Tag Archives: bullying

Geek Freak…Friday Fictioneers: 2nd May, 2018

George was camping, and went out bushwalking, when Thugface grabbed him by the shirt, yanked out his insulin pump and hurled it in the creek.

“Who’s the smart one now, geek freak?”

George flinched as kick, after kick sank into his red hair and blood gushed everywhere.

“You’re going to die…”

George knew it too. He wasn’t made to fight, and out here it didn’t matter  how well he went on his algebra test. That wasn’t going to save his life. Yet, he did know how to tell a story, and scratched his attackers.

Footsteps approached. The sound of hope…

……..

100 words.

The more I worked on this story, I was reminded of the horrific murder of two year old James Bulger by a pair of ten year old boys back in 1992. I abhor violence, but we ignore it at our peril. We need to fight back any way we can and for me that means the pen, which I’ve got to believe is mightier than the sword.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields  PHOTO PROMPT © Karen Rawson

xx Rowena

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull: Three Day Quote Challenge

“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the alhatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Having so many favourite quotes, I turned to Richard Bach’s  Jonathan Livingston Seagull for my first quote, because seagulls live right around the world and mean something to everyone. Yet, although they’re a common bird and they can get pretty annoying when you’re trying to eat your fish and chips, I can’t help loving them. They’re such a part of going to the beach.

I chose this particular quote because more than once in my life I’ve been asked: “Why can’t you be normal?”  I’m a bit disappointed that it took me more than 40 years to ask: “Why would I want to be?” We’re not all meant to be the same!

Seagulls

I would like to thank Olive Ole from https://travelmuch.net/  for nominating for the «3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge».

Olive lives in Denmark and produces a stunning travel blog with some very striking images. Being Australian, I really appreciate being able to explore other parts of the world with her.  So don’t hang around here – go check her out!Let me talk you through the rules of the challenge:

  1. Three quotes for three days.
  2. Three nominees each day (no repetition).
  3. Thank the person who nominated you.
  4. Inform the nominees.

I am nominating three people who have encouraged me as I’ve flown my own path:

1) Kat from Time No Matter

2) Geoff Le Pard from https://geofflepard.com/

3) Monika from Tails Around the Ranch

Hope you feel inspired through this bit of inspiration.

xx Rowena

Photos: Rowena Curtin

Sowing the Seed for Rio.

Perhaps, if you are able-bodied, it’s hard to understand what the Paralympics means to people living with a disability.

Indeed, it’s even taken me awhile to get it, despite being born with a disability. After all, I’m a wordsmith and my training’s been in my head, not up and down a pool or athletics track.

However,  through watching the Paralympics in Rio, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of what the Paralympics mans to people living with a disability, especially those with a passion for sport. As I have recently discovered through dance, just because your body struggles to do something physical, it doesn’t mean your heart and mind aren’t passionate about it. That you’re not a sports person. Rather, there are so many ways people living with numerous disabilities can get into sport and turn that sport into a  career. We might just need to look a bit harder to find our thing and find a way to pull it off.

walking-the-great-black-line

Walking the Long Black Line in Rehab 10 years ago.

This story has been repeated so many times throughout the Paralympics in Rio, that you can almost take this progression as a given. However,  for each and every athlete this progression is a triumph. After all, there were no guarantees that triumph wouldn’t get eaten up by despair along the road.

I have been following up on a few of the athletes online after their events and sharing their stories on my blog. Not that I’m much of a sports commentator but I have lived through that despair and found my way out through my family and my writing. I wanted to pass on these athletes drive and determination as well as how they were inspired, or perhaps helped, along the way.

dylan_alcott_-_3b_-_2016_team_processing

Dylan Alcott 2016 Australian Paralympic Team portrait.

Last night,we were totally blown away by Australian Paralympian, Dylan Alcott’s speech about the need to include people with disabilities into all spheres of life…and work! It was such an inspiration that it was easy to lose sight of the ten year old boy who became a paraplegic following surgery to have a cancerous tumour from his spine  removed. It was at this point that Starlight Children’s Foundation stepped in. As Dylan puts it: “Depressed and upset, the Starlight Children’s Foundation came to my rescue and granted me and my family a wish to swim with the dolphins at Sea World on the Gold Coast. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that has stayed with me my entire life.”

