Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 7: Changin' Addi-Paddi (part 2)

I was going to tell him that no matter what was decided, I wanted him to know that I liked him for being who he was. I snapped the scarf out of the belt loops and stood before a mirror on the far wall adjusting it so that it laid symmetrical, then yanked one end longer than the other. Mr. D. waved the crisp piece of paper, as if to hurry me along.

 "Elizabeth Conner, bring the misbegotten."

"Come on, Yugo," I cuddled him close as I walked out the front door Mr. D slammed shut and locked.  There was movement in the bushes and I thought I saw a face, but it disappeared so suddenly I wasn't sure I had really seen anything at all.  "Mr. D. there's someone..."

He cut me off abruptly with,  "All are at the Perfect Chambers.  And from now on, you must call me Mr. dIAmand.  We mustn't tarry, the proceedings have already begun."

Mr. D didn't say another word as he strode toward the center of the city, me trailing behind, Yugo warm and heavy in my arms.  It seemed I had just caught my second wind, when Mr. D trotted up a set of stairs leading to the largest building of the city and held open a massive, glass door etched with a figure eight, which I recognized as the symbol of infinity.

I thought Mr. D had gone back to his high and mighty manner, but he whispered as I entered, "I shall wish for us the best outcome, the best for us all."

He preceded me into the chamber, leaving me below as he ascended stairs to the first level, nodding to those in the aisle seats, then found a seat in the front row.

The room must have been the size of Atlantis, and as I scoped it out I could see it, too, was shaped in a huge figure eight, with twenty tiers of seats in each rounded end, narrowing into the middle open space where there was a stage.  The place was jammed full of Monosapiens.  The room buzzed with talk, until I walked up in front of a stage where a panel of five sat.

A million eyes had tracked my every footstep up here.  Now I felt like Daniel in the lion's den before a bunch of ravenous creatures waiting to pounce on me.  The silence was so silent that I heard my own breathing.  Yugo was strangely quiet, too.  My right hand lay over his chest and I felt the evenness of his breathing and soft thudding of his heart.  How could he be so serene when I was a whirlwind of anxiety and doubts?

"You are Elizabeth Conner."  The cream-colored, furry hand slapped a gavel down, echoing the sharpness of his voice. His nameplate read ‘Judge Ludwig’.

It was a statement, not a question.  I nodded, clutching Yugo a little tighter.  A female sat beside Judge Ludwig and tapped a pencil, eraser side down, on a file folder, a fat file folder. Until she spoke, Mrs. Furbal looked like a really nice grandmother, with heart-shaped pink lips and wearing granny glasses.

"We have compiled facts of this case presented before us regarding the misbegotten."  Mrs. Furbal riffled through papers and handed a sheet to Judge Ludwig as he continued.  "The misbegotten by the name of Yugo, brought into the Perpetual City by one Elizabeth Conner."  He looked at me as if I should confirm what he said, so I nodded.

"First of all," the five Monosapiens on the panel peered at me, like they measured me for good sense, "this is not a judgment of you.  We understand the dilemma you are in, one of emotional attachment to the misbegotten, without a clear comprehension of the larger issues, which we hope to clarify for you."

Mrs. Furbal spoke next, avoiding me, focusing on the paper in front of her.  "The larger issues are:  if acknowledged, the misbegotten must be claimed by his parents; there is the question of what is to be done about the coupling/uncoupling; and what deleterious effect will this have on the progeny of the couple, the economical  repercussions, and ultimately, what effect will this have on our society?"

"Well said, Mrs. Furbal," remarked the man sitting on her right, Mr. Reader.  In agreement, the others, Mr. Stix and Mr. Light, nodded and smiled like puppets.

The judge met my gaze.  I would not let them override the 'larger issue' of murder.  "You can't justify murder, can you?" I challenged.  I heard a low rippling of voices around me, but I couldn't actually make out anything said.

That didn't seem to faze Judge Ludwig.  He explained, in a deliberate and precise tone, once more, the 'larger issues'.  "It is unfortunate that there must be such a drastic and undesirable recourse to correct an individual's mistake, but it is preferable to rectify the mistake rather than rend the fabric of society.  Those who go outside the legal union to find personal love hurt not only a mate, but the offspring, therefore all of society.  If couples were allowed to divorce, it would bring pain, as well as changes, to all.  This must, and will be, the prime consideration of the Perfect Council."

I was sweating and cold, for suddenly I found myself in a quandary.  I didn't want to say divorce was a good thing, because I didn't believe it was.  Hadn't I been hurt because of my parents' divorce?  I liked the idea that families stayed together. I liked the idea of a perfect society.  Would Yugo die if I agreed with the Perfect Council?  I couldn't let that happen, no matter what.  But I certainly didn't know what I was going to do about it, either.

I glanced around me. Only one in the crowd of clones looked directly at me, a woman with slightly different eyes and mouth, who clasped a blanket in her hands, and she appeared desperate, on the brink of standing up.  She wet her lips several times, wringing the blanket tighter and tighter.  Yugo chirped, as if he recognized her, wanting her attention, just as I hoped she would speak up.  For I, too, recognized her as the anxious face I had seen hiding in the bushes at Mr. D's house.

"Elizabeth Conner!"

I jerked back to attention before Judge Ludwig.  Yugo yelped, wiggling and straining to look behind me, making it nearly impossible to hold onto him.  I was ready to duck out of here and let these guys settle future issues for themselves.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to change things for the better, but I did know that I wanted to go home and that my mother would understand about Yugo.

Five faces loomed before me, without an ounce of sympathy for either Yugo or me, in spite of what they might say.

"By what defense do you wish to redeem the misbegotten?"

The room full of Monosapiens waited for my answer.  My brains were scrambled and my voice had dried up; I thought any minute my heart would hammer a hole in my chest.    "I'll take Yugo home with me!" I exclaimed.

"No!" thundered Judge Ludwig.  "You will have the duration of the recess to prepare your defense.  Dismissed!"

The gavel cracked.  I sank down on a nearby bench and tried to unravel my disordered thoughts.  Yugo's very life depended on me, and all I could think of was how much I wanted out of this mess.  I rocked Yugo, wanting a response from him, but he struggled to free himself from my arms.  He was looking for that woman.  But if she cared at all about him, why didn't she claim him?  And there may as well have been an ocean between me and Mr. D, for it seemed pretty certain he wasn't going to help us, either.

There wasn't any way out of this building, and besides, where could we go?  Back out there in the wastelands with those horrible creatures that wanted a free meal?  Right now, though, it seemed like inside or out, we were facing some pretty terrible odds trapped here with the Perfect Council sitting in judgment. If I ever had to save my life, it was now.  Strange, I thought suddenly, it's Yugo's life that's at stake, not mine.  But sometimes, it felt we were one and the same.

Yugo plopped into my lap, radiating trust that rankled me, for I was full of despair.  I cupped his face with my hands, and stared at him, trying to fathom his confidence. 

  Then it clicked!  Mr. D had said something was wrong with this society, and that must be the key to this whole thing!  If only I could unlock the secret before it was too late.  If only.  And time was running out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Write Seasons Greetings

I have to take stock of the pantry, order the prime rib, buy the ingredients for the  pies, edit the address list, Mary Sue likes Cran-Apple juice, Ted likes V-8, Sugar Snaps is toddling, put the tree up on a box or table, and I forgot Sissy’s birthday card.  If I could just get out the newsletter, a really good one, that would take care of half the obligatory notes in the one-hundred ten Christmas cards.  I can do that between the 9th and 10th and get all those in the mail with all the packages, on time for Christmas Eve.

Or, I could just forget it.  But every year I argue with that inner voice that urges me to do a creative newsletter, maybe with an artful, hand drawn Santa and sleigh over the roof tops, or a bucolic scene with deer and bunnies and magically decorated trees, snow falling, and of course, starry night sky—-ah, no, if it is snowing it wouldn’t be starry, then maybe snow on the ground.  Or quick! copy a graphic and send out e-cards. Oh, right.  Now I am exhausted just thinking about it.  Why does it have to be so hard?

Well, it does not have to be hard.  I know, I wrote the book KISS, Keep It Short and Simple, and I’ve learned how to quick start a writing project. Although it sounds contradictory, listen to the chattering thoughts a few seconds.  Is there a recurring theme—-leaving out all the expletives?  For me this year, there is nothing particularly newsworthy. Okay, then, what about an artsy approach?  Hmmm, what pops in mind is a wine glass pouring out words onto the paper.  Okay, I can go with that and a simple line that the family is happy, healthy and will be celebrating the holidays together.  Last year, the newsletter had twelve  paragraphs bulging with anecdotes, some hilarious and some quite disheartening, in a calendar format, as my life had been one incident after another the whole year. I could laugh about it in retrospect and apparently, so could others.

