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Archive for the ‘cyber-bullying’ Category

It’s Saturday as I write this. Saturday, the most wonderful day. I’m not dressed yet, though it’s ten thirty. After a hellish week, I deserve a few hours of unhurried sloth.

I was in a bad mood this week and by “bad,” I mean pea-soup spewing, head-twisting, stab-you-with-a-pencil-if-you-look-at-me-wrong mood. Now that it’s Saturday and I’ve had a few precious hours to decompress, I now know why my mood was so off. But Monday through Friday, I didn’t have a clue.

On Monday, I worked from home to record the narration for a few product videos that were due this week. Usually, this is a fairly fun and easy task but this time, numerous software issues from the buggy operating system produced by a certain mega-bazillionaire who-shall-remain-nameless tortured me, forcing me to repeat work.

On Tuesday, the same day I was scheduled to have a minor surgical procedure, my sister called me at work while I was juggling crashing programs, a conference call, and a problem with our website and said, “Clear your schedule. You’ll have to take Mom to the doctor tomorrow.” Mom lives with my sister in Connecticut. I live in New York. I work full-time, my sister does not.

If you’re reading this and thinking unkind thoughts about my sister, you’ll understand why this unleashed in me a whole new level of desire to do violence. Voo-doo dolls. In fact, I found one online that made satisfying little winces every time I poked it. With a nail gun.

After I’d calmed down sufficiently to discuss the situation, my sister and I arranged a better schedule. My niece is taking state tests all week and the doctor my mother must see is in New York. I am taking Tuesday off to accompany Mom on this appointment. See? I can be reasonable. Really.

On Wednesday, I dragged myself to work because I had to finish the product videos. The row of sutures on my back made driving a torturous experience. I was less than sunny when I arrived at work. I did, however, learn the website issue was resolved.

On Thursday, I was almost done with the videos. I wasn’t sleeping well since the sutures now ITCH like Alien is trying to claw its way free. A kind and unknown soul left a package of Dove Hot Chocolate on my desk. I’m following the Weight Watchers program and have eaten nothing but salad, fruit and yogurt, except for a moment of weakness when a chocolate chip muffin challenged me to a battle of the wills. I lost.

I put the hot chocolate in my desk drawer, vowing to stay on program.

And then there’s Friday. It promised to be a great day! I finished the videos, posted them on YouTube. I caught up with minor tasks I’d let slide during the week. And then I went to my Weight Watchers meeting, where I learned I’d GAINED two @$$%^*@!)*!~ pounds. I returned to my desk in a funk, picking at my boring salad. I checked in on Twitter, saw my son, an Islanders fan, having a public disagreement with a Penguins fan, who then threatened his life.


This, people, this right here, is why there is a waiting period to buy firearms. Forget road rage or even ‘roid rage. Those aren’t rages, they’re tantrums from red-faced tots that only dream of being rages when they grow up beside a mother whose child is threatened. It took time, but eventually, my son assured me he was fine and the situation wasn’t serious. The rest of my salad got tossed into the garbage and I returned to work.

I opened my desk drawer and when I saw that package of hot chocolate, I succumbed, felt the tension leave my bones for the first time all week. After I finished licking the mug, I had an epiphany. During this week of deadlines and frustrations, there was one thing, one critical thing, I had not done.

I hadn’t written a word on Past Perfect. Not one new word. Writing isn’t just this thing I do when the house is clean and the bills are paid and the moon aligns with the stars in just the right way. Writing is an essential part of my composition; it’s an activity that centers me, that fills me with a peace I desperately need to handle all the balls I’ve got in the air. (Go ahead. You may smirk. You know you want to.) When I write, I’m in control of the universe. What happens, and then what happens next – I get to decide it all. It’s an escape from real life and one even I did not realize was so important to my own well-being until this moment.

So. It’s Saturday morning. I’m not dressed yet even though it’s now eleven o’clock. There’s dust in the corner of my bedroom I can see from across the room. The hamper is over-flowing. Housework waited all week, it can wait an hour or two longer while I do this thing I need as badly as I need air to breathe.

