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February 2012

Bullying: More Than an Occasional Dig



We interrupt the usual light-hearted nature of this blog to get a little controversial ... a little in your face ... a bit "let's lay it on the line." The topic of today's blog is bullying and the misconceptions regarding it, IMHO.

 Nothing gets me more edgy than to hear someone say something to the 

effect of, "Bullying is a part of growing up. Stop babying kids. They have to cope with the real world sometime." Those comments are almost always made by adults with no children, parents whose children are not in the line of fire or parents whose children are the bullies. Few children get through their school years without getting made fun for something...a weird shirt, a project that falls apart, rooting for the "wrong" team, screwing up a game in gym, or simply having an altercation with another kid over a disagreement. Few kids don't make a faux pas at some point that gets them razzed for a few days or weeks. Such pitfalls don't qualify as being bullied. Here, we are talking the aches and pains of growing up.

Many people who have not suffered as victims of bullying or who have not known bullied children don't understand that the child who is routinely bullied (purposely and viciously picked apart) is constantly fed a message that is equivalent to blow after blow after blow with a blunt object. Repetitious bouts of physically and/or psychologically messing with another kid to deliberately punish them for not being who the aggressor thinks they should be is bullying. The kids who fall victim to such acts need to be protected. We are all shocked when we hear about the 1st grader who shows up at school with a knife or gun. Yes it's rare; yes it's tragic. What people don't understand is that true bullying is just as rare (in that not every kid in the class is being bullied) and as tragic, leading to a lifetime of minor to serious emotional damage, or in rare cases, death. And it's not just the bullied child whose life becomes a living hell. No matter what your age, ask yourself: What does the parent of a bullied child go through? Most parents can leave their teen, ages 12 and up, home alone for a while without over thinking it. Can you imagine what it must be like for the parent who wants to give their child more freedom, but instead has to analyze their child's current emotional state to decide if it's safe to leave them home alone? And even if everything seems a-okay...what if their child is covering up a desire to harm herself or someone else because she just can't take it anymore?

Some people try to blame the victim for allowing bullies to treat them in such a way. Or they blame the parents of the victim for not teaching their child to stand up for himself. What people don't understand--and this is where the whole root of the bullying problem lies--is that children (and people in general) respond to their world and the teachings within it in dramatically different ways due to unique mixures of personality, genes, and environmental factors. What about the parent who has reached the point of begging their child to respond to a bully with a good punch in the nose, but whose child refuses to do so? 

The reason a kid is being tormented really doesn't matter. It's the fact that he or she  marches to a different drum within a certain group of more like-minded peers that may cause someone to pick on him.  It doesn't matter if the victim is the "wrong" color or religion in a community heavily composed of similar backgrounds, if the kid likes chess and couldn't care less about sports, walks funny, has a learning disability, is gay, is a late bloomer who tends to be immature, lives with their out-of-touch grandparents, is the only girl on the football team, is a little person, is overly or "underly" outgoing, is the only boy who takes dance classes, the movie geek whose interests don't fit with the rest of his peers, whether she is the kid with perfect grades or the class dunce. Kids can find any number of reasons to label another "different." Perhaps what all parents really need to do is stop throwing their kids into the activities everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it. Perhaps, as parents, we need to focus on--and teach our kids to focus on--the differences between people, but in a positive light. The pressure that leads certain kids to become bullies comes from somewhere. Where did they get the message that not doing the same thing or not fitting into the same cookie cutter is such a bad thing in the first place? Lessons in tolerance and appreciation for uniqueness  need to go way beyond the ones we see on Sesame Street that teach us how people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We get that as preschoolers, but sometimes the lesson stops there. 

Ironically enough, many Middle Grade and Young Adult books feature characters who wrestle with the way they feel different from the crowd. There is a strong desire to read about characters who struggle to fit in, remain who they are, or strike a balance between the two. No matter how much or how little we might feel the pressure to "fit in," there must be something within each of us that wants to be validated for the unique people we are. Poor Harry Potter struggled through being told he was nothing for so long that it took him even longer to believe he could ever really be "the one" to change the tide of Wizard history. I mean seriously...who wants the world to know they share traits with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Bella Swan of Twilight felt like a complete nobody until Edward saw the beauty in her simple qualities. Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games could never see how anyone like Gale or Peeta could desire her. And lets face it: Her social skills weren't the greatest. Chloe in Treehugger hits adolescence and suddenly loses all faith in herself, falling apart without the backing of loved ones who accepted her every little quirk. Orphan Mandy in Mandy (by Julie Andrews Edwards) needed to literally create a separate home in the woods away from the orphanage in order to find herself within it. Truthfully, few of us lay our unique qualities out on the table like Pippi Longstocking. Although, I imagine that if we could do so freely, many of us would be much happier! Few of us are ever that bold all the time. I know I'm not. Everyone grows up feeling like something within them is different. The question is whether we can embrace those differences and make them a special part of who we are. For those who can't, the question becomes this: Do we tackle those issues by stomping on someone else to make ourselves look better or do we have courage or a support system in our lives that can help us meet our issues head on without making them another kid's problems?