What makes a good Christmas newsletter?  News about the family. It is in the telling. “Well, it’s that time of year again….” does not make for a felicitous greeting.  Start on a positive note, simply “Merry Christmas!” can be a good start to a chatty newsletter.  If you are not good on the computer with graphics, buy some seasonal cheerful paper which has the added benefit of shortening the format.  The idea is to make your readers feel as though you are talking to them, not bragging or to induce envy of your good fortune or make others feel sorry for you, or dread hearing the same old thing from you year after year. It is a short story. Short sentences are far easier and memorable than long, run-ons. Remember that a sentence is built on threes:  a noun, verb and adjective; a beginning, middle and end, and at least three sentences to a paragraph. Use the CCI concept:  compare, contrast and interrelate. As an example:  We were so fortunate to have our clan, six couples, 5 children, one bachelor, together for a Christmas ski vacation. Our nephew Kyle, a competitive racer broke a record in the Jingle Bell run, but unfortunately, also broke his ankle the first day. However, as all true romantic stories have a happy ending, by the end of the week, Kyle was engaged to his high school sweetheart, a charming waitress who brought him a daily cup of coffee as he sat by the fireplace. Kismet?

I suspect for most people, it is hard to find the right tone, or voice, to write one’s story. Is it far nobler to be serious or more impressive to be charming, witty, and funny? Or far better to be yourself, which may be plain spoken, out-spoken or reticent.  If the whole thing of writing out a newsletter is overwhelming, don’t stress, address.  Get the envelopes done and the letter becomes an accessory.  Once you begin, the rest will come easy.

Then again, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year y’all” works  like a charm, too.  Sign your name to the card and you are good to go.
Happy Holidays

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Running the Gauntlet

There’s the bell for first class. Walk slowly. Time it just right and maybe you ‘ll be the last one to sit down at your desk. Pretend you don’t hear them.

“That’s so gay.”
“No homo.”

At least once during the day, LGBTQIA+ students, a reported estimated 1.3 million high school students identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, will hear an epithet casually and purposefully thrown at them, intending to hurt, belittle, ridicule.  An excellent article in The Seattle Times, Aug 12, 2016,”Heartbreaking” is a survey on abuse of gay students” by Jan Hoffman with additional Federal data, reports:
The first nationwide study to ask high school students about their sexuality found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers were at far greater risk for depression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers.
“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administered the survey.

These adolescents were three times more likely than straight students to have been raped. They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe; at least a third had been bullied on school property. And they were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

More than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. A conservative estimate is 1,500 LGBTQIA+ commit suicide every year. The percentage of those who used illegal drugs was many times greater than their heterosexual peers. While 1.3 percent of straight students said they had used heroin, for example, 6 percent of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having done so.

Look at these statistics!  They are heartbreaking and horrifying. Understand that 1.3 million people who report to be LGBTQIA+  is roughly the population of Los Angles, California.  Our children are daily engaged in warfare at school without any armor or protection—and for many who come “out” to parents, are kicked out of their home to fend on the street for themselves. Dr. Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the C.D.C., said it better than I:  “Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children. Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”

What we can do as peers, parents, teacher, mentors, and our community is give support through educating our youth in the home and classrooms about basic issues of how to respect one another as human beings and not as ‘others’.  With the ubiquitous internet and social media, it is imperative to teach our youth hard core values; to be very clear what is bullying and not acceptable behavior towards anyone for any reason.  If not in the home, then at school. There are excellent programs, like Green Dot etc., used by the Air Force, that effectively teach strategy for violence prevention, and what to do as a bystander in bullying and violent situations.

As Dr. Mermin stated emphatically “connectedness -- or social bonds -- to peers, teachers, schools, or community organizations is key to protecting the health of these adolescents. Students will succeed if they know they matter, and feel safe and supported socially, emotionally and physically. Solutions may not be simple, but we can take action to build support for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth at multiple levels.”

I have written several articles emphasizing the need, and the rights of our children to be safe from bullies—-and I especially feel we have an imperative to protect the most vulnerable of our children—-those who are harassed for being different, either racially or because of one’s sexual orientation.  We need to have a continuous dialogue with our children, our family members and community, to talk honestly about bully issues.

To gain insight into the reality of a child being LGBTQIA+ in their daily arena, please take some time to explore websites like:
Read an excellent article by Kevin L. Nadal, PhD "Stop Saying “That’s So Gay!”: 6 Types of Microaggressions That Harm LGBTQ People" for an enlightening perspective.

Ask yourself what would this world be like without the diversity, talents and skills that the LGBTQIA+ have given us since the beginning of mankind?  The list I could make of the contributions in arts, sciences, politics and humanity of the LGBTQIA+ would be  awesome in its breadth and sheer numbers of people who have influenced and enriched our lives in spite of the obstacles, the prejudices and hostility they have endured.

It is imperative that we, every one of us, ensure that our children, all our children, thrive in a environment that is safe and respectful, especially for the most vulnerable of children, the ‘others’, who are targeted for being different, for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual or questioning. Too many of these children are at risk everyday of their lives. Tomorrow will be too late for many of them. Today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, is the time to stop the cycle of abuse.

L - Lesbian. Lesbian is a term used to refer to homosexual females.

G - Gay. Gay is a term used to refer to homosexuality, a homosexual person, or a homosexual male.

B - Bisexual. Bisexual is when a person is attracted to two sexes/genders.

T - Trans. Trans is an umbrella term for transgender and transsexual people.

Q - Queer/Questioning. Queer is an umbrella term for all of those who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Questioning is when a person isn't 100% sure of their sexual orientation and/or gender, and are trying to find their true identity.

I - Intersex. Intersex is when a person has an indeterminate mix of primary and secondary sex characteristics.

A - Asexuality. Asexuality is when a person experiences no (or little, if referring to demisexuality or grey-asexuality) sexual attraction to people.

+ - The "+" symbol simply stands for all of the other sexualities, sexes, and genders that aren't included in these few letters.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Inside the Secret World of Teens

If you missed the CNN Special Report Special Report, "#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens," from October, 2015, I highly advise you to watch it soon. And, be sure to read these articles with additional information.

Being 13: Perils of lurking on social media“Most adolescents with access to smart phones are living their social lives online as much as they do face-to-face. Adults worry that teens are hooked on social media, but most have no idea what teens are actually doing online.

In this study, we examined the content of what teens actually say and do on social media, not simply what they say they do — and what it means to them. Not only are 13-year-olds using social media to post, tweet, share, friend, block, and unfriend, adolescents are spending vast amounts of time just "lurking," reading the never-ending stream of their peers' activities without posting anything themselves.

More than one third of them said they check social media without posting 25 times or more per day on weekends, and our heaviest users said they use social media over 100 times daily, including during classes at school.”
Read the entire article>>

Are you raising an Internet bully? Here’s how to end that behavior.
By Monica Leftwich, The Washington Post
“Faris dispells the notion that most kids directly model behaviors online that they witness at home, dismissing the idea that many kids cyberbully because their parents engage in similar actions. However, he does suspect that parents’ priorities could affect how their kids behave online.

Faris uses the example of “status games.” In short, some parents who get overly involved with their kids’ popularity or social status, or who themselves try to “keep up with the Joneses,” could be creating a sense of social competition in their children. If the parents put a high value on social climbing, Faris says, their children may do the same. This could create an unhealthy sense of rivalry in teens who prioritize popularity over true friendship.

That can spawn online aggression. For example, kids who value popularity will start vicious rumors online about other kids in order to tear them down while increasing their own “likes” and followers on social-media platforms.”
Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 7: Changin' Addi-Paddi (part 1)

I could not settle down, so I got up and wandered around the house.  Normally, I'm not a worrywart, but I was upset that there wasn't anymore food for Yugo, and worried what little he had had to eat would only make him hungrier when he woke up.  To distract myself, I thumbed through a history book in Mr. D's library and read the two page-history of the Perpetual City while Yugo and Mr. D slept.  Their whispery snores were in sync with one another, which made me laugh out loud as I came back into the room.

I scrunched down on the couch. Yugo curled up beside me, still sound asleep, but sending warm vibes that coated me inside out.  He purred and I read.

Although their civilization was thousands of years old, the history book only recounted the last thousand of years:  from 999 to 2000, the city, the people, the society, everything was exactly like it had been, was and would be.  The rest of the book was pictures, and I had the creepy feeling I could walk outside and find those very landmarks still in existence.  Maybe, I looked over at Mr. D sleeping, the very same people.  I had heard that history repeats itself, but I had never thought about it literally.

One fact snagged my attention, about the race itself.  Mr. D's genus was Mono, of the family sapiens, and reproduction was "homogenesis", which I found in the glossary meant "reproduction in which successive generations are alike".  I folded the book shut, wondering if 'they' were all of like minds, too.  Maybe I stood a chance against a committee that shared genes with Mr. D.  Then again, maybe I didn't, if Mr. D had mutated from the rest of 'them'.  Back and forth, back and forth went my thoughts, always leaving me flooded with doubts.  I wish the whole process had started, therefore, had been decided, and was already over.

I heard rustling outside, then a thump against the door and nearly knocked Yugo off the couch when I jumped to my feet.  Mr. D bolted from his chair and with his massive hand upraised, blocked me from the front door.

"No, childling, stay!"

Any other time, I might have been offended at being ordered like a dog, but Mr. D, obviously unnerved, only meant to protect me.  And Yugo, I think.