Oh, and maybe some chocolate to roll around in, since I can’t eat it.

Please share: how do you make time to write when real life gets in your way?


Hi! This month, the Book Hungry team reviews Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY.  Lots of spoilers but I think we did a fair job in teasing rather than fully disclosing.  Who’s “we”, you ask? I’m so glad you asked. This month, I have a Very Special Guest blogger, who I shall reveal shortly. First, a brief introduction:

In Jay Asher’s debut novel, a box of audio tapes is gift wrapped and delivered to Clay Jensen, the novel’s narrator. Curious, Clay rushes to his garage, unearths an old cassette player and hears this on the first of the seven tapes in the box:

“Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo. No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests. I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”

Hannah, a high school junior, has not been in school. Rumor has it that she overdosed on pills. There was no funeral.  And now Clay has her suicide “note.” Seven tapes, two reasons on each tape except for the last. “A Baker’s Dozen,” Clay makes a weak joke, shocked that he’s on Hannah’s tragic list.

The novel is chillingly written in both Clay’s and Hannah’s voices – Hannah’s beyond-the-grave commentary is written in italics with Clay’s horrified reactions written in regular font.

Here’s a cheat sheet of the other reasons.

  1. Justin Foley – Hannah’s first kiss who tells his friends a much different story.
  2. Alex Stendall – Writer of a Best/Worst List. Hannah is labeled Best Ass – an unwelcome distinction that has horrible repercussions.
  3. Jessica Davis – The first friend Hannah makes in her new town. She later wounds Hannah deeply.
  4. Tyler Down – Tyler should have been named “Tom.”
  5. Courtney Crimsen –  A good actress who used Hannah for her own schemes.
  6. Marcus Cooley  – The date who stood her up and then humiliated her.
  7. Zach Dempsey – a guy who stole something Hannah needed.
  8. Ryan Shaver –  a guy who stole something Hannah wrote.
  9. Clay Jensen – the narrator. Hannah admits he does not belong on this list. So why is he here?
  10. Justin Foley – Justin’s encore on Hannah’s list is heartless.
  11. Jenny Kurtz –  She did something that caused a tragedy and then covered it up.
  12. Bryce Walker – Um. A scary guy who fulfills everything everyone said about Hannah and she does not stop him
  13. Mr. Porter – Hannah’s Guidance Counselor and English teacher who Hannah saved for last.

I’m excited and proud to introduce you to my sixteen-year-old son, Chris.  Chris read this month’s selection, so I thought it would be fun if he reviewed it with me.  Chris, however, didn’t think that was such a cool idea. At least, not at first.

“Say ‘hi’ to my blog readers, Chris.”

“Hey.” Chris jerks his head in a tight nod of acknowledgment.

“So what did you think of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY?”

“It was good.” He rubs his palms over his jeans and shrugs.

“I thought so, too. But why was it good?”

Chris shrugs again, avoids eye contact.

I shift gears. “You know, it kind of reminds me of something Dad says whenever a plane crashes. (Dad is an aircraft mechanic.) It’s never just one thing.”

Chris nods, and quickly catches my thought. “Yeah. It’s like a bunch of things that all go wrong. Take one by itself and the plane would have been fine.”

“Right,” I smile. “So what do you think about the things that happened to Hannah?”

Chris shrugs again. “They didn’t seem that bad to me. But I guess over time, they all added up. Her impression of herself steadily eroded.”

I stare at my son. “Um. Right. That’s… that’s a really great insight.” I stammer. “Hannah called it a snowball effect in the book.”

“Yeah,” Chris agrees. “Once it got rolling there was no stopping it. There’s no erasing a rumor once it spreads. You either deal with it or it controls you. Most of what happened to Hannah was out of her control, except for the stuff at the end.”

“Do you hear a lot of rumors at school like the one Justin told about Hannah?”

Chris nods.

“Do you believe them?”

