Friday, October 15, 2010

Bullied To Death

How many of us had occasional problems in school with what we called a 'bully'? Let's face it, even if you're a popular kid not everyone will like you. Were you ever taunted or made fun of by someone else at school? Did anyone ever spread rumors about you?

I'll be the first to raise my hand. I was a quiet kid who spent most of her time reading. That didn't endear me to a lot of people, but I did have my own circle of friends and, with the exception of occasional remarks about my height (or lack therof) and a few remarks about 'sucking up to the teachers', I was fine.

Imagine though that such taunts and remarks, along with much worse inferences, were all a part of your daily routine. Imagine that others made endless fun of a disability, your sexual orientation, or some other personal attribute. Suppose physical violence was added to the taunts? What if pictures, comments, etc., were posted on the internet about you?

Such constant, non-ceasing negative behavior crosses a line and becomes terroristic or 'bullying'. In the wake of suicides of teenagers over the past several months, including Asher Brown, 13, Seth Walsh, 13, Justin Aaberg, 15, Billy Lucas, 15, and Tyler Clementi, 18, bullying has finally received a long overdue focus in the media and elsewhere.

Tonight(Friday, Oct. 15) ABC will air a 20/20 segment titled "Bullied To Death: Victims' Stories. This segment will talk to victims and parents of victims about bullying. It will examine why kids bully and whether schools are doing everything they can to help prevent bullying.

One portion of this show will focus on Tyler Long, 17 years old, a young man in Georgia who committed suicide last year in the wake of long-term bullying at his high school. Tyler suffered from Asperger's Disorder. His parents, David and Tina Long, have filed a lawsuit against the school system and his high school principal, alleging that the school failed to protect Tyler from bullying which they say included other students punching him the face, spitting in his food, stuffing food in his face and calling him names, as well as other verbal and physical abuse.

I mention Tyler Long in particular because all this happened in a high school in a nearby county. I did not know Tyler or his parents, but I have followed the story in local newspapers and my heart goes out to them. The one thing that runs through my mind over and over again is "that could have been me", and I think that's a thought that all of us would do well to remember.

I'm raising my five-year-old niece, who just started kindergarten this year. I read the accounts of bullying and the stories of children committing suicide and I am frightened for her. Every day I do my best to make sure that she has confidence in herself, as well as respect and compassion for others. I hope that I am doing enough.

As this episode of 20/20 shows, however, there is always more that all of us can do. It is a shame that it has taken the senseless deaths of children to bring bullying such widespread attention. Do not let those deaths be without purpose. If nothing else, let them be the catalyst to our taking action to prevent the bullying and senseless deaths of others. Remember, it could have been you, or it could be one of your children.

Resources for kids and their parents:

The Trevor Project

It Gets Better Project

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Days

In a day full of numbing and depressing news, including the senseless death of Rutger's University student Tyler Clementi, this is what came to me.  For obvious reasons, the title is Some Days.

Some days
I wake up in the morning wondering why I woke.
Some days
My breakfast is disturbed by news of death, destruction and devastation.
Some days
I go to work despairing over whether the money I earn will ever be enough.
Some days
My lunch time is consumed by worry over the safety of my family and friends.
Some days
I spend the afternoon thinking that my life will never turn out the the way I'd like.
Some days
I go home, look into the faces of my children, and know I am blessed.
Some days
As I sit at the dinner table I know that I am fortunate to have enough to eat.
Some days
I go to bed safe in the knowledge that I am surrounded by those who care about me.
Some days
I realize that I am lucky to be alive.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sex and the (U.S.) Cities


Are you sexually satisfied? Strange question to ask on a blog? Maybe. Men's Health magazine, though, has asked it's readers, and they have now released the results of their survey.  A list of the most, and least, sexually satisfied cities now graces their website. You can read all about the strict scientific methods used to conduct this scintillating (not to mention titillating) piece of research over at their site, but here's the gist of the list:

 Most sexually satisfied cities in the U.S.
  1. Indianapolis, IN
  2. Columbus, OH
  3. Fort Wayne, IN
  4. Cincinnati, OH
  5. Salt Lake City, UT
  6. San Antonio, TX
  7. Denver, CO
  8. Austin, TX
  9. Boise City, ID
  10. Chicago, IL

Least sexually satisfied cities in the U.S.
  1. Lexington, KY
  2. Birmingham, AL
  3. Manchester, NH
  4. Yonkers, NY
  5. Montgomery, AL
  6. Newark, NJ
  7. Providence, RI
  8. Jersey City, NJ
  9. Greensboro, NC
  10. Jacksonville, FL

Are you wondering how in hell your city didn't make the list?  Or do you have a self-satisfied smirk on your face because your reside in Indianapolis, IN, which apparently does a lot of revving up of engines outside the Indy 500?