Buoyed by a new outlook and determined to maintain his fitness, Dylan took up wheelchair tennis. Yet, while Dylan’s success might seem a forgone conclusion, he still had a long journey ahead.

“I was an insecure kid about my disability. A few kids used to call me a cripple and I hate that word. I used to believe them,” Alcott, 25, says.

“If you told me back then when I was 12 and not wanting to go to school that I’d be a triple Paralympic gold medallist across two sports, I would have said ‘get stuffed’.”

So, Dylan’s story emphasises once again how we can either be that person who sows the seed in someone else’s life. Or, we can be the lawn mower, running them down and chopping them up into bits. It’s a choice.

This is something we all need to think about but we also need to extend our compassion to people living with disabilities who aren’t in wheelchairs or wearing a neon sign advertising “what is wrong with them”. This can begin simply by not having to rush, be in a hurry and almost running over someone with a walking stick or takes their time. It means not parking in a disable parking spot without a permit. No excuses!! It means accepting some level of imperfection and offering a gentle correction, rather than swearing and putting other people down to make yourself look good. It means accepting other people for the unique lovely individuals they are instead of trying to mold the human race in our own image. These things aren’t easy but are really nothing more than common courtesy.

Just in case you’d like to help kids like Dylan, you can click here  Starlight Foundation  to donate.

As Dylan sums up: “Having a disability can be very hard, especially for kids growing up. These donations will assist in granting wishes for sick children and purchasing equipment to enable them to live better lives.”

xx Rowena

Sources

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/rio-paralympics-2016-dylan-alcott-claims-gold-for-second-time-in-24-hours-20160914-grglpl.html

https://starlight.org.au/what-we-do/our-stories/fundraising/dylans-story

F- Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken

Dear Mr Frost,

Sometimes, when you reach a fork in the road, you don’t get much of a choice about which road to take. Such as when you’re a dead poet receiving a letter all the way from the 21st Century and you’re being expected  to think, respond, answer questions when your only conversations have been with the worms and other subterranean guests.  That’s what makes life, and I guess even death, exciting. There’s always the challenge of the unexpected…that wake up call. So, Mr Frost, this is yours.

Welcome back!

Through your poem The Road Not Taken, you’ve become known as the man who stuck the fork in the road, creating that ultimate dilemma…which road should you take? While in your original poem, both roads are almost exactly the same, it has been reinterpreted as making a choice between the freeway or the road less travelled. Are you a follower or a trail blazer?

Now, I’ve reached my own fork in the road.

Should we explore what your poem was originally about or what it’s come to mean to so many?

Choosing Which Road To Take

While it can be really difficult to decide between two evenly weighted options, it’s either win-win or lose-lose. Of course, you’re closing off a possibility and with that there’s that sense of loss but if we are to carpe diem seize the day, we acknowledge that loss and move on.

The Road Less Travelled: The Freeway or the Scenic Road?

So, moving onto a different fork.

On one hand, you have the Freeway with its smooth, well sign posted conditions and faster speed limits but bland scenery.

Then, there’s the Scenic Road with is beautiful scenery, photo opportunities, slower speed limits and unpredictability. You’re constantly needing to monitor for hazards, take evasive action and possibly even navigate by the stars. Anything could be down that road and there could be a very good reason no one else is using it. After all, the flock might not be mistaken.

Which road would you choose?

That’s what I asked my family over dinner tonight.

My husband pointed out that your choice depends on the circumstances. If you’re in a hurry and need to get from A to B as fast as possible, then take the Freeway. However, if you have plenty of time and are looking for interesting places to explore, adventures  and photo opportunities, then take the scenic road. He also grew up in the country and loves nothing more than burning down a dirt road, where the car almost dances going round a corner. That’s an Aussie bloke for you and possibly quite different from your New England experience.

So, rather than setting hard and fast rules, we need to be flexible about which road we should take. However, does this leave us sitting on a barbed wire fence going nowhere?

Forced On the Road Less Travelled.

As much as we like to believe we’re in the driver’s seat, life can dump us on the road less travelled without a bottle of water or compass. There is no choice. I was born with a mind-altering neurological condition called hydrocephalus, which went undiagnosed until I was 25. With a harbour inside my head applying pressure in all sorts of funny places, I was bush bashing with my machete to create any kind of path. Surgery saved my life. However, then I developed a rare life-threatening auto-immune disease where my muscles attack themselves. This goes in and out of remission and even when I’m well and look fine, there’s still stuff going on.

