draw attention to their plight) or because the bullies are good at masking their behavior and/or fooling their superiors."
  • Site - The Healthy Workplace Bill: Find out more about the grassroots movement to enact state laws promoting bully-free Healthy Workplaces. "Current discrimination and harassment laws rarely address bullying concerns. Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal discrimination, but is still legal in the U.S. People deserve more protection against arbitrary cruelty that has nothing to do with work."
  • Article - Six Ways You're the Workplace Bully Without Even Realizing It: With a reported 54 million victims of workplace bullying, somebody has to be doing the bullying. Perhaps some or all of us have at one time or another inadvertently gossiped, been sarcastic, or engaged in passive-aggressive manipulative behavior that may have been perceived by others as hurtful or bullying. 
  • The Bully at Work by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie - This book by the founders of the Workplace Bullying Institute is the go-to resource for understanding what workplace bullies do, how to find allies and stand up to the bullies, and when to leave a workplace because of bullying. (View at Amazon>)
  • Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job by Alan A. Cavaiola PhD: Specific advice on how to deal with all kinds of dysfunctional co-workers (including bullies). (View at Amazon>)
  • Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get Personal by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster: This book is full of specific strategies, examples, real-life stories and techniques for dealing with the mean girls at work as well as not becoming one yourself. (View at Amazon>)
  • The Bully-Free Workplace: Stop Jerks, Weasels, and Snakes From Killing Your Organization by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie: A guidebook for employers and managers who want to recognize and prevent bullying in their organizations. (View at Amazon>)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Instant Writer

Today as I was checking out in the grocery line, the young lady who bagged my groceries, a senior in high-school, asked me if I was a writer, noting that I wore a t-shirt that read:  “Instant Writer, just add coffee”.  She, too, has a vision of becoming a successful writer of children’s books. The first words out of my mouth to her:  “Get a good-paying day job.”  She smiled and replied that a lot of people had told her that; I instantly regretted my trite response. I came back with, I hope, words of encouragement. “Most importantly,” I said to her, “you are the next great writer on the horizon.”

Statistically, maybe, five percent of writers will publish, and of that percentage, a very small number will be on the bestsellers’ lists; and of that number, even fewer will earn enough from their work to live above poverty wages. If one can hurdle the deterrents to writing--rejection, dejection, abnegation--the writer then has a long mile to go to getting into print, and even further to the finish line of being recognized. There is no such thing as instant success. If you choose be a writer, then know that you are in it for the long distance marathon. It is more like a triathlon. First you have to write, then submit, and if all the planets align and the sun shines on the second Tuesday of third month of the lunar eclipse, an editor might chose to read your manuscript; then, if all conditions are met with the powers that be, you might get your manuscript into print. Now the really tricky part is having an audience other than your family, that embraces you, recognizes your talent and is willing to reward you for it.

Not every entrant into a race finishes. Some fall, get back up and go on. Others quit and find something else more suitable to do with their time. Some will decide to stay on a treadmill instead of joining in the fray. A few run with the pack and find satisfaction in the doing of it. And, then there are those who hit the runners’ high and commit to a lifelong passion of running towards the finish line.

I cannot think of one example of a writer sprinting over the finish line with a huge publishing contract as first prize.  So why do so many writers persist in a career with so little instant gratification?

One driving motivation, I believe, is being heard. It is, in my opinion, one of the innate forces of our very being, as compelling as the need for water, food and procreation. Revolutions, constitutions and lives have been impacted by the written word. Writing is in its very essence our lifeline to community, to linking ourselves to others through shared experiences, ideas and ideals. We exist, but we are alive, absolved, deified, vilified and acknowledged through the written word. My running shoes are well-worn and a little smelly, and there are times I just hop on the treadmill for exercise; but, like an addict, I am chasing that writers’ high and have hopes that the next piece of writing will be my best, the next novel will be better than the last one, and a whole bunch of people will cheer for me as I cross the finish line.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Women Becoming a Self

For a long time, I have wanted to re-read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I remember first reading it in college in the seventies and being saddened that a woman so vital and talented could be so repressed by a society that deemed women to be property of their husbands.

The feminist in me cheered Edna on in her endeavors to be free and realize her self-worth and sexual liberation. Fifty years later, the woman in me is saddened that Edna could only find herself and her freedom through drowning.

Though dated, having been published in 1899, that story and the others in the collection about women becoming a Self, overcoming limitations and fears, resonates with me today. I can’t know what the toll was for Kate Chopin to create the scenario in The Awakening, but I am forever thankful that she did.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oh, Brother, or Sister!