"Mr. D, I don't think anyone is trying to break in."  I pointed to the billowing curtains.  "It would have been easier to come through the open window." 

He patted his chest, where I imagined his heart beat.  "I have never witnessed so many strange events."  He appeared thoughtful, looking from the window to the door.  "I've never left that window open before now.  And there's never been any disturbance at my front door."

"Mr. D," I took a step forward, "let's look outside and maybe we can figure out what's going on."
He nodded to me.  "But you must stay here."  He took purposeful strides to the door and whipped it open.

There was a brown package on the welcome mat.  Mr. D stooped and gingerly peeked inside.  "Oh, my!" he gasped, as I bumped into his back.

"What is it?"  I knelt beside Mr. D, nudging his leg to get a closer look, trying to send reassuring vibes to Yugo so he would stop his frightened mewing.

"It's..." Mr. D plucked the bag up and smiled at me, a rather pained smile I thought, "a care package.  For Yugo."

Mr. D stepped over me, back inside.  "Well, Dusty, I dare say that Yugo will have something good to eat, real food for the nuzzling.  I'll fix it and you feed him."

After I dusted off my knees, though I really didn't have to because there wasn't any dirt on my jeans, I followed Mr. D into the kitchen.  Yugo had slipped off the couch and was waddling behind me.  "Look at him, Mr. D!  Isn't he cute?"

Mr. D kept his back to me.  "Who would do such a thing, leave this for a misbegotten?" he mused, fussing over the large nursing bottle.

I hadn't forgotten that Mr. D called Yugo 'nuzzling', which I thought might be an affectionate term.  "Maybe his mother did.  Or someone else who doesn't think it's right for babies to be left out in the desert to die."  I took the bottle from Mr. D, who frowned like my old principal did the time he caught me swearing when I slammed my locker shut on my left hand.

Yugo pawed at my legs until I picked him up.  He snatched at the bottle, giving short 'yurps' as he suckled and I tried to balance both him and the bottle with my hands.  Mr. D marched out of the kitchen, leaving me alone and wondering what I had said to upset him.

Yugo must have sensed my confusion, for he stopped sucking long enough to peer at me intently, and suddenly a lot of unfriendly faces flashed through my head.  Mr. D must be as anxious as I was about this upcoming confrontation.  Maybe he had mixed emotions about which side he was going to be on, or what the outcome would be for Yugo and me.  I had only begun to appreciate how hard it must be for him to accept changes, let alone campaign for them.  But there was someone else out there who wanted to help us, too.

"Mr. D," I walked over to his chair and he looked up at me, "if there are two of you that feel the way I do about Yugo, then maybe there's a lot more.  We might stand a good chance of convincing the Perfect Council yet."

Yugo started hiccupping.  Mr. D's nostril flared and he sighed, impatiently waving his hand at Yugo.  "He needs to be patted on the back."

I flipped Yugo over my shoulder and burped him.  "There's something you're not telling me, Mr. D, something that's troubling you.  And it's not Yugo, is it?"  I put him down on the couch.
Yugo was content to settle between the cushions and go back to sleep.  He seemed to have grown another six inches since I had fed him.  Yugo gave back to me the love I felt for him as I scratched his head and I was reluctant to let go of the good feelings that flowed between us.  But I had to get some things clear.  I went over and sat on a footstool in front of Mr. D and waited for him to speak.
He cleared his throat a couple of times.  "You're right, Dusty.  Something is wrong, very wrong."  He startled me by reaching over and touching my cheek lightly, then continued.  "You have read," he gestured to the closed history book on the arm of the couch, "about our history.  Was it not extraordinary?"

The way he said it, gave me the impression he meant it in a negative way.  "Yeah," I replied, "I thought it was a bit odd."

"In what way?" he asked kindly, leaning closer to me.

"Two pages about a perfect society.  I mean, I guess I thought history told about wars, conflicts, changes, you know, all that happens over years and years.  Like evolution."

"Exactly."  He smacked his hands and smiled like I had answered the winning quiz question.

"Exactly what?" I retorted, baffled by his smug expression.

"Our recorded history begins with the perfected society."  He massaged his knees.  "From the time of our recorded history, there are no wars, no unresolved conflicts amongst us.  That is why we can exist in the Perpetual City in harmony, a totally homogeneous society.  There is no poverty here, for here everything is in balance with our resources.  Even our arts and sciences have reached the state of perfection, where all needs are satisfied, for each and everyone of us.  Everyone is alike, and there is always agreement.  Every action is carefully considered, every consideration balanced.  Our marriage contracts are forever and each couple rears two offspring until the age of twenty-one, one quarter of a life span.  We are a self-perpetuating society."

He paused and took a breath.  I let all this information sink in, trying to pinpoint what it was that disturbed me.  After all, it sounded just fine to me.  "Families stay together, right?"

"Yes."  Mr. D locked eyes with me.

"I don't see the problem."  I held his gaze for a long minute.

"Couples partner for a lifetime; there is no such thing as separation.  Each misbegotten comes from an unlawful union, and threatens the balance.  Ergo, there cannot be misbegottens."

Mr. D stroked his chin, and I was hypnotized by the long, silken strands undulating along his arm.  I knew his reasoning was wrong.  "What about love?" I blurted out, startling both of us.

"There are many forms of love, Dusty," he answered quietly, and I detected a note of sadness, too.  "The good of all is the highest form of love, is it not?"

But before I could answer him, there came a resounding knock on the door.  This time Mr. D seemed neither surprised nor unprepared as he opened the door.

"It's a summons for us to go to the courthouse immediately."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What makes a child become a bully?

How A Child Becomes A Bully
by Dr. Gail Gross,
“While there is no one single profile of a child bully, in my years as a researcher and educator, I have witnessed a few different situations that describe the majority of child bullies.

Like Parent, Like Child. Children model what they see. If a child is bullied by his/her parent, or is being abused or treated in a disrespectful way at home, that child is likely to imitate this behavior at school. They are learning from their parent that this type of behavior is acceptable.

The Powerless Child. Sometimes, the child that bullies is the child who feels completely powerless at home. Perhaps this child is abused, or watches one of his parents abuse another parent, and he/she is left feeling scared and powerless at home. This child may attempt to gain back power by bullying others at school.”

Read the entire article>>

Your child might be a bully. Here are 7 ways to stop that behavior.
by Lev Novak, The Washington Post
"As a former after-school teacher, I’ve spent three years working with kids in a more relaxed environment than the classroom. And, in those hours with kids as their less-guarded selves, I’ve seen the bullying, teasing, whispers and shoves that scarcely get reported home to parents.

There are no one-size-fits-all approaches to preventing or stopping bullying, and zero-tolerance policies are often a blur of good intentions poorly applied. But below are some strategies I’ve found effective for various children.

Avoid cliches. Generalizations sound like static to kids, who don’t apply morals and have heard the “don’t bully” screed delivered in the same monotones by the same authority figures all their lives. But specifics help, and authenticity matters. Names, events and situations anchor vague morality tales in practical terms. Sincerity can bring real empathy to a subject that all too often is artificial."
Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

O, say can you see...

I cannot carry a tune so I mouth the words as  I stand whenever the national anthem begins. Initially I was angered at Colin Kaepernick’s protest sit-down on August 26, 2016, when the national anthem was played. How ironic, I thought, that a football player who plays a game woven with politics and big money and tied into the military and traditionally overtly patriotic, would disrespect the very symbols that support his (12 million dollars a year) livelihood. And, without any risk to himself or to his professional status, as the players are not required to stand during the ceremony. But then something happened, a chain reaction of events and voices in support of his statements that caught my attention and made me examine my premise. I have since reconsidered.

It is the ironies that are much like a can of wiggly assumptions being let out that made me think about Kaepernick’s protest from another perspective. I have always had trouble with "The Star Spangled Banner" being our national anthem; it is a war hymn, glorifying the victory of the Americans against the British at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The United States prides itself on being the peace-keeper of the world. In the War of 1812, there were ex-slaves fighting with the British against their former owners, which makes my favorite goose-bumping refrain, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”, hypocritical. 

It is a difficult song to sing for best professional singer, let alone the average person, but it has been preformed magnificently by many. And, spoofed and lampooned and disparaged by high and low minded of all genres. Remember Jose Feliciano’s performance at Tiger Stadium? Remember athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos with raised fists at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony? 

Sadly, in 2005, a government-sponsored program, the National Anthem Project was initiated after a Harris poll showed many adults did not know the lyrics or the history of "The Star Spangled Banner." And, there are translations into several languages, including Latin, and the indigenous languages of the Navajo and Cherokee, many of whom fought with the British and Canadians against the Americans in the War of 1812. Yet, after the September 2011 terrorist attacks, the Queen of England allowed a performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Buckingham Palace during the Changing of the Guard and the next day, sang the anthem at a memorial service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, as a tribute and act of support for Americans. That, in my opinion, is the best example of  transfiguration.

