Tag Archives: schools

It Was Nice Knowing You


A scream not of terror, but of relief. On October 20, 2014, I gave notice at the office job that I’ve had for twelve years. Actually, my twelve-year anniversary will be the last day with the company, November 25, 2014.

The good news is that I will be taking a couple of months off from the corporate drag and focus on my writing. I will FINALLY have the energy and will to complete “Mining the Dark.” My ability to complete my own projects will be astronomical once I don’t have these other distractions.

The GREAT news is that I will devote much of this time to my daughter, spending the holidays with her and being more present at her school.

This time away from the grind will also allow me to continue my path to healthy living.

In a nutshell, I cannot wait for this next chapter to begin.

Expect more on these topics over the coming months as I continue to process the impact of it all, and how my life is getting better because I said ENOUGH.

Bullying is Bullying

This post has some content that may be triggering – bullying, abuse.

I had the fortune to read the recent blog on bullying by my favorite geek Wil Wheaton. I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.

It’s a very personal post and quite poignant. Many of us were bullied as children. Some suffer far worse bullying than others. However, the fact remains the same – an individual is so significantly and emotionally impacted by bullying that even after twenty years the memories can bring us to tears.

I was bullied. I was taunted for my weight issues and even called Shamu. My father approached my entering school by saying that if anyone ever hit me, if I didn’t beat the hell out of them (even if it was a guy), I would get my ass busted when I got home. Was it appropriate for him to say this to me? Maybe not. But I do remember holding my own when physically confronted – even by boys. Yes, I had a boy threaten to beat me in elementary school. When he got up in my face, I got right back up into his, standing nose-to-nose…all while I was trembling with fear. Thankfully it worked, and he walked away. Because I did things like this, I was fortunate to never be physically attacked. Many are not so lucky.

My torment was verbal and emotional. I remember so-called friends turning on me and saying they hated me for some silly misunderstanding. I remember being teased for the way that I looked, wearing glasses, having braces and being overweight. The person who was my best friend in middle school shunned me. It was during that time that I started having suicidal idealizations and even attempted a couple of times. When she found out about one of the attempts, she laughed at me and said I was just doing it for attention. Did I want attention? Hell, yes, because I was in pain and her response was to laugh.

The closest thing to the physical I got was when a girl on the bus put chewing gum in my hair. Still, flashbacks to those episodes are no less unnerving just because no blood was shed. Many times the worst scars are the ones that we can’t see.

In Wil’s post he describes the father of the bully. When I read his description, my first thought was, “No wonder the boy acted that way.” Although that helps me understand the behavior, it doesn’t excuse it.

Aside from being a writer, I’m also a learning and development professional (my day job). I see the challenge in teaching teenagers that bullying is wrong because the seeds of bullying were implanted LONG before they became teenagers. It’s always much easier to teach something as new then to attempt to change a behavior/beliefs that have been internalized for years.

As adults, but most specifically, as parents, we all have a duty to teach our children – starting early in their lives – that this behavior is wrong. I have regular conversations with my 5-year-old that saying and doing certain things can hurt others. I don’t just tell her they’re bad, although they most certainly are. I emphasize the impact it has on the other person in hopes that she will learn something that many people lack today – empathy.

I couple these talks with talking to her about how she should react if she’s confronted with bullying. We discuss some of the reasons why people bully – how the behavior is learned, many are acting out for various reasons and quite simply, the individual just doesn’t feel good enough about herself/himself to the point s/he has to attack others to have some sense of self-esteem.

Is my approach better than my dad’s? I don’t know. All I know is that I want my daughter to be able to think about these things, stand up for herself with confidence and view others with integrity rather than mocking them for their pain. I feel that this is the least I can do.

Here Come the Classics!

finally finished the book that I was reading and will now begin my venture into reading the classics that I didn’t read in school.

First on the list – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I will be sure to post even more to give my thoughts as I read through each of these renowned books. Hopefully you all won’t test me on my knowledge like Ms. Helgeson did!

Reading Challenge

Writers Read.

In writer-friend Marsha Blevins’ recent blog, she briefly reminisces on school days, and all the homework she avoided – specifically, all the classic reads that were not effectively read.

I feel challenged. I have read many of the classics. One of my favorite books of all times is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is what got me interested in paranormal fiction. Still, there are many that escaped me.

Shall I commit to reading them? When do I have the time, especially when I’m supposed to be writing? Nevertheless, as the quote on her post reads, “If you’re a writer who doesn’t read, ooh, holy shitkittens, you’re super-mega-ultra-wrong.”  –Chuck Wendig http://terribleminds.com/ramble/

Or as the popular Stephen King quote goes, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I will begin reading these classics. May the literary journey feed my mind and awaken my muse.