Recently, in just one week's time, I came across several articles on sibling relationships, and the effects of bullying of one sibling by another. The first article* I read was sent to me by my brother and recaps a study by the University of New Hampshire. I quote from the University of New Hampshire Media :
The study, among the first to look at sibling aggression across a wide age and geographic range, is unique in its size and scope. Tucker and her co-authors from UNH’s Crimes against Children Research Center – center director and professor of sociology David Finkelhor, professor of sociology Heather Turner, and researcher Anne Shattuck – analyzed data from the center’s  National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), a national sample of 3,599 children, ages one month through 17.

The study showed that aggressive behavior of one sibling towards another is as emotionally damaging as being bullied by a peer--those children who reported physical, verbal or emotional abuse or aggressive behavior such as seizing and/or destroying property of the child, suffered mental distress and experienced bouts of depression, anxiety and anger. Corinna Tucker, study lead author, associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire deemed it significant that sibling and peer bullying were equally harmful to the mental health of children and adolescents.

I am surprised that what seems so evident to me has taken so long to become ‘legitimized’ by a study on the deleterious effects of being bullied by siblings. I say it is about time!

Another article appeared in the Sunday, June 23, 2013 issue of Parade magazine, “The Science of Siblings:  Oh, Brother!” and the impact, both positive and negative, that sisters and brothers have on their siblings, from babyhood to adulthood. Doesn’t it make sense that the ones you spend formative years with would be the ones who influence you the most? Is it not a no-brainer that if you treat someone with respect and kindness rather than with abuse, that person has an idea how one should be treated and how one should treat others? As is, an abused child is a traumatized person, and all manners of defensive behavior are necessary just for daily survival if the perpetuator lives in the same house. And that child grows to be an adult burdened by the dysfunctional behavior of being either victim or bully.

Bullies are not weeds that pop up in a rose bed--a bully is nurtured by implicit approval of his parents and peers. I have long advocated for the abused child victimized by a sibling through physical intimidation, assault and mental cruelty. All too often the bullying is dismissed as “part of the childhood experience.” What part of bullying would be beneficial to a child?  By the time the person reaches adulthood, he has suffered a variety of pains, the least of which is anxiety, or depression and most likely, anger and physical torment. This kind of baggage really does weigh a person down, stunting creative and emotional health, as well as one’s physical and mental health. And patterns of abuse are repeated throughout relationships, both as a victim and as a bully.
I make a “big deal” out of this because I want to emphasize how important it is for the parents and caregivers to stop aggressive behavior in the cradle, in the home, on the playground and in schools. It is imperative for the well-being of our children, who become the adults that vote, teach, bear offspring and pass on both genetically and learned behaviors. This is a wake-up call for parents, caregivers and educators!
*(the link:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bullies AND Victims Could Improve Their Problem Solving Skills

Found this excellent article by Dr. Michele Borba with specific suggestions on how to work with children on conflict resolution and problem solving to help them not become bullies or victims. The article includes specific suggestions and techniques.

Teaching Problem Solving to Reduce Bullying
by Michele Borba

How to teach kids problem solving skills. Why doing so can predict and prevent bullying

“Let’s flip a coin to decide.”
“Everybody breathe a minute, then we can take turns.”
“Why don’t we just both think of another choice?”

Parents and teachers have always recognized the benefits of kids learning to work together to solve their problems. After all, using those problem-solving skills is one of the best ways to help kids and teens alike curb sibling wars, friendship tiffs, teammate squabbles, playground battles as well as handle the social jungle.

Problem solving is also a key habit to boost our children’s resilience, self-esteem, peacemaking, social skills, as well as character.

New research by the American Psychological Association reveals another huge plus to teaching kids problem solving: Teaching kids how to solve problems may prevent bullying and reduce children’s chances of being victimized.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Karen Klein Passes Along the Kindness

Do you remember Karen Klein, the NY bus monitor who was bullied by four teenage boys last year? The camera phone video of her ordeal went viral on YouTube and thousands of people expressed disbelief and outrage at the treatment she received. Others expressed outrage at the outpouring of monetary support that Mrs. Klein received from 32,000 people around the world.

Mrs. Klein has not spent the last year sitting on her laurels. She's retired from her job, taken a vacation, helped her family, and used a portion of the money she received to start the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation to support various anti-bullying activities around the world.

Yahoo News: Bullied NY bus monitor teaches kindness year later
GREECE, N.Y. (AP) — No new carpet or furniture for the home she's lived in for 46 years. No fancy car in the driveway.

After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn't changed all that much.

Sure, the "Today" show mug she drinks coffee from reminds her of the widespread media attention her story brought, and the occasional stranger wants to snap her picture.

She's also retired, something the 69-year-old widow couldn't afford before.

But Klein, who drove a school bus for 20 years before spending three years as a monitor, remains as unassuming as she was before learning firsthand how the kindness of strangers can trump the cruelty of four adolescent boys.