While you and I (and a lot of others as well) may scoff at the validity and reliability of such "research", I couldn't help but think of all the excellent practical uses for a list like this.  So I'm including my own list below of just a few suggestions of ways in which the Men's Health list could be invaluable.

1.  Jerry Springer and his producers could tape an entire bloc of shows in each city.

2.  A great reference tool for a chain of adult novelty stores looking to expand.

3.  Good vacation planning guide for the singles.

4. Jay Leno could conduct excellent "Man on the Street" interviews, asking citizens of each city how they
    felt about their inclusion on the list.

5.  Family planning clinics can see where their services are most needed.

6.  Parents with teens could use the list as a guide for where NOT to move.

7.  College students can find the ideal spot to spend their spring break.

8.  Companies that manufacture male enhancement products will see the best places to send their sales

9.  Prospective madams and sex therapists alike can find the ideal city in which to set up a new practice.

10.  The Republican and Democratic National Committees can refer to the list when planning their

So, the moral of the story is that every piece of research, no matter how silly it may seem, has it's uses. And please feel free to leave any other uses you can think of in the comments.    

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Poem For My Niece

 Poetry is one of the forms of writing I do most often.  It's not something I can write without inspiration, and that inspiration comes from many places.  The following is a poem inspired by my five-year-old niece. It's currently entered in a poetry competition.

A Rhyme For Sarah 

I wandered much until I found
The road I took led only down

Down to sorrows through lonely fears
Down to despair, and on to tears

I wallowed there for just a while
Until your presence made me smile

You brought back love. You brought back hope
Filled up my heart each time  you spoke

The things you give make life worthwhile
My world lights up each time you smile
Copyright 2010 Eileen Johnson

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chapter One, a site which I highly recommend, has, as one definition for a writer: "person who composes with language."  It lists a host of synonyms for the word writer, but I think my favorite is "word slinger".  That's what I do. I sling words. That's not as haphazard as it sounds. While I may initially sling them any old direction just to get the idea down on paper (or MS Word), the rest of the job is to work very carefully to make sure I've used the best words possible, and used them in the best possible way, to get my message across.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing and, for the last two years, I've been fortunate enough to actually make a living as a writer.  My bills are paid by non-fiction (mostly health care articles) that I write for the employee newsletters of three manufacturing companies and a couple of websites.  My real interest, however, lies in writing fiction and poetry. 

In the past year, I have begun to put more time and effort into those interests. I've finished the first draft of a novel and am beginning another.  I have several short stories finished and quite a few poems. In just the past couple of weeks, I've taken the first steps.  I've submitted my first piece of flash fiction and several poems for publication, as well as some poems to poetry contests.  In spite of the fact that I've been able to actually make money at non-fiction, submitting fiction and poetry is still a big step, and I'm waiting anxiously to hear about my submissions.
I think of this as a beginning for myself. The beginning of, hopefully, being able to make a living at what I really want to do.  It's a challenge and though it's a rather daunting one, I've reached a point in life where I feel I'm up to that challenge. I'm prepared for it not to happen right away, but right now it's enough that I'm at last making the attempt.  I'm confident.  This blog is part of that. A place for me to share (and to vent) about my writing, my ideas, and other aspects of life which, as any writer can tell you, will eventually find an outlet somewhere in my work. 

As writers, our chosen medium is words.  However, it's not enough to simply sling those words. In fiction writing, one of the biggest challenges is to be able to use those words to create memorable characters. Characters who come alive to readers not just through their spoken dialogue, but through their movements, their habits, the looks in their eyes, and a whole host of other ways of speaking. Which brings me to my blog title...

I owe the title of this blog to Russell Crowe.  Other Ways of Speaking is the title song (written by Crowe & Billy Dean Cochran) of a CD released in 2003 by Mr. Crowe and his band  The name of the band at that time was 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. It's since been changed to The Ordinary Fear of God, but they're still making great music.  Music is one of the many places where I find inspiration and this band is one of my favorites.  You'll find links to their music and lyrics in my 'Links' list. Try them out. I'm sure you'll like 'em.

Russell Crowe has long been one of my favorite actors and it was with a deep sense of satisfaction that I discovered his music. Emotional, honest, and real are the best words I can think of to describe his songs.  They have heart and soul. Not only does he have a way with words, but he's very talented at all those 'Other Ways of Speaking'. 

I hope those of you who find this blog will stick around and join me on the journey.  We'll laugh, cry, rant, commiserate. In short, hopefully it won't be just me talking but all of us sharing.  

You know there's other ways of speaking
Words are just the deep end