My school district is hosting a parent evening with John Halligan, who lost his 13-year-old son to bullycide in 2003. The man is an amazing speaker. He really makes an impact, talking to parents about how to look for evidence that your child is being bulllied and how to deal with school administrators. He speaks to middlegrade and highschool kids, too. If you feel bullying is an issue in your school district (and I wonder if there really is one district out there that is truly bully free), perhaps you want to ask your district to sponsor such a night. For more information, visit 

Also, you might want to check out the documentary Bully, due out in theaters on March 30.

Then there's the "Love is Louder" Movement. I love watching the videos and seeing all the "Love is Louder" photos people send in. 

Anyway, I hope you'll excuse the overbearing nature of this post. I just can't stand when people become judgmental about something that doesn't currently affect their lives...and as someone who loves to write ... well, I just needed to write about it. I've known too many families who struggle with bullying on a daily basis, and I've seen it ruin childrens' and teenagers lives. Thank you for reading through my rant.

Shout Outs for Fun Book-Related News

Greetings all! I've come across some fun stuff on the 'net related to books in the past few days and thought I would share them.

1) Enter to Win! The Subtle Chronicler is holding a Hunger Games item giveaway. On the block is one Hunger Games T-shirt and 2 coveted Mockingjay pins. Like The Games, one male and one female will be chosen as winners for the pins. What do you have to give over for tribute? Simply follow The Subtle Chronicler blog. I think you'll want to anyway. Entries are taken until 2/29/12.  Here's the related post for entry:

2) Fiction-Worthy Food! Bringing books to life in the form of cakes and other goodies can create wow factors at kids' parties or quirky adult gatherings.  Fictional brings books such Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Willy Wonka, Game of Thrones and Twilight onto your plate! Check out these amusing recipes! For an amazing showcase of Harry Potter cakes, visit Big Fat

3) Interview with Chloe (Star)Treehugger's narrator, Chloe (Star) breaks free of my laptop and visits Alison Bruce's character-interview site Nighthawk. Catch Star's interview and tell her what you think in a comment. Then check out the rest of Nighthawk's guests to find more books to add to your reading list!

That's it for now. I'm off to continue the edit on Book Two of the Based on a Dream series and to tend to a sick kid. Although ... I have the feeling I was played this morning. Hmm....


My Hunger Games: Confessions of a Stress Escape Artist

Stress is a funny thing: It affects different people in as many different ways as there are sources of stress. Many people indulge in lousy food choices or various alternate behaviors to negate their stress--even if just for a moment. Chocolate, anyone? Other people can't eat (oh, to be one of those people!) when under the gun.  Some get testy and take out their stress on others. One way or another, most of us engage in stress-reduction behaviors that really aren't so great for us, even though we all know there are healthier methods for stress reduction out there such as exercise. And who can blame us? I mean which scenario brings about temporary stress relief faster:

1) getting dressed for the gym, driving to the gym, puttering in the locker room, hitting the elliptical, showering, etc, driving home...


2) an easily scooped mouthful of moist, decadent chocolate cake from Magnolia Bakery in NYC that is coated in the most vanilla-iest frosting imaginable, made from real ingredients that have an amazing texture and linger on your taste buds, begging you to have more, more, more....


Ooops! Sort of gave myself away there, didn't I? Okay, the truth is this: My wonderful husband brought home a Valentine's Day cake from Magnolia on the 13th. It's a big cake. It's sitting in a glass cake holder on my dining room table. It calls to me. It mocks me. It dares me to notice that it's still there. It knows I'm in writing mode for the sequel to Treehugger. It knows that while I looove writing it, I do come across moments of minor writer's block, and that causes me stress. It also knows that I haven't gotten to the gym in a week and half. It's an evil cake in that it knows I can have my cake and certainly will eat it, too. After all, not being able to do so is a stupid adage that makes little sense. Seriously, if you have not been to NYC, Magnolia is another reason to go. After all, "stressed" is "desserts" backwards.