You Didn’t Have to Say It, I Felt It

I’ve written a little about bullying before, particularly in questioning what the answer is. This topic is getting a lot of press, as it should, because humans in general – and young people especially – treat each other like sh*t. Pardon the pseudo-vulgarity, but there’s just no other way to describe the morbidly creative ways we tear each other down.

One fact that cannot be denied, bullying is not a new phenomenon. What’s new is the amount of attention it is being given in social media. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new, and it’s something that many of us have experienced at one point in our lives.

I was bullied. I would never suggest that I was bullied to the vicious extent that some are, but it did have a significant impact on me, the person I am today and even the characters I create in my writing.

You see, I did a lot of processing over discussions of the main character in my series, Emma. Many do not like her, even hate her with an ill-conceived notion that she is somehow beyond redemption. Her “whiny monologues” are a glimpse inside the internal thoughts of someone with rather dark thoughts and an extremely poor self-image. It makes me wonder how people would react to others who have extremely negative self-talk that is never verbally expressed. Just because we don’t talk about it, just because you don’t know it…doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it.

In thinking about her characteristics and why she is the way that she is, I realized that much of her personality is a mirror image of the issues I dealt with growing up. I’ve always had issues with my weight. I experienced the cliched criticisms of “You have such a pretty face, if only you would lose some weight” to being called “Shamu” in school, having bubble gum put in my hair and having boys regularly scoff at my awkward advances, not wanting to date the fat girl. Add to this feelings of not being wanted by my own father, and you have the ripe concoction for a young girl who would always be suspicious of a male’s intentions.

My attempts to fit in caused somewhat of a split in how I viewed myself. Part of the reason why I tried to excel in my studies and sports was so that I could get some sort of positive attention. This focus led me to be an honor student and celebrated softball player…all while hating myself for the way that I looked. I was just as sure of my intellect as I was internalizing Shamu as a part of my self-image.

I made it through adolescence, but hearing the fat jokes and being treated as “definitely not girlfriend material” on a regular basis left an undeniable imprint on my psyche. I cannot even fathom the missed possibilities because I just couldn’t grasp the idea that anyone could find me attractive. If a guy showed interest, there must be an ulterior motive – maybe another joke? – because he couldn’t really think I’m attractive. I mean, so many had told me I wasn’t by calling me names, and my dad didn’t even want me…so surely they jest. Right?

I’m glad to say that over the years and through much mental processing, I’m no longer as suspicious as I used to be. And for those who say, “But surely you must realize this isn’t true?” I appreciate the sentiment, but with someone like me – it just isn’t helpful. I can understand something logically, it doesn’t mean that my heart and soul believe it.

Still to this day, I walk in the shadow of Shamu. Unlike Emma, I’m not saying my whiny monologue out loud. That doesn’t mean I’m not waging an internal battle as those similar thoughts bubble to the surface every so often.

Even with the most hateful of personalities – you may never realize the darkness that created it. Sometimes the children who are bullied grow up to become adults who are scarred, struggling to break through the deadened emotional tissue that tried – in vain – to strangle us in our youth.

We would do well to remember that sometimes behind those scars is a legacy of being treated like sh*t. Don’t add to it. Instead do what the playground and high school kids didn’t – be compassionate.

Life’s not fair

In the past couple of months I have been rather perturbed to observe certain questionable situations where another individual explains things by saying “life isn’t fair.”

This irks me. It has always been a pet peeve of mine. Seeing this phrase thrown around so much recently, I’ve tried to look within myself to understand the true reasons why such a blanket argument grates my cheese so much.

My initial issue with using “life isn’t fair” as the pinnacle of one’s argument is the impression that it’s not really an argument at all. It doesn’t provide any adequate explanation of events that can be intelligently weighed against individual experience and knowledge – nor does it provide any viable solutions to a situation. In fact, it seems to be the ultimate acceptance of things, of maintaining the status quo.

The latter part leads to at least two possible perceptions of such an argument – either the person agrees with the current circumstances or is too lazy/apathetic to do anything about it. Now, as I’ve stated in other posts, silence + complacency = permission. By refusing to take action – for whichever reason – you are symbolically saying through your inaction that such circumstances are socially allowable. On the other side, depending on how you view a given situation, you may also agree with the current circumstance and resolve to end a debate/argument with “life isn’t fair” and leave it at that.

Regardless of the reasoning, what still bothers me about use of this phrase is the acceptance that it’s a rational answer to everything. This is what I have found to be the basic reason why it is so disagreeable to me. Not only does it imply that the person using it doesn’t take action, but it also implies a certain amount of idiocy on a person who does take action. Also, what this catch-all argument implies is that we are not actors in our own existence; we are pawns who are affected by circumstances that are always beyond our control as if the actions and behaviors of others that create the platform for a set of circumstances should be completely ignored and said behavior can in no way be influenced one way or the other.