I am of two minds about this, but I do not see it as hypocritical or indecisive to say that I have a deep and true respect for what the flag and anthem stand for, the ideal. Yet, I do not appreciate, nor condone, our nation’s past or current history of  racism, waging unconscionable acts of aggression and wars internationally and nationally, against its own citizens. When those who protest bring to the forefront issues we must face and address, I am proud to be an American citizen where protestors have a voice, and a right to use it, and cannot be silenced easily.  A nation needs a conscience and that is the right to protest injustice guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. There are many brave voices raised in protest, past and present—Colin Kaepernick is not the first to take a hard core stance, and hopefully, he will not be the last.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 6: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Part 2)

"Well," he sighed, "perhaps we may have to come to a compromise.  Let me propose this:  I shall call you Dusty, and you may call me," he paused and squinted, but I think beneath the pained expression might have been a glint of humor, "Mr. D only," and he emphasized it again, "only when we are by ourselves.  It is especially important for you to remember this when we come before the Perfect Council.  Do we have an agreement?"

"Sure," I stuck my hand out and we shook on it.  "Now, we'd better get some food for Yugo. He's awfully hungry."

Mr. D bristled.  "I cannot.  We must wait for the Perfect Decision."

"Mr. D," I felt an upsurge of anger that swept away all the cobwebs from my head, "Yugo's fate will be decided whether or not he has a full stomach.  I wouldn't let you go hungry.  You talk about 'the way things are, the way things must be', but have you no sense of what is right or wrong?"

Yugo really perked up while I made my speech and punctuated my sentences with sharp squeals.  Mr. D appeared rather stunned, like he had been frozen for a couple of centuries in the same spot.  He must have considered what I said, because his face thawed into a smile.

"I believe there might be something that the misbegotten could ingest.  Come with me to my house."
I didn't see that we had much choice, whether or not to go to Mr. D's house or back to the desert.  This is the sort of situation you never want to try to explain to your parents, how sometimes you know you're not supposed to do something, but you don't have much of a choice, or if you have, you don't know it.

I think Yugo must have been telling me that it was all right, because I got a sense of being in the right place at the right time.  Although I thought it pretty strange that I was here, thinking about right time and place.  Some of our immediate problems were taken care of, like we were inside the city, not out, so we were some place, not lost, and we at least had the promise of being fed and sheltered.  I would really rather be at home, where I know it would be no problem taking care of Yugo or myself, for that matter.  If I want unreasonable, I have my Dad.

We were the only ones walking along the quiet, empty streets.  Rows of houses bordered the sidewalks, spaced like a perfectly planted garden of lettuce heads all in a row.  "Where are all the others, Mr. D?"

"Oh, childling," he chuckled, "everyone has a place to be and is there.  There is no reason for anyone to be about at this time."

"Is it day or night, Mr. D?"  Yugo was asleep again and I could swear he had grown in just the short time we had been here.

"It is," he answered, then added, probably because I looked like I felt, annoyed, "one and the same, here.  There is no change of season, either."

"I see."  Inside, I recoiled at the thought of sameness, the color of gray.  Yugo stirred but did not awaken.

We walked on, up one, then down another sidewalk, like we were in a brightly lit maze winding through the city, until we stopped in front of one drab, medium-sized house that looked exactly like the other beside it, with one tree per patch of brownish front lawn.

"How do you know which house is yours, Mr. D?"  I asked, not even trying to disguise my disgust.
"Why, I've always lived here!  Third house from the last, the right side of the street.  Simple."  He motioned me to enter, and before the door shut behind us, I got a quick look at the etched nameplate on the door, "Mr. dIAmand" in small, block letters.

"Oh, boy," I looked around, not the least surprised that the living room had an easy chair, one couch, a coffee table, with no magazines or clutter anywhere, and each visible room had the same off-white walls with light green fabric curtains pulled neatly in two halves from the windows.  "Nice place you've got here, Mr. D."  I plopped down on the couch and let Yugo burrow beside me.

"Yes, well, thank you.  I shall be back momentarily with food for Yugo.  If you'll excuse me."

"Sure, and thanks!" I called after him as he hurried to the kitchen.  Mr. D didn't seem all that stuffy now that we were here at his house, almost like he was happy to have us staying with him.  Maybe he had really wanted to do the right thing and take care of Yugo, but didn't want, or couldn't, put himself in the position to be responsible for that kind of decision.  I had no idea what it was going to be like before the Perfect Council, but I made up my mind I wasn't going to let it scare me, or make me do what I knew wasn't right.  Of course, I didn't like to think too much about what 'they' could make me do; I had some ugly images of blood, gore and torture.  But surely, this space and place was civilized, or so I hoped.  Then I looked down at Yugo, softly sleeping against my leg, and questioned how these beings could throw away their own babies and not care for them.  Maybe 'they' wouldn't care if I was a kid or not, no rules need apply here about what's fair or decent or right.  I only prayed that I knew what I was doing when it came time to stand up and face the Perfect Council.  I was sure that Mr. D wouldn't or couldn't offer much more assistance, and since Yugo was the problem, he sure couldn't do much in the way of helping.

Mr. D came back into the living room with a huge glass of thick, chalky stuff that smelled a lot like my old tennis shoes.  "I'm sorry to say that's all I have for him."

Maybe to change the subject quickly, he blurted,  "I have been informed that soon we will go before the Perfect Council, Eliz...Dusty."  He sat down in the easy chair, clasping his hands together and shaking his fur to lay smooth.  "They have agreed to meet in six hours."

"Why so long, why can't we get it over with sooner?"  I had difficulty getting the milkshake fast enough into Yugo's demanding mouth.  He slurped and gurgled while I tried not to slop any of it onto the couch, let alone worry about what was getting on me.  I was going to look real nice after this feeding, just perfect enough to go before the Council.

"Oh, no sooner!  Everyone will want to attend and hear the outcome.  It has become a major issue, and we will be very anxious to know the decision concerning the misbegottens.  It will affect us all, one way or the other."  For a moment, Mr. D lost his smile and I had a flash of misgiving.  "This has created a great deal of talk amongst us, you bringing the misbe...Yugo, here inside the city.  I don't think it will be an easy decision for the Council.  No," he stood and paced between the dining room and living room, "I don't think this is going to be easy for any of us.  Your being here has disrupted us already; we cannot be the same as we were before you came.  But I don't know," he stopped in front of me, clearly distressed, "if this is for the better or not!"

"Changes are always hard, even if they're good for you," I replied, wiping the last glob of liquid from Yugo's chin.  "But isn't that life?  Don't we grow and change all the time?"  I peered up at Mr. D.  "Or do you like living the life of a robot?"

"Oh, childling," he huffed, straightening to his full impressive height, "there's nothing wrong with life being predictable."

I looked pointedly from Yugo to Mr. D.  "Something's wrong with this society, something's really wrong.  And I bet there are some of you that aren't real happy with the way things are."

"Well," he stammered, "I suppose you always have malcontents, in any society.  But not enough to influence the whole network."

"If you're so happy with the way things are, then why did you take us in?"  I felt I was ice skating across the Atlantic, but if I couldn't make Mr. D see my point of view, I knew I was in for some real trouble up ahead.

 He drummed his fingers on the fireplace mantel, answering in a low voice,  "Because, Dusty, you're right.  Something is wrong, terribly wrong with our society.  And I hope," his head turned ever so slowly, his eyes seeking mine in a hard stare, "you can effect changes.  You're the only one that can."
There seemed nothing more to say and Mr. D sat down again.  I wondered just how I was going to convince 'them'.  I held onto the thin thread of hope that if I could change Mr. D's mind, I could change the Perfect Council.  I had to: it was so obviously the right thing to do that I knew I had no choice.  I hoped that if I never got back home, my Mom would somehow know what I had done and be proud of me.

Yugo stretched and purred, flopping into my hands like a cat does, totally relaxed and contented.  Without a worry.  Mr. D reclined in his chair, with his head thrown back and eyes shut, probably asleep, too.  I was wide awake, along with all my concerns.  I felt like we had used up some brownie points, and I sure hoped we hadn't emptied the cookie jar just yet.  Because, I thought as I tucked Yugo close against my leg while he slept easy, what we needed was another minor miracle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Share Why You Write on The National Day on Writing

“We all have our own reasons for why we write, and many are essential to accomplishing our daily plans, not to mention achieving our dreams.” - NCTE Why I Write

Join me and thousands of Americans as we celebrate The National Day on Writing on Thursday, October 20th. Founded by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the day draws attention to the importance of writing in all of our lives.

From text messages and social media posts to journals and novels, all of us write something every day. And, helping the younger generations understand how crucial writing is to communicating their thoughts is what English teachers around the country work tirelessly to do.

Join the celebration!
Ready for a writing challenge?
Participate in the National Novel Writing Month next month! Sign up on the website  to connect with fellow writers to get the support you need to finish before the end of November. Do you think the world is ready to hear what YOU have to day?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Peer Mediation Can Help

"If you can avoid the physical violence and bring people together, you have accomplished what, from the beginning of time, mankind has considered a noble end.” - Richard Blumenthal

“Right in front of my eyes, those 20 students transformed into leaders and into activists.”
by Danielle Ross, MyCorneroftheWorld

“I’ll never forget that Thursday morning last year when my students and I sat together in class and cried.