Day honey

Luckily,  I do have a healthier, albeit time-consuming stress-reducer when hubby isn't bringing home cakes to die for, and I share this one with many other writers: reading. Not just any reading, either. I mean I have so many things I have to read for various reasons that just reading anything won't do. I need to read works that give me an escape of some sort. Currently, I'm reading "Day of Honey" by Annia Ciezadlo, which is a memoir about food (yep, there's that food thing again) during war. It might not sound like a light read, and it isn't--but it is intriguing, and the descriptions of interesting meals is nothing short of a real mouth-watering treat. 



The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is my other escape at the moment. Again, not light and certainly not cheerful, but the trilogy is a real page turner. I'm on Book Three: Mockingjay, and I tend to sneak 10-minutes breaks from life here and there to read it. I have found that only books that beg me to turn the next page will cause me to sneak away from obligations. Perhaps dinner will wind up on the table late or I might postpone finishing the writing of a chapter, but sneaking off to read is lot more honorable than that walk past the cake on the dining room table. And, admittedly, that walk is clearly pre-meditated since--oh, look at that!--there's a fork in my hand! The only trouble is, whenever I dip into The Hunger Games, I think of food (hunger=food) which can translate into that premeditated walk past the table. If anyone would like to come on over and eat that last quarter, I'd really appreciate it!

 What's your instant stress fix? Oh, and what are your hopes for the Hunger Games movie adaptation due out next month? I'm thinking Jennifer Lawrence is going to be amazing as Katniss.


Goodreads Giveaway Results

So the Goodreads Giveaway for Treehugger has finished. 866 people tried to win a copy! I am so excited about that! Thanks so much to all who have taken an interest in my work and especially to the over 160 on Goodreads who have added it to their To Be Read shelf!

I hope to have another Treehugger promo going on soon!

Meanwhile, I'm working on Book Two, and I plan to create a "Multiversal Encyclopedia" right here on my blog site. That way you can be "in the know" the next time CK munches out another strange-sounding food or Star refers to a Velbinian Statstalker.

Back in Time....

The inspiration for this post was a conversation with a friend over which events in history we wished we could witness or relive. We all know that stories change throughout the ages and that exact words, feelings, or events often become skewed in translation. So here are 11 moments in history I would love to experience or re-experience.

 11) The tearing down of the Berlin wall. Sure I saw footage, but how wonderful would it be to actually have been there, witnessing the energy behind the emotions of those who relished this moment most?

10) The day I was talked into letting our daughter buy a parakeet. I would have taken a firmer "no way" stand. We wound up with two because hubbie decided the one was lonely. Now they love each other but couldn't care less about us.

9)  The day the first dinosaur parts were unearthed. I mean can you imagine the look of disbelief on those early archaeologists' faces?

8)  That meeting where astronomers decided Pluto is not a planet. I would have added a few choice words to that conversation!

7)  The day Jackson Pollock created his first signature splattered canvas. I'm just curious: I mean, what pissed him off that day? It would have been fun to help him out, too. ("Dude! That spot  over there? A little blank, no?")

6)  The landing on Plymouth Rock. I realize there was a lot of misery and suffering during the Pilgrims' first attempt at creating a life in the New World. However, the moment they landed must have been rather momentous. 

5)  The moment George Lucas decided to add Jar Jar Binks to the Star Wars saga. I mean there had to have been several people saying, "Uh ... George?" Was there nobody bold enough to scream hysterically, grab at his pant legs, and beg him to reconsider? Wasn't there a less obnoxious Gungan available for the role? I wonder: Could I have talked him out of it? (Just kidding-- sort of--George! I love ya', and after all, it is your story.)

4) The day extraterrestrials invited Confucius into a time machine to make a brief appearance smack in the middle of a U.S. session of Congress on April 1st, 2013. This experience will cause the wise philosopher to question his adage, "And remember, no matter where you go, there you are." The members of Congress will decide they need another vacation.  *

3) Jesus' Sermon on the Mount  (Matthew 5-7).

2) and 1) The day my kids were born. Now I am not talking about the delivery (no drugs for either, thank you very much!) But to relive the moments right after? I could do that again and again and again!

What moments in history would you want to experience / re-experience?

*Okay, yes. I am messing with you. But can you imagine a rather confused Confucius?