“Sometimes,” he admits. “It depends on who’s spreading them. Some guys will go, ‘I hit that’ when a girl goes by and I can believe it because there are girls who actually chase hot guys just so they’ll talk about them that way. They think it makes them popular.” He rolls his eyes.

I shudder inside but say nothing.  Does I hit that mean what I think it means?

“But most of the time, I don’t listen to the rumors.” Chris adds.

Wow. That’s good to hear. I decide to dig a bit deeper. “So for the rumors you do believe… the ones where the girls think they’ll be popular if they let a guy ‘hit that’… what do you think of these girls?”

Chris rolls his eyes. “I don’t want to be near anybody who goes to that much trouble to look good in someone else’s eyes.”

My first reaction to Chris’ words was relief. I wouldn’t want him hanging out with people like this. But then, Hannah crosses her arms in my mind and smirks. “See how easy it is?” She asks.  So I prod Chris a little. “But you can see how easy it is for rumors to hide the truth. You said it yourself; it depends on who’s doing the talking.”

Chris nods. “It definitely worked on her friend, Jessica, the one who believed the worst of her. The rumor was what got the snowball rolling. Then, the best ass – Oops. Sorry.” Chris flashes a grin at me and I wave him on, more interested in hearing his opinions than correcting a minor slip of the tongue. “I mean, being on that dumb list made guys like Bryce think they can get away with anything. And then, what Marcus did…  Hannah knew nobody respected her and pretty soon, she didn’t either. ”

I’m reminded again that it’s not just one thing that went wrong, it’s the sum of many.  “Why do you think Hannah made those tapes?”

Chris has a good answer. A great answer, actually. “Recording the tapes could be stress relieving – it’s one thing to record them but a whole other thing to actually send them. If I received them, I’d be beside myself with grief and guilt. If I hurt somebody, it’s not on purpose. Never my goal. When I put my sneakers on every morning, I prep for a happy day, not to hurt people. If I got tapes from someone who killed herself, I’d be distraught – not enough to totally ruin my life but I’d always second guess my actions, knowing everything I do has a consequence. I’ll always think things through carefully. It would probably identify all my faults and flaws so I could be better. She created the tapes so people would know she really did kill herself because of what they did, in case her death didn’t make the news or was covered up. I think it was a mixture of revenge and also, a hope that everyone would think twice in how they treat the next social misfit.”

A hope…  My jaw is swinging in the breeze when I realize Chris didn’t just read this book, he dissected it, so to give myself time to recuperate and stop the gushing I’m about to do, I play devil’s advocate. “Yeah, but come on. If people are this mean in real life, do you think some audio tapes are really going to make them better people?”

“Yeah, some of them,” he says, and tries to convince me he’s right. “Remember Clay said Justin and Jessica showed up at school looking sick or something? That was after they got the tapes and sent them to the next person. They listened, really listened to them. I think Alex did, too. But I don’t think Courtney would. Pretty sure Bryce wouldn’t.”

“Okay,” I ask the big question. “Why did she send the tapes to Clay?”

And again, Chris has insight that not only stuns me, it fills me with joy. He leans forward, starts using his hands to make a point.

“She knew Clay would be hurt. She wanted to save him from the pain listening to the tapes and knowing what she did caused him, so she tells him he doesn’t belong on the tapes. Because by that time, she’s already made her choice. She doesn’t admit it. She may not even have actually known it, but she was already beyond help. But Clay should have stayed in that room with Hannah at the party. He should have given her some time alone to calm down, and then gone back so that she knew he was there for her. If he had done that, at least two or three of the tapes that came after might not have happened. If that were me, I’d have stayed there until she literally pushed me out of the room and then I would have walked her home, you know, to make sure she was safe since she was so upset.”

I beam at my son.


“You make me very proud.”

Chris grins.  (And when I read this post back to him for his approval, he grinned just as I read, “Chris grins” and then burst into laughter that I had him so well pegged.)