What could possibly bring a class full of high school students and their teacher to tears? Bullying. We were sharing our personal experiences of being bullied and reliving those feelings that we push down but that don’t ever really go away. It had been 25 years since my “friends” had called me asking about homework and giggling in the background from a party I wasn’t invited to. Twenty-five years later and the pain came rushing back when I shared the experience with my peer counseling students. And I wasn’t the only one; student after student shared similar experiences that happened to them, mostly during elementary school.”

Read the entire article>>

Making Peer Mediation a Part of Campus Life

“Teen skirmishes over rumors, perceived put-downs, and he-said-she-said arguments might seem inconsequential to adults, but to kids they can be major distractions. Mediation by peers can clear up misunderstandings quickly and improve school climate. Included: Ed World visits a peer mediation conference.

In schools, student conflicts can simmer for days. Starting with a glance, a whisper, or an innuendo, and seasoned with rumors, such conflicts can boil over into clique showdowns, shouting matches, threats, or worse.”

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Leave me alone."

We have no privacy. Our smart phones, computers and devices leave a cyber trail that makes it possible for companies to target ads tailored just for us; grocery stores send coupons to me based on my recent spending habits; my favorite game site and Facebook have ad banners showcasing similar items I have recently purchased. If I Google my name, I can find out more about myself than I wish to know. Which means, anyone can know what I am spending time and money and interest, where and what, in almost every facet of my life, except (maybe?) my inner life. Although, perhaps by examining my reading list one could find some misleading clues; but what you cannot know is how many of those books I have actually completely read and appreciated, unless I post a review. My point, I emphasize, is unless I let you know.

Here we all are in Candyland, the place of easily and readily accessible knowledge and merchandise, available with a thought and a click. It is interesting that the trail while browsing the internet is referred to as leaving ‘cookies’—such an innocuous term, but like the fairy tale reference to Hans and Gretel, if you examine the premise, it is pretty scary; being preyed upon and exposed to malevolent, unseen forces is not something most would willingly choose to do. These unseen forces are bullies. As I have pointed out before, cyberbullying is the worst form of harassment, as there is no safe haven, no place that you cannot be found as you have left evidence of your whereabouts on every device you use.

What am I leading up to and what is my bully issue now? It is a personal matter that I have concerning rights to privacy.  I received notification of impending vote from the condo association in Honolulu that owners are to decide on three subjects:  one of which is to have our entire buildings and premises, including inside the apartment, smoke free. There are two buildings, a common area on the fourth floor, and 938 units. This is a lot of space and a lot of people, but not all are owners of the units they reside in and not everyone will get a vote on this proposal. I understand that there are people with medical and personal objections to smoking, that it is a matter of maintaining the grounds and secondhand smoke; but I do not understand the rationale of dictating what goes on inside my condo unit. And unfortunately, precedent has been set where a condo association in Colorado won the case to have a smoke free property outside and inside a newly built complex.

How will anyone know what I am doing inside my unit? Will there be a camcorder set up to monitor my actions, or a drone? Will I be sanctioned with a written warning, verbal abuse, or eviction from my property if I light up? Will I have to sign a pledge that I will abide by this rule and turn in my neighbors if I know someone has broken the covenant?

What happens down the road if/when someone decides that alcohol is unhealthy for everyone and no one should be allowed to drink beer, wine, or spirits? Or wearing green shirts is inflammatory and prejudicial to chameleons? Flip-flops are really not very healthy for the feet—perhaps no one should wear flip-flops in the interest of insurance coverage.

I am not trivializing this, but trying to make a point that there has to be a boundary between the outside and inside of our lives that cannot be legislated; what is happening is an over legislating and intrusion upon fundamental rights by a majority, but a majority that is not totally representative of the whole. Frankly, I am scared that we are one step away from being institutionalized, with no basic individual rights upheld against a bureaucratic process.  (Madness?) As I have stated in another context, once you have abnegated your rights, it is hard to win them back.

We need to be very careful about giving away our right to privacy, either knowingly or unknowingly. This has been my wake up call to pay attention to the erosion of my fundamental right to be left alone in my own house, my private space. I will be paying closer attention to how much of my life, my activities, gets monitored and marketed back to me, deleting trails where and when I can, as well as protesting any which way I can. Stay out of my bedroom, my closet, my living room. I may be a small voice, like a clownfish in a sea of whales, but I will heard. You can count on it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 6: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Part 1)

"Childling, what are you doing here?"

Well, wasn't that the question of the year!  Before I could answer, the creature, I'd guess at least eight feet tall, shook his pearly mane and scolded, "It's much too late for you to be out."

He seemed to know me and I had a feeling I knew this shaggy, but well-groomed creature that towered over me, extending a paw-like hand towards me.  His fur was satiny-white and he had liquid brown eyes beneath puckered eyebrows in a rather stern, human-like face.  It was not an unkind face, just not too friendly.  Yugo, snuggled in my arms, wasn't the least bit afraid of him, either, not that I could sense.  But Yugo also didn't give out any information on this guy, which left me wondering if I should shake his hand or what.

I'd trust my instincts.  I clasped his hand and replied, "Please call me Dusty."

"Humph," he squeezed my hand and let go, "'Dusty' is not a proper name, Elizabeth Conner."

Now I knew why he felt so familiar, he reminded me of my Dad.

"Come along," he took a key from a big ring and unlocked the gate, a soft clicking echoing throughout the deserted streets. "You may call me Mr. dIAmand."  He swung the gate open and as I took a step, he stopped me with an upraised hand.  "You must," he pointed to Yugo, "leave the misbegotten outside the city walls.  It must return to the desert."

"No!" I shot back, without a moment's hesitation, heartened by my voice ringing in the still night air.  "Yugo and I stay together.  I must get some food for him.  He's starving."  I stroked Yugo and he purred.  "Maybe you can help find his parents."  I smiled at the man-thing, seeing a resemblance between him and Yugo.  Yugo would probably grow up to look a lot like Mr. dIAmand.

"It is not possible," he rejoined, stepping over the threshold into the city.  "Misbegottens are not allowed here in the Perpetual City."

"But he's one of your kind!" I shrieked.  "You can't leave Yugo to die out in the desert!  You can't!"  No one could be that cruel.

Yugo burrowed deeper into my arms.  We both felt terrified that we'd be left outside to die.
The keys jingled and I realized Mr. dIAmand's hand trembled as he spoke.  "It isn't done. The misbegottens do not come back.  You must understand, there is no place for them."  He met my eyes, and I thought I saw sadness in them.  "You mustn't interfere with the way things are here, Elizabeth Conner."

I took three steps over to him, facing him so that he could not avoid looking me in the eyes while I spoke.  "Is that the way things are done here?  Murder of the innocents?"

"No!" he boomed.  "These misbegottens are not innocent!  They accept that they must not be."  Then with a careful gesture, he touched my shoulder with his shaggy hand.  "Do not take it upon yourself to change things.  You cannot make what is acceptable seem wrong.  This cannot be tolerated!"

I sounded a lot braver than I felt, but I had too much to lose to give in to him, even if my own life depended on his help.  "It's murder, Mr. dIAmand, and you'll be a murderer."

"I am only responsible for you!"  He thundered, cutting great arcs with his hand-paw.  "I can do nothing for the misbegotten.  Now come along!"

"Who says?" I challenged.

"Who says?" hooted Mr. dIAmand, clearly puzzled.

"Who makes all these rules and says you're only responsible for me and not for Yugo?"

I had obviously asked the right question by the smug look on Mr. D's face and the sound of his voice.  "Why, the Perfect Council decided these matters long before you or I were born, Elizabeth Conner."
"Well then, Mr. D, we'll challenge the Perfect Council.  You'll be only responsible for me, as I assume full responsibility for Yugo."  I had a vague notion that Mr. D was in a bind; he must have been assigned to take care of me and I meant to use that to my advantage.  "I won't go with you if you won't ask the Perfect Council to consider my case for Yugo."

All the while Yugo mewed I stroked him, offering him all the comfort I could muster.  I banked on Mr. D's sense of 'responsibility' as being about as rigid as he was.

"Excellent idea Elizabeth Conner!  We shall do that.  Now, please come along."  He stood aside for me to walk by and I kept Yugo tucked out of reach, for I wasn't real sure Mr. D wouldn't snatch Yugo and throw him away.

"Elizabeth Conner," Mr. dIAmand brought his hand gently upon my shoulder, "you mustn't call me any name other than my rightful one.  It isn't proper."

Yugo still needed food and I had pushed Mr. D about as far as I thought I could, but I was stuck on a principle.  "In a way, I understand that.  You call me Dusty and I'll call you Mr. dIAmand."  I stretched as tall as I could make myself and looked Mr. D in the eye.

"But, childling, I must call you by your rightful name.  Surely, you can understand that?"  He asked so sincerely, so clearly baffled, that I had to reply with the very truth of the matter.

"It offends me."  I didn't want to go into all the whys and wherefores, so I added, "For reasons of my own."