At the risk of sounding snarky, I’m reminded of a Stephen Hawking quote: “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”

If life’s not fair, such as the way certain people suggest it, then what’s the point in doing anything…say even voting? Life’s not fair so you shouldn’t complain about injustice…sure, because that has nothing to do with the actions and behaviors of others, right? It’s all just part of a grand, mysterious scheme that acts upon all of us instead of “life” actually consisting of a series of dynamic and sometimes symbiotic relationships where action in and of itself is a basic element of our very existence because of the uniqueness of free will.

Now, I will agree that “life isn’t fair” if we are taking the definition of fair to be as it says in the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “a : marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” This would mean that life, being the negative of this definition, is partial and dishonest, NOT free from self-interest, prejudice and favoritism. I can definitely agree with “life isn’t fair” in this instance because what this really suggests is that the circumstances of life – characterized by that which makes us animate (our actions) – is partial, self-interested and prejudiced. And how do we know? Because we can observe it in the behaviors of the very animate beings I’m talking about – HUMANS.

Many humans – and this really does depend on your point of view as to who fits this description – are partial, self-interested and prejudiced. Many of us struggle during our lives in dealing with the biases we have developed from childhood. What’s dangerous is the person who doesn’t recognize it and allows such biases to inform actions that negatively impact others.

Readers, THAT is the problem and the basis of why explaining such things away with “life isn’t fair” is not a valid argument to me.

I still don’t fully understand it. If you can explain the reasoning and support it with any type of empirical evidence as to why this statement should be accepted as valid, please comment…I would really like to understand.

Teachers are an Inspiration


We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for teachers. They help shape us, mold our world views and develop us into the people we become as adults. Behind the family, the most significant vehicle for socialization are schools. Teachers and peers are added to the social roadmap of a child’s life. Teachers have a hard job in this because the influence of peers has proven to be a greater impact on behavior – something that teachers and administrators have the painstaking task to mitigate on top of being responsible for the educational development of ALL of their students. This has to be one of the most difficult jobs in our country while being one of the the most thankless and least paid. The current structure of schools systems speaks volumes of how we view teachers. A foreign observer with a 30,000 foot view of the state of education could only assume that learning just isn’t that important to us. Add to this perspective the fact that many other countries have better educational success than the U.S. and we shouldn’t be surprised at the scientific, mathematical and business advances of other countries. In the most recent OECD data, the U.S. ranks below the top ten in many categories in addition to being below the OECD average in many instances. One thing that many have said – and I agree along with some critical asterisks – is that we need to invest in education and increase funding. If you look at the data, expenditures on education in the U.S. tend to be more than the countries that are outperforming us. This begs the question, and would require further analysis, of what we’re actually investing in and where the money is going.

We know that teachers and education are of great importance to the future of our children. Acceptance of this fact does not absolve us from critically assessing how our children are treated within the school system. It also doesn’t absolve parents from being directly involved in their children’s educations. If anything, teachers and parents should be partnering together for the betterment of the child. Unfortunately in a world where both parents – or the only parent – has to work excessive hours just to make ends meet, many parents are not as involved as would be ideal. There are parents who have no involvement although they are capable. It’s sad to see a lack of interest in the development of a child and it’s beyond me how a parent could be so deliberately irresponsible – and it’s no wonder that a teacher’s job is even that more difficult!

Teachers on a whole provide inspiration to the students they teach. Just like there are some parents who are unwilling to be involved in the process, there are some teachers who, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t be part of the process. Thankfully, teachers like this are few and far between. Anyone who commits his/her life to teaching and perseveres after experiencing the struggles has within him/her the type of passion for learning that we should all hope for in the lives of our children. But when you are confronted with a so-called educator who has an agenda that is not in line with the best interest of your child, you would be remiss for just accepting it and explaining it away with the morally weak excuse of “life isn’t fair.” Just another reason why a parent’s involvement in the education of the child is of the utmost importance. It would be wonderful to live in a world where I can send my child to school and blindly accept that all is well, which statistically, it is. But teachers are human – which means they’re fallible, not perfect, and some are downright deplorable. Again, you would never know unless you’re involved.

If you are involved and are confronted with a situation where your child is mistreated, bullied, abused, discarded, passed over, ignored, bored, ostracized, humiliated, discriminated against, rights are violated or learning is impeded, rage against it, y’all. Don’t be quiet. As I’ve said in other instances, silence + complacency = permission.

I would like to close this post with a shout-out to the inspirational educators I’ve had in my lifetime that have had a huge impact on who I became as a person – first and foremost, always and forever, Mr. Wheeler, in addition to Mrs. Collins, Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Wheeler, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Keatley, Mr. Maddox, Mrs. Cooke, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Nuckols and Mr. Sherman. I’m sure there are others, but these individuals are the first that come to mind for the positive impact that they had not only on me, but on other students as well.