He’s satisfied, but I’m not. “I have to admit, I’m angry that Clay didn’t take the tapes to someone NOT on the list, someone like the principal or even the police. What do you think?”

Chris waves me off. “Mom, Clay couldn’t think that far ahead, he was too upset by what he heard on those tapes.”

“I see. You’re saying that’s an adult reaction, not a kid’s.”


Heh. I hadn’t thought of it like that. And now that he pointed it out, I think he has a point. “Okay, overall, you liked the book?”

“Yeah, I liked the book. It was great. It gets you thinking. When it ended, I was sad it didn’t go on. The ending was cool in how Clay ran after Skye. He probably wouldn’t have thought to do that if he hadn’t heard the tapes. They made him reconsider how he dismissed someone who could really use a friend.”

Our Rating:

Two thumbs up from both Mom and Chris. But don’t take our word on it. Go read what the rest of the Book Hungry team has to say by following the links to their blogs.

I flash my son a huge grin. “I guess we’re done. Thanks for helping me review this book.”

“No problem. It was fun. A little Mommy and Me bonding time.” Chris laughs. I can’t help but laugh, too. Because we did a lot more than review a book.

During my lunch hour, I happened across a blog post by columnist Jeff Pearlman, in which he describes an upsetting reply from a disgruntled fan in response to a column he wrote about Jeff Bagwell and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The condensed version is the responder was snarky and vulgar and had included an x-rated link that infuriated the journalist so much, he was compelled to track down the miscreant.

Matt, the alleged sender of porn, is quoted as saying this:

“I was just trying to get a rise out of you. You’re a known sports writer and I thought it was cool. That’s all. I never meant for it to reach this point.”

Right there, I started taking notes.   Sadly, Pearlman notes this is not an isolated incident. Sports journalists are often subjected to vehement disagreement. But in the old days – the days before the Internet and Twitter and Facebook – such disagreement was confined to letters to the editor.  Another vocal basher, “Andy,” told Jeff “…the internet got the best of me.”

Hmm. The internet made me do it. As the author of a YA novel in which my protagonist causes a classmate’s suicide by posting embarrassing pictures online, I was intrigued by this defense. Particularly since Matt and Andy are not children. The popularity of social networking has not only removed the barriers of direct communication like mail delay, corporate red-tape, or anonymity, it’s somehow also erased the need for simple human kindness.  And, it compounds that lack with a sense of immediacy – just click Send and vent.  (My apologies for the shameless book plug) – “I’m pissed off NOW and I’m gonna tell you so NOW” even though, as Jeff’s conversations with both Matt and Andy would suggest, those opinions can change once the passion dissipates.

I’m not immune to the seductive power of online mob mentality. Recently, after a cooking e-zine got caught plagiarizing its recipes, I joined the immense public outcry denouncing the practice as well as the editor’s half-assed apologies. There is a sense of being part of something, something important. But at no time did I resort to name-calling or threats or sending pornographic content.

The internet is glaringly literal. It cares nothing about the context in which certain things were said, or the feelings we experienced when we said them.   Andy’s plea to Jeff: “Please don’t eviscerate me” should be a chilling reminder of reality – the Internet never forgets.

It’s happened again.

Another child, bullied to death.  Last week, Ellen DeGeneres made this plea to end bullying following the suicide of a Rutgers student. The student’s dorm roommates secretly filmed him having sex and then posted the video online with the explicit intent of outing him as a homosexual, humiliating him literally to death.

Though this is a senseless and cruel act, that’s not what disturbs me about this. What I find most upsetting is that this particular incident – the latest in a summer filled with similar tragedies – is that the perpetrators were college students, not elementary or middle school age, but legal adults according to the law, old enough to vote, and old enough to know better.