He studied me, which gave me a chance to look him over, too.  He really was quite beautiful, with long, shiny hair that begged to be brushed and stroked.  He had a nice face, but one that I doubt I could remember or describe, other than it was nice.  I guess that's why he reminded me of my Dad, only Mr. D had a lot more hair.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Power of Play

“And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.” - Nancy Carlsson-Paige

How ‘twisted’ early childhood education has become — from a child development expert
by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post

“Nancy Carlsson-Paige is an early childhood development expert who has been at the forefront of the debate on how best to educate — and not educate — the youngest students. She is a professor emerita of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Ma., where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools. She is also a founding member of a nonprofit called Defending the Early Years, which commissions research about early childhood education and advocates for sane policies for young children.

Carlsson-Paige is author of “Taking Back Childhood.” The mother of two artist sons, Matt and Kyle Damon, she is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Legacy Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps for work over several decades on behalf of children and families. She was just given the Deborah Meier award by the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing.”

Read the entire article>>

by Tim Walker,

“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”

The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Practicing Kindness

6 Simple Ways Children Can Spread Kindness in Schools
by Dr. Michele Borba

Practicing kindness is what helps children tune into other people’s feelings and needs, trust more, step out of their own skins to understand others, and become UnSelfies (my term for kids who are “more we, less me” oriented). Each kind act nudges kids to notice others (“I see how you feel”). Care (“I’m concerned about you”), empathize (“I feel with you”) and help and comfort (“Let me ease your pain”).

Helping students practice kindness also activates empathy and creates more caring schools. That’s why I consider “Practicing Kindness” as an essential habit of empathy.

Over the last years, I’ve observed countless classrooms around the world as I researched ways to nurture children’s empathy and reduce bullying. Here are a few favorite ways educators help students practice kindness and acquire empathy from my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. The book includes over 300 practical ways based on the latest science, and none cost a dime, and are simple to implement.

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


There are billboards along the highway with positive messages against bullying and websites, many of which are empowering for those who are targets of bullies. Many issues are addressed but one aspect often overlooked is the fourth element in a bully arena:  the bystanders, a silent group that is not affiliated with the bully, the bully’s “henchmen”, or the “reinforcers”.  Data from a study that was done on school bullying sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, “Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice”, documents these four elements of the bully scenario.

An understanding of the dynamics of bullying can give a perspective on why and how, or why not, a bully becomes a respected force in a peer group.  Status is the main reason behind bullying, and status with respect is conferred by “popularity, dominance and visibility.” But to achieve this, the bully needs an audience. That audience is the “reinforcers” and bystanders. The bully needs others watching him/her tormenting another person.  There are four components in the bully arena:  the “henchmen”, those who help the bully torment the targets and “reinforcers”, those who laugh, cheer, taunt, video the torture, but remain disconnected from the bully, taking an obvious pro-bully side against the victim; and for the victim, the defenders, who can disable the bully in the classroom and outside, more than half of the time.  Lastly, the fourth element, are the bystanders, those who may be also traumatized by fear of the bully but cannot or will not take any action. So, in the arena, you are either the perpetrator, the bully, or an enforcer, an associate of the bully, or a reinforcer, participant in the audience, or a silent someone on the sidelines, a bystander.

What is needed is more defenders. To repeat an interesting point of the study, “The presence of defenders in classrooms is associated with fewer instances of bullying behavior, whereas the presence of reinforcers is linked to increased incidence of bullying (Salmivalli et al., 2011)….Bystanders doing nothing can also send a message that bullying is acceptable.”  This is important because it is the key to breaking the cycle of abuse.  This cycle starts in early grade school, and escalates during the teen years, especially with instances of cyberbullying. While one cannot necessarily vocalize, there are ways to stop the cyberbullies; firstly, by not participating in texting, sexting or harassing on social media, deleting the material after making a copy of the offending material and turning it over to someone in authority, and calling out those who are using cyberspace as an arena for bullying.

Talk, talk, talk to your children.  If we actively encouraged our children to be defenders, especially on the playground, and not to fear repercussions from the bully, then there would be no audience for the bullies.  Without an arena for the bully, henchmen, and reinforcers, there would not be positive payback for picking on someone.  Usually, even one person who speaks up and against the bullying, has a positive impact, stopping the action.  And others will follow the example of the ‘defender’ , but only if it is in the bystander’s best self-interest: i.e., if the bystander does not become the target.

Confronting the bullies can be rewarded by praise and examples set in the classroom by teachers and staff, and at home by caregivers and parents and family members, where children are encouraged to stand up, and speak up, because it is the right thing to do. There is a great website, Stomp out Bullying that used the term “Bystanders….Become Upstanders”.  Just the word, ‘upstanders’ is empowering and can make a big difference between a child feeling second-hand harassment or being proactive in a negative situation.  And it is proven in studies that when teachers, caregivers and parents encourage the ‘silent other’ to speak up on one’s own behalf or anothers, the bullying instances are reduced significantly in the classroom and on the playground. It is more than just words when one has a voice that is heard; it is power to be.

And be sure to check out this awesome website:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Movies About Bullying to Share with Your Kids

Start the conversation about bullying, being a bystander, and being yourself, with these family-friendly movies.

Billy Elliot (2000)
A heartwarming tale of a young boy who dreams of being a dancer despite the protestations of his family and town.

Stars Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, and Jean Heywood.

More on>>

The Fat Boy Chronicles (2010)
When overweight teen Jimmy is bullied by his classmates at his new school, he starts keeping a journal to understand his feelings.

Stars Christopher Rivera, Kelly Washington, and Chris Bert.

More on>>

Cyberbully (2011)
Teenager Taylor becomes the target of cyberbullying via social media in this drama.

Stars Emily Osment, Kay Panabaker, and Meaghan Rath.

More on>>

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back-to-School Anxiety and Stress

Bullying and Back-to-School Anxiety
by Elizabeth J. Meyer Ph.D.,

Pay attention to what your kids don’t say. As school gets closer, your child’s behavior may change if they are experiencing fear or anxiety about returning to school. If they become more moody, withdrawn, or have a significant change in behavior or eating habits, these are all signals that something is going on that they may need your help with. Your job as a parent is to find out what it is and what you can do to help. If these behaviors become extreme (disordered eating, self harm, drug/alcohol abuse, etc.), don’t hesitate to seek out professional assistance. Read the entire article>>

9 Yoga Tools to Calm Kids’ Back-to-School Anxiety
By Erika Prafder,

It’s that time again—book bags are ready to roll and students nationwide are returning to school. While anxiety is natural, practicing yoga and certain breathing techniques can help students handle the pressures associated with peers, workload and making the grade. Try these 9 yoga tools with your kids for a stress-free start to the semester. Read the entire article>>

Plan to Tackle High School Stress, Now
by Alexandra Pannoni,

And while children should know their parents are there for them, parents shouldn't solve problems for their kids or put more pressure on them, Gissal says. Hughes says parents should resize their expectations of their kids. While everyone wants their children to get into the best colleges, Hughes says, that isn't the wisest goal for all students. Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 5: Soul Surfing (part 2)

He must have been puzzled, too. I don't think he had any idea of what a light was, or sunshine. Try explaining it sometime. It really stretches the brain cells. Popped a few of mine, for sure.

"Never mind, Yugo. I'll know it if I see it." Which I didn't, right at the moment. Everything still looked basically the same gray nothingness that covered acres and acres of land. The sky was still a washed-out colorless sheet overhead and the rocks were even all one color of non-color. "This would depress a saint, Yugo. So imagine how I feel."

I wish I hadn't said that, because he did imagine how I felt. Emotions were not a small matter to Yugo and the fleeting moment of hopelessness came back to me magnified. I would have to be more careful, more precise what I meant and to what degree, or I would be too overwhelmed by despair to get up and go on.

I stood, bent over and picked him up, giving him a firm hug. "We're not without hope! We're not going to give up!" I thought then, I would go straight ahead, keep moving until a better idea hit me. As I picked my way down over the rocks, off over my left shoulder, I spotted a bright mass. "Yugo!" I yelped for joy and just about lost my footing. "I think it's a city! Yes, it could be! Hold on!"

I scrambled down from the last rocky shelf, stumbling and almost falling, but Yugo clung to me with an iron grip that amazed me, I'd thought of him as almost helpless. Just as I started forward, I felt a rumbling behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a landslide of rocks coming down on us.

My first thought was Yugo. I hunched over, trying to cover him with as much as my body as I could while squeezing under the shelf I had jumped off. Pebbles and stones rained down, pattering the sand, stacking up as a wall around us.

Yugo cried and I felt him quaking in my arms. "It's all right," I reassured him, hoping he would believe me, "we aren't hurt and I'll dig us out of here." When I thought it safe enough, I once again put Yugo in the carrier-scarf and began plucking one by one at the rocks until there was an opening large enough for us to crawl out.

I was so happy, relieved and excited that I think I must have had the strength of Hercules to carry us all the way across the long stretch of sand that sucked at my feet. It was like running a marathon at Alki Beach, but in spite of the slowing down, I jogged at a steady pace, stopping short of the locked gate that led into the city of lights.

I was winded, but awfully happy to be here where there might be civilized beings. The whole place was lit up, the light radiating was clean, clear and bright. The buildings were huge, like gigantic polished mirrors that made what I realized was not a big city but more of a fortress, look so much bigger than it was.

