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.