Bullying gets a lot of lip service but whatever we’re doing to prevent kids from growing into adult bullies obviously isn’t enough. Look, I’m not out of touch with reality.  Mine is a two-kid, two-income household with all the responsibilities and chaos the two kids and two jobs produce.  I’ve had a four-foot hole in my ceiling for the past year. I drove an eleven-year old car with no air-conditioning all summer.  Repair jobs have to take a number in my life so yes, stress and I are intimately acquainted. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to let the stress and the chores and the exhaustion and all the other stuff remove us from our kids’ lives.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, I know my kid. He or she would never do that.” I’m pretty sure the parents of every kid involved in these recent bullying incidents had the same thought.  Don’t believe me? Okay. Consider the times you’ve left your child with a sitter or a friend for a play date.  How many excellent reports have you received? You know, the kind where you hear how the same child who can’t remember to say please and thank you at home is suddenly Miss Manners at the neighbor’s house.  Ask any parent and I promise you, they have a similar story about how their child behaves differently outside of the home.

Sometimes, “differently” isn’t always positive and much as we hate to admit that, we can no longer afford to deny it.

When my oldest was in sixth grade, I nearly lost him. And had absolutely no idea. Sixth grade was a tough year for him. New school, plus he was in the throes of puberty complete with bad skin, a massive growth spurt, changing voice and body hair. Lots of body hair. Though he stood head and shoulders taller than everyone in his class, his former friends, still little boys, thought it would be great fun to tease my son about all the changes his body was undergoing.  Every day. For the entire school term.

Where was I? I was working, keeping the house, driving boys to and from various activities, and blaming his moodiness on hormones… you know, the “phase” everyone tells you kids go through.

So, it came as a complete and utter shock when my son came home from a hockey game one night, flung himself into my arms, sobbing he no longer wanted to live.

Wait. That’s not all of it.

After contacting the principal, his teachers, and getting him weeks of therapy, I thought everything was just fine.  So, it came as another complete and utter shock when I arrived home one Saturday morning after running errands to find an extremely angry older brother banging on my front door, claiming that my son, the same boy bullied in sixth grade, was now the one making fun of his brother in seventh grade.

Holy heart-stopping hell.

Once I got Mr. Testosterone to convince his mother to step out of her idling mini-van, I got the true story.  Her little boy came up to my stubble-faced, five-foot-nine-inch-tall-seventh grader’s stomach. Every time my son did as little as fist-bump this boy, he felt intimidated. My son insists he never tormented him. However, after listening to his mother and brother detail every incident where the boy came home shivering, my son was forced to admit he could understand the boy’s perception.

This doesn’t excuse college-aged students pulling a hidden camera stunt, but it makes you wonder… was death really their intent? In my heart, I have to believe it wasn’t…  they were just having a laugh. I also wonder just how many kids are engaging in bullying or standing by when bullying occurs without knowing how damaging, how permanent, the results?  That’s where we come in. As parents, we have to do a better job of teaching and helping our kids navigate a shifting virtual landscape, where so much of today’s bullying is taking place. We must be ever vigilant, no matter how stressed or exhausted we may be. We must stress and stress again how hurtful it is to laugh at someone, no matter how old we are.

I am first-hand proof of how easy it is to assume we’ve done a good enough job. I’m lucky; my son is now a college freshman but neither of us has forgotten how narrowly we escaped a headline-making tragedy.

Good enough isn’t that good at all.

I’m moving! Bookmark the new URL.

I'm in the process of transferring To Tell a Compelling Story over to my new website:
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Hi! Welcome to my blog. I’m Patty.

I'm a writer represented by Denise Little, The Ethan Ellenberg Agency. I love to tell stories, to boast about my sons, to indulge in a serious chocolate obsession. (I often combine these passions.)

During the day, I write software user guides, but at night, I let my hair down... and write whatever I want. (I know. You expected something else. Sorry.) I'm currently working on a YA story about sexting gone horribly bad called SEND. I use this blog to explore my passions.

Contact me at pattyblount3 at gmail dot com.

You're also welcome to link to, quote, or cite anything you find here. You're NOT welcome to copy it outright for your own use. 'Cause that's plagiarism, no matter what you heard on the internet.

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My twitta sistas and I were chatting one day a few weeks back and thought, "Hey! We should start a Book Club!" So, we did.

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