"Our problem now, Yugo," I petted him and felt a hundred smiles inside of me, "is to get inside somehow." I absolutely had no doubt we would and could get there and get help. "I like to hear you purr, little guy."

I could tell he didn't like being strapped over my chest, so I undid the scarf, put him down while I tied the scarf around my waist, and then picked him again. I continued stroking him absent-mindedly while I searched for a doorbell or entrance. I no longer felt panicky, but figured it was just a matter getting someone's attention and we would be let inside. The last thing I figured on was Yugo biting me. "Ow! You brat!" I howled, shaking my hurt hand and hopping around, while I still held on to Yugo. "You're just lucky I didn't drop you on your face!" I examined my hand closely. No blood, but a lot of pain.

"Why'd you do that, anyway?" I peered into his face, and I didn't think he looked the least bit sorry, so I gave him a little shake and asked again, "Why did you bite me?"

Well, I guess if I'd been listening, I'd known the poor thing was hungry, more like starved. He must have thought I'd slacked off my efforts when I gawked so long at the city lights.

"All right, I understand, but remember it's me you're dealing with, and you shouldn't hurt your only friend." I snuggled him closer. "If you do it again, I'll put you down and you'll have to keep up with me any way you can, understand?" I think he took it as an empty threat, but I thought I could do it and would if he bit me again.

I grabbed the gate and rattled it, but it was solid didn't make any noise. I had been so happy to get here that I hadn't even considered the possibility of not getting inside. There was no way for me to climb over the six-foot metal fence, as it was smooth and slick, no footholds anywhere. So close, yet so far.

We'd come such a long way to get here, across a desert, chased by a demon, pelted by a rock slide, only to find out that we couldn't get in. We'd risked out lives to get here, and I wasn't going to let Yugo die. "Hey! Hey, someone, anyone!" I shouted, louder and louder. My echoes repeated, mocking me. "Someone, help! We need help!"

Even as I was shouting and peering through the slats of the gate, I thought it odd no one was in sight. I mean no one, no activity at all. The streets, sidewalks and storefronts were spotless and gleamed in the reflection of the lit-up buildings, making it all the more eerie because the city seemed lifeless. I listened real hard, turning my attention outward away from my thoughts or Yugo. I heard nothing. I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I screamed. Clutching Yugo, I backed up against the fence and stared, mouth wide open at the awesome, nasty looking dude in front of me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Forcing the Hand of God: Chapter 24

The transfer Rodger had requested had come through the end of September. A month by ship to Burma then onto China where he was reassigned to the Flying Tigers at the base in Chenkung, China.
Drumming his fingers on his desk, he re‑read letters from Adele and Ada.

Time. He had lost its sequence. It seemed so long ago that he had been home. And not even him, someone else. He folded the letters and put them back into the envelopes.

He riffled through the paperwork that pressed on him like rubber bands over too many sheets of paper. He pushed it all aside, then stood up and stretched. Men milled around the outer room, rumbling voices all around. He heard snatches of conversation; a poker game was in progress. Outside seemed quiet enough. But something was in the air; he could smell it, like ozone before a storm.

Rodger walked outside, around the building, listening. He strained his eyes against the night, slowly sweeping his head left to right. Then he heard the faraway drone of an engine. He wanted to go after that crazy Jap, still around after all these months. Sweat tickled down his armpit and his heart beat wildly, but he reconsidered and calmly called out orders.

“Pickens, get Jackson. Tell him it’s his chance to sack the Wolf. Hurry up! Keys, Mannor and Robins, we’ll crew the plane.”

Because Jackson was scheduled for first flight in the morning, he had gone to bed, blissfully sober. He came at a run, struggling into his flight suit while Stony Pickens, arrogant and self-possessed, casually walked behind him.

He’s good and he’s trouble, mused Rodger.

Jackson glanced up frequently at the men loading his plane with armament, hastily pulling on his gloves, and helmet, then checking his boots and zippered pockets. A tense grin played about his lips that Rodger envied. Once he caught Stony looking hard at Jackson, his jaw pulled taut and his eyes narrowed.

As Jackson prepared to board, one of the mechanics cried out, “Oh, come on, Stony, wish him well! Be a good sport!”

Stony attempted to smile, to wave off the implications. Rodger understood Stony’s resentment, how much he wanted to go instead of Jackson, to be the one who claimed the kill.

Jackson’s engines awakened, the intense vibrations stirring the night. Rodger and Stony stepped aside to watch the take‑off. Rodger flashed the victory sign.

Rodger whistled softly, swallowing down his own envy as he watched Jackson out-maneuver the Zero, concealing himself in cloud layers, filling the sky with his noise, dropping on top of the Zero. They tangoed in the sky. Jackson had the advantage, and then lost it. But neither could gain a position for the kill.

The take‑off aroused all of the pilots from sleep, and they stood outside to await the outcome. The men on the ground listened, wondered, and placed bets.

For several minutes, they could see no sign of Jackson in the sky. Rodger checked his watch, searched the sky again. The dark mantle of night began to pale into an azure line running across the horizon, as if it were turning itself inside out.

Rodger was the first to see the flaming plane approach the field. In spite of his crippled aircraft, Jackson made a skillful landing, earning the admiration of the whole group. The fire crew rushed out to extinguish the raging fire that had gutted the tail section. Jackson hopped off the wing and, fire extinguisher in hand, helped put out the fire.

A group collected around Jackson as he walked back to the barracks. Once inside the debriefing room he removed his flight helmet and gloves then paused in his silent striptease act. No one spoke.

Finally, Jackson shook his head from side to side.

Stony tried to suppress a grin as he clapped Jackson on the shoulder.

“Right nice of you to have your sport and leave him for someone else!”

There was chorus of laughter, of relief and gratitude.

Rodger trailed behind the group. He heard the Night Wolf’s plane returning and shouted,
“He’s back!”

They scattered, heading for the outermost bushes. The Night Wolf made one low pass over the outside perimeter of the airstrip. In the starry predawn, a piercing howl echoed. The wounded Zero left, leaving a smoky trail.

“Ya got him, Jackson!” cried his wingman. “He’s hurt bad, too!”

Rodger walked beside Jackson. The lean, handsome face turned to him.

“Mine was the first strike, sir. I should have made sure.”

Rodger clapped Jackson on the shoulder.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You did some pretty fancy flying. So did he. All’s fair, you know.”

And fair for me, too, he thought.

Captain Robins rubbed his hands together. “Sir, we’re starting a little poker game, it being so close to breakfast and all. Would you care to join in?”

 Rodger stopped short, inhaling the acrid night air, sucking in all of the stars above.

“Deal me in.”

The rustle and click of poker chips rang sharply as he came in the door. Six men sat around the table, waiting for him. Their boisterous talk filled the tiny room, and someone was bent down rummaging boxes, looking for beer. Finally, the short, balding mechanic in a rumpled uniform produced eight capped bottles of beer. Someone threw a metal opener that skipped and clanked across the table.

Rodger watched until four of the men had taken a beer before he reached for a warm bottle. As he uncapped it, foam spilled over in quiet rivulets, oozing down the sides of the bottle, over his hand, dripping onto the floor. He wiped his hand dry on the side of his pants. He swallowed the salty, welcomed beer quickly, then abruptly plunked down in a chair.

“Five card stud, joker wild.” He took the deck, handed it to the man on his right to cut, and began the deal. Cards landed in place before him. “Ante’s white, limit ten dollars. We’re playing with American dollars.” He slipped the cards together and then fanned out the edges to peek into them.

Stony watched each man look at his cards. Rodger had once heard him say he could find clues in the reflections of an eyeball. Rodger dropped his eyelids, shifting his loose change from his right pocket to the left side, then leaned back into his chair. He found his silver dollar. Throughout the game, he would touch the edge of his pocket.

“I’ll see you and raise you five.” Stony let the chips rain down. After fifteen minutes, he had lost three successive hands, as had Rodger.

“I’ll call.” Rodger laid down his straight.

Stony fanned out his club flush, snapping each card down onto the table. “Read ’em and weep, Colonel,” Stony smirked, raking in the chips.

“Last hand for me,” Rodger said, mentally reviewing the upcoming daily roster.

Daylight streamed through the dirty windows. Each of the six men frequently whisked away beaded sweat from their foreheads. Two folded their cards and waved good-night. Rodger had dropped close to a hundred bucks, but he still felt lucky.

Time dragged around each play made. Four were still in. Rodger upped his bet by five dollars, hoping to narrow the odds. Two men folded, leaving him pitted against Stony.

Rodger leaned forward, rotating his shoulders as if to work out a kink. Stony chewed on the end of his mustache. He threw in another blue chip. Rodger tossed in one, picking up a red. Stony squinted, slowly pushing his red one into the pile. His eyes focused intently on Rodger, then he smiled. Rodger smiled back. Stony added another blue chip. Rodger eased in a blue one, then scooted another blue one beside it. Stony continued to smile, playing contentedly with his blond mustache. He scratched his chin, then picked up two blue chips and tossed them into the center.

“I’ll call.” Methodically, he exposed his hand.

