Ah, Sweet Procrastination

Example NOT to follow:

Every morning this week I’ve awakened with my mind juggling subjects, wondering which I should pick this week. And this morning, as soon as I finished breakfast and exercise, I cleaned out my roll-top desk—first time in years. Since I didn’t take a before picture, you would not be impressed with the after picture. It’s better though, trust me.

Waterfall by the zoo administration building

Sun bear living up to his name

Then my husband and I went to the zoo, which is actually justifiable since I’m working on a book about bears. My husband, who wishes to be known on-line only as Johnny Danger, graciously took photos of the bears. You’re probably able to detect the sharper focus with his steady hand.

Sloth bear, also living up to his name

Now I’m going to take a short break to make a quilt block.

Speaking of quilts, neither my sister nor I felt that the true ugliness of the fabric for our ugly quilt contest was apparent in the first photo posted 10/18/12. So here goes the second attempt to establish the depth of the challenge, which is still ahead of us rather than behind. See title.



The green fabric is the basis for our ugly quilt contest.

Same fabric against different background


Almost done with the block–a block for a wedding quilt—not the ugly quilt contest. Back in a couple minutes.

Block for the wedding quilt







Can pro . . . crasti . . . nate no longer.


Three non-fiction books about bullying:

Last week, I told you about the Olweus program to prevent bullying and the book NOBODY KNEW WHAT TO DO. I showed three covers of the books I was able to find at the library, but hadn’t yet read.

For primary children, LEARNING HOW TO STAY SAFE AT SCHOOL, written by Susan Kent and published by PowerKids Press in 2001, is a useful read aloud for the youngest  school children and helpful for independent readers. Various topics, like bullying, peer pressure, or avoiding trouble, are covered in one page with clear advice for children including when to ask for an adult’s help. This is a book I would have read to my first graders an issue at a time so the tips could sink in.

BULLYING, part of the Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints series, published in 2008 by Gale, Cengage Learning is for middle school students and older. The three chapters address specific questions: What Causes Bullying? How Can Parents and Others Combat Bullying? and How Can Bullying Be Reduced?

Each chapter is made up of 4 – 6, sometimes conflicting, responses to the question. The Olweus Program is contrasted with Izzy Kalman and his Bullies to Buddies program which asserts that victims need to do the standing up for themselves or they will continue to be victims.

The book is good for overviews of differing perspectives, which often offer solutions that fit different situations or could be used in combination. Students can find options. Adults can get an introduction to bullying issues.

PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT US, written by Jodee Blanco and published by BenBella Books, Inc. in 2008, is for young adults and older. It follows her memoir PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT ME, which told about the severe bullying she endured as a child. The effects of the bullying followed her through adult life. After she wrote the first book, she still sat trembling in the parking lot afraid to go to her 20th high school reunion. It was good that she did.

PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT US continues her story when she left her successful PR firm to follow her desire to help other bullying victims. This choice extracts a high emotional price as she speaks to students, parents, teachers, and administrators and relives the years of abuse. But her story is ultimately one of hope and forgiveness. I haven’t finished reading this book, but I’m hooked so far.

Take some time to think about the kids who are afraid to go to school, to use the bathrooms, or to walk home. Although none of us individually can solve the problems of bullying or school violence, we can help tip the balance. One simple thing is to teach our children to notice the child who is alone and to invite that child to play.

What else?

Steps to Ending Bullying

My old elementary school undertook a pilot program within our district to deal with the issue of bullying. I felt so proud of our principal and our school and so pleased to be part of the task force that worked on the implementation. We used the Olweus Program, an approach backed by research. It provides staff training, support for parent involvement, and a number of materials for classroom use and for the school as a whole. There is a financial investment involved.

While many schools have tried to find free bullying prevention programs in these years of tight budgets, some of the available programs advocate practices that Olweus’ research finds unhelpful, at best. Dan Olweus began the program in Norway. It has been around long enough to evaluate the results. If your school or other organization is looking for a program, here are two sites you might want to visit:  www.violencepreventionworks.org  and www.clemson.edu/olweus  (Clemson University does research on bullying.)

One of the main tenets of the Olweus program states it’s the adults’ job to establish the school culture and to deal with bullying. While you teach children things that they can do, the onus is not put on children to take care of the problem themselves. Since bullying involves an imbalance of power, this can be impossible for a victimized child to handle.

The program teaches the children to tell an adult at school and an adult at home if they are the victim of bullying or if they observe bullying. Observing bullying has documented negative effects on non-targeted children also. Children are also taught to be aware of children who have no one to play with and to invite those children into a game. Many victims of bullying are the children who are isolated at school. And some of those children become bullies themselves.

The program teaches both children and adults the difference between true bullying  and teasing or arguments between friends. The school sets up a system to document instances of bullying—first to help differentiate between isolated events and patterns of behavior and also to make sure consequences are consistently and predictably applied.

A picture book that dovetails well with this program is Nobody Knew What to Do: A Story About Bullying, written by Becky Ray McCain, illustrated by Todd Leonardo, and published in 2001 by Albert Whitman. I used to read it with my first graders. One criticism I’ve seen of the book is that it makes bullying sound so simple to solve, but within the context of a story for younger students, it illustrates workable responses to bullying. A boy, who witnesses another child being bullied decides although frightened, he must report the on-going mistreatment. The adults respond appropriately and the school becomes a better place for everyone.

There are many books about bullies and I’ll be reviewing others in the months to come. The related photos of covers are a few of the books I found at the library, but haven’t had a chance to read yet. Many of the ones I have read and looked for on the shelf are currently checked out—a good sign, if a bit frustrating.

Please let us know about any books about bullying that you think are helpful and engaging.

Past and Future Faire

Last March I attended Meet the Authors and Bookfaire at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts of Whittier College (my alma mater). It was a wonderful day with authors—mesmerizing opening and closing keynote speakers. (Last year, Lisa See derailed my plan to leave a bit early for the long drive home. I could not make myself get up and leave.) There are two additional sessions, one before and one after lunch. Each session has a choice of one of three authors. So each attendee gets to hear four authors speak about their work. Because the event is relatively small, it’s possible to talk to the authors in the sessions, at lunch, and when they are signing books.

This year, Bookfaire will be held on Sat. March 23, 2013. I will send out more information later (including this year’s speakers and the cost). But if you live in Southern California and this is your idea of a lovely day surrounded by book lovers, keep it in mind. I will be introducing Laura McNeal, an author of young adult novels. Her books will be featured in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile, “Go, Poets!” (How can you not love a school that cheers poets at football games?)

And tomorrow, I’m off to meet my sister at The Road to California Quilt Show. Happy fabric to all.