Read the entire article here>>

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Wisdom of Our Inner Voice

Although Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was published in 1937, and largely dismissed for a variety of political reasons, I fell into the story as if it had been written for contemporary times. Janie Crawford, a black woman, “saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches.” (Chapter 2)  She is a woman who listens to her inner voice, struggles to actualize her self through the quagmire of relationships with men, women and society.

Through her sufferings and triumphs, Janie survives and grows into a rich, yet imperfect human being, a woman who begins to understand the world through the poetry and wisdom of her inner voice. Politics may change and influence how a work of rare beauty is critiqued, but like the protagonist Janie, the realization of what lies on the written page is always in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Read the First Book in the Bully Dogs Series for FREE

To celebrate the release of my new middle grade fiction book, A Penny in Time, I am offering the downloadable eBook version of Bully Dogs (1st book in the series) for FREE (save $5.95).

A Penny in Time is the 3rd book in the Bully Dogs series and tells the story of Fran's friend Dusty. Bully Dogs (the 1st book in the series) is all about Fran learning to stand up for herself with the neighborhood dogs who chase her to school everyday and her peers in sixth grade who make life at school difficult.

Choose the format that works on your device (including Kindle, ePub for iPad and Nook, PDF for reading on a computer, and more).

To receive your free eBook discount code, simply join my mailing list* below:

After you confirm your email address, you will receive an email with specific instructions on how to get  your FREE eBook! Happy reading!

*About My Mailing List: Every month or so (sometimes less), I email information about my books, research, inspiration, news and upcoming events. I respect your privacy and never rent or sell the email addresses on my mailing list.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Father Time

Sadly, it is an unfortunate fact of life that children are ungrateful. By definition, a mother and father exist solely for the sake of the child, to provide for the child until he is able to care for himself. As former children ourselves, we understand that a child has no real understanding of and no appreciation for the sacrifices a parent makes to benefit, enrich and please her. To a child, a parent is not a person and has no ownership of life outside of the child’s orbit. This makes the parents the focal point of the child and they are the world the child inhabits until the child reaches adulthood.

An awesome responsibility. By the time we are parents, most of us have forgotten what it is like to think and feel as a child. You know that you cannot live on love alone and that there is no money tree, no tooth fairy, no Santa Claus; someone has to provide the means to make expectations come true. In an ideal world, both mother and father can do this for their children and the children would appreciate their efforts; realistically, children take for granted that they are entitled to be taken care of, and the parents go about the business of child rearing without much acknowledgment for their efforts.

In my book A Penny in Time, the main character, Dusty, is dealing with the harsh reality of her parents divorcing. Her world is turned upside down, all expectations a jumbled mess when she can no longer relate to her father, who seems to have found another life that only marginally includes her. He cannot understand her unwillingness to be happy for him in his new relationship. He does not perceive any difference in his love for his daughter, despite the fact that he is not physically present in her daily life.

His daughter lives with her mother in the house that has always been home, and she does not lack for the comforts that she had when her father lived at home. In his eyes, it is reasonable that he should rebuild his life and he is entitled to be happy, too. But that is not how Dusty sees the situation; she is hurt and angry that he has effected such drastic changes in her life, that he is not there for her emotionally, or physically present in her life.  Dusty’s father is not a bad person, nor is he irresponsible; he is simply making choices as a man and not solely as her father. But for Dusty, his decisions and her reaction will impact her life significantly. In her desperate need to be love and loved exclusively, she will make some very unwise choices as a young woman.

No, Dusty does not appreciate all that her father has done for her, and that he loves her for who she is, his daughter. He does everything humanly possible to make things right with her, except acknowledge her insistence that he exist solely as her father. And though he does not see his behavior as rejecting her, Dusty feels he has relegated her to a lesser status, making her a not-very-important person in his life.

I am not saying that Dusty’s father has no right to a life of his own, a relationship and future, but I do want to emphasize that his decisions, because he is a father, will never be just for himself; whatever he does will in some way influence Dusty’s life, for better or worse. I know how true this is, because as a child, I felt the universe rip and the stars fall from the sky into a black hole when my father walked out. I did not care that his life was filled with demons and he could not cope with it; I only knew that he left me. I am an adult now and can appreciate what he endured as a stunted human being, but as a child, I only knew that I was no longer as important to him.

So what would an ideal father be like? A man modeled after the television version of Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver?  No, I do not think so; but the ideal father would be a man who is not afraid of the intense relationship of father and child, a man who does his absolute best to be the best parent he knows how to be and then goes another step to show by example that he cares about his child, his wife, his family. I truly think there are a lot of ideal fathers out there. And you know who you are! Although you may not get a card, or a call or acknowledgment, this is my shout-out to all of you real fathers out there. Happy Father’s Day!