Rodger laid down his royal flush on top of Stony’s ace, king, queen, jack, and ten. Only by a hair’s breath, he thought. But then again, that’s all I need to win.

The two who had folded, dropped the legs of their chairs so that they could lean over and see the lay of the cards.

Robins whistled, rolling his eyes backward as Rodger raked in the chips.

“That was real close, yes siree, real close!” he exclaimed. “There ain’t enough odds in the world that’ll say a combination like that will ever be seen again!”

Rodger nodded. “That’s for damn sure.”

Stony chuckled. Stretching his long arms overhead, he arched his back and yawned loudly.
“Not my lucky day by a long shot. Guess I’ll get some shuteye. I’m not due out till three.”

He stood up to go, then casually challenged, “Play you Cold Hand for a hundred, Colonel.”

“You’re on.” Rodger shuffled the cards, giving the deck to the man on his right. As each man flipped the oncoming card up, he stared straight ahead into the other’s eyes. When all five had been dealt, there lay an eerie hush about the room. Rodger looked quickly at his cards, noting that he had three threes. Then he glanced over to Stony’s hand and recoiled slightly when he recognized the aces and eights. Dead Man’s Hand. No one said anything.

Rodger swept the cards up and compacted them into a neat pile.

“Clean up and let’s get to work,” Rodger ordered.

Superstitious nonsense, he thought as he walked to his office. As he passed the board, he pulled the flight sheet down and replaced Stony’s name with his own.

After lunch, Stony stomped into the office, his mouth compressed and eyes ablaze. Rodger continued reading the paper in his hand, until Stony cleared his throat.

“Sir, could I have a word with you?”

Rodger looked up “What is it, Pickens?”

“I think I’m entitled to an explanation about the change in the flight schedule,” Stony spat out, “Sir.”
“Right.” He tapped the sheet of paper in his hand. “I reviewed your flight time. You’re due for some time off. And I need a few hours. That’s it plain and simple.”

“I want to protest—-”

“So noted, Pickens. Get some rest.” Rodger picked up his pen and began to sign the x’d lines.
With a thud, a clump of bills hit the upraised sheets of paper Rodger held in his left hand. He pocketed the poker winnings.

“Thank you, Pickens. This change has nothing to do with the poker game. My logs are up for review, and I can’t let any minor infractions show up. Don’t take it personally.”

“No, sir, I won’t take it too personally.” Stony turned and stormed out of the office, banging the door.

During the briefing, Rodger forced himself to act more enthusiastic than he really felt. The flight plans were limited in scope and field, the usual from the brass. He resented it as much as his men, but he pretended it was all perfectly sensible; and he pretended not to notice when his squadron blatantly disobeyed the cockeyed mandates.

Once airborne, he became just another pilot, working as part of a team. Reno was his wingman. The others, Steve, Coolly, and Nick, wasted no time doing preflights and run-ups. Rodger felt the current flowing between the planes, uniting them, washing over them, as blood goes from the heart to all parts of the body.

They took off with a direct vector, climbing north with one hundred forty miles to reach the Burma border, a routine mission. The flight spread out at the bomb line; all eyes swept constantly back and forth for enemy aircraft, making sure the sky was clear.

Reno cried out, “Bandits! Nine o’clock high.”

“Red Leader. Advance throttle and climb to twenty‑five.” Rodger initiated a climbing turn and leveled off at twenty‑five thousand feet. All of the others followed. Sweat slid from his armpits down to his wrists. They were working men now. No thought for anything else.

“Holy smokes! Red Leader, look what’s comin’ in from the south!” Reno banked slightly for a fuller view.

“Increase right bank!” Rodger barked.

As fast as they executed the turn, the Japanese Nates were out of sight.

“Lost ’em all, dammit,” moaned Coolly. “Nothin’ to write home to Mom about tonight.”

Then at eight-thousand feet, coming from the opposite direction, a single Nate skimmed along the cloud cover. Rodger pulled a quick ninety‑degree turn with Reno right beside him, level with the Nate, six miles back, their P‑38s screamed after him.

Reno dived behind him, staying level, but the elusive Nate remained two miles out of range. Finally at one‑thousand feet Rodger lined up the red nose, red rudder, and mid‑section of the Nate in his sights.

There was a short burst of flames, and little holes popped out on the fuselage. One more longer burst, and the engine and wings took the strikes. In a graceful dive, the aircraft began its descent, smoke spewing out. Rodger lined up astern, very close this time, and fired again. Huge hunks of the aircraft, flailing as if imbued with life, flew into space with dizzying speed. The canopy shot straight up, hovered for a second, and then tumbled over and over. The parachute blossomed, drifting slowly down to earth.

Almost immediately Rodger and Reno were rejoined by the others, along with the rest of the Japanese force.

Reno yelled, “Red Leader, break left!”

Rodger twisted over left and up into the sun. Getting into position behind the enemy leader, he tailed him hard until he had him in his sights. He pressed the trigger; a line of holes burst into the enemy’s wing. With grim determination, Rodger executed a hard barrel roll, passed over, and came into him again.

He heard strikes against his tail, but didn’t allow his eyes to wander from the sights. Again he fired. Two long, one short. The fuselage and tailpipe danced with fiery colors and gray‑green smoke. Rodger looked over to the cockpit. The pilot was dead, slumped against the controls, forcing the plane into an erratic spiral dive.

“Hot damn, Colonel!” sang out Nick. “We done ’em all in!”

“Red Leader here. Any damage?” Relief and pride in his men mingled with a sudden exhilaration. “Well, the boys at home aren’t going to believe us when we tell them about the ones that didn’t get away!”

They headed back to base. Upon approach, in tacit agreement, they made a low pass in unison.
The last one out of the debriefing room, Rodger walked across the compound toward his office, where he met Stony.

“Congratulations, Lt. Colonel. I heard you had a very successful day.” Stony crossed his arms and stared daggers at Rodger.

“Right. I expect the Night Wolf will be back tonight. You had better be prepared.”

Without another word, Stony turned and strode to the mechanics hut, issuing orders in a loud, surly voice; he looked like an emperor at the arena. Two mechanics scurried from the newly arrived ships to go to Stony’s, giving it a shakedown.

Rodger laughed aloud, wishing he had a picture. Then he shook his head, as if to brush off the lightness and good spirits. He went to the officer’s club, following the voices that led him to Banjo Billy in the poker room.

“Banjo, a word with you.” Rodger waved a flaccid salute to the other men.

His “Yessss, sir” was punctuated by the slapping down of cards.

“Couldn’t have come at a better time or to a better man.” He swept the jackpot into his hand, pocketed it, and saluted Rodger.

Rodger had cultivated a certain metallic edge to his voice while a captain on the high school football team, a voice that he knew how to use effectively.

“I have your request for a leave. Illnesses in your family.”

Squaring his shoulders, Banjo Billy replied, “Yes, sir. My mother and my wife. My mother’s in the hospital, and my wife’s having a difficult pregnancy.”

“There’s no one else that help out? No other family members?”

“Well, sir, no, but I’m, well, I’m an only son. The only man around. I mean; they need me.”

“Combat experience is at its lowest, and we need men with your background. You know that.”

“I know that, sir.” Banjo Billy frowned, distressed. “I’d only be gone a month leave, sir.”

“The war might wait for you.” Rodger shrugged. “Your request has been cleared by the Colonel himself. The transport leaves tomorrow, late afternoon.” He handed the orders to the and stared long and hard at the young officer.

Banjo Billy wavered. Rodger could see the captain’s resentment outlined in the clean-shaven, boyish face. But every opportunity he had, Rodger would pound home to his men: a man’s prime commitment, his first loyalty, is duty.

“Report to me at sixteen hundred hours.”

Banjo Billy looked around him. The guys were beginning a new hand of poker, each one talking to everyone in general. Rodger bet himself that he would not reach the count of one hundred.

“Excuse me, sir—but I’ve reconsidered. It’s probably more dangerous flying home. I’ll stay here and do my own, honest work.” He cast an anxious glance at Rodger. He ruffled the slip of paper, without actually tearing it up.

“Hey, Banjo, are you in for this hand or not?”

“In. But you guys don’t stand a chance in hell!” He quickly shoved the paper into his back pocket.
It was a bittersweet victory for Rodger. He went to the bar and motioned the bartender for bottle of half‑empty Jack Daniels and a clean glass. He left without a word to anyone.

Unlocking his office door, he remembered being twenty not so long ago. He sat heavily in his chair, pulling himself up to his desk, tipping the bottle into a glass. Without the lights on, the room had a gray cast to it. Rodger played with the shadow of his glass on the desk top. He lit a cigarette. His body tensed, and he strained to hear the noise. Yes, there it was.

He relaxed then, slouching back against the chair. He raised his tumbler, the amber liquid sloshing back and forth, in a salute as the beautiful screams of Stony’s Mustang split the still of dusk.

He told himself that Stony was not cursed; a poker’s hand had no meaning behind the game. Survival took skill, timing, and well, yes, luck. But you had to be good. Or lucky.

“Here’s to you. Go get ’em.” As the screeching tires left the pavement, Rodger downed the last mouthful of whiskey. “May the best man win.”