However, through being dumped on a rough and rugged road and having to survive, I’ve become much stronger and tenacious. I’ve also been shattered, bruised and battered along the way and it’s been incredibly hard going. At times, nothing short of anguish. However, like coal enduring all that heat and pressure, I’ve emerged a diamond. Well, at least in theory!

That confirms some of the virtues of travelling along that rough, unchartered road.

A Choice

Taking the road less travelled, can also be a personal choice. Perhaps, you could call it lively curiosity. That pursuing all my unanswered questions, automatically takes me over unchartered ground.

Kids and the Road Less Travelled.

family

A recent family photo.

While I am accustomed to taking the road less travelled myself, I am much more perplexed about whether our kids should undertake the journey.

As a parent, protecting your children is an inbuilt, natural instinct. Of course, you want to give them a smooth road. Make their journey as easy as possible. Yet, is that what they need? What will be the ultimate result?  That concerns me.

If the kids are going to bounce back from life’s inevitable challenges, they need resilience. They’ll only develop resilience through being challenged, encountering problems and learning how to overcome them. You don’t develop these skills sticking to the main road where everything’s being done for you. No work or imagination required. Stay between the lines and under the speed limit and you’ll be right.

That’s very well when it comes to pitting themselves against the great outdoors but how about taking the road less travelled in the school context? Going against the flow and flaunting their differences like neon signs in the playground where kids can be brutally cruel and survival of the fittest is the modus operandi? What might be a bold, creative or adventurous move, can have a kid torn down and thrown to the wolves. Bullies know no mercy.

Knowing this, do you as a parent step in and gently redirect your child back into the flock or do you leave them be? After all, do they really need to sell their souls to belong, be accepted and have a few friends?  Surely, that’s not asking for a lot!!

These are tough questions. What would you recommend to parents? Should they be encouraging their children to conform and stick to the freeway? Or should they be and develop themselves, tackling the bumps and unpredictability along the scenic route, hoping they emerge a diamond, not crushed?

Personally, I also have to believe that shutting down independent thought is a really bad thing for the future of our world. That we need problem-solvers and thinkers who can put a heap of seemingly random things together and find that cure for cancer, develop ways of containing climate change and can help people live more harmoniously together. Cloned thinking has never led to discovery, invention or the answers we need.

I’m sorry I’ve jumped up on my soap box and have given you more of a lecture when I should be asking you. I guess I just needed to get all this out. See what you think.

Anyway, it’s now time for me to get some shut eye and for you to get to work.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Robert Frost's Grave

 

 

Does Bullying Pay?

Today,  it’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence in Australia. It’s also Troll Free Day, which focuses directly on cyberbullying.

While these are fantastic initiatives, there’s still so much more which needs to be done.

Questions which need to be asked.

By the way, when I mention bullying, I’m not just talking about kids either.

Indeed, bullies grow up.

While we publicly denounce bullying, for me the big elephant in the room still remains: does bullying pay? Do you need to be the bulldozer, wiping out everyone and everything in your path to get ahead? Or, is there still a place for respect? Teamwork? Being nice?

I don’t know.

Deny it though we might, what do our collective actions say?

As a society, I don’t believe our report card is good. Scratch through the veneer and I’m afraid the verdict doesn’t require much deliberation at all.

Guilty as charged.

However, declaring a National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is an important step. It not only raises awareness but it reinforces that bullying is not okay. Likewise, Troll Free Day, does the same with cyberbullying.

This a huge step forward from when I was a kid and bullies were boys.Girls supposedly smiled sweetly, slipping right under the radar, despite those incredibly long fingernails which could do incredible damage.

Stop-Bullying-Girls-with-words-written-all-over-bodies-Jan-12-p112-e1368813265789

Indeed, attending an all girls’ school, there was no such thing as bullying. There were the “popular girls” and the “losers” and it might even depend on the direction of the wind as to where you “belonged” at any given time.

When I was at high school, I endured years of brutal put downs and attacks due to my poor coordination. More than just a duck and not a swan, I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain which produced a swag of symptoms which were simply deemed “Rowena”.

People, even friends, emulated and made fun of how I walked not just behind my back but to my very face. There was a level of mean cruelty that I can’t even begin to explain. I just swallowed it and kept swallowing it. I had no choice. There was no escape. At least, that’s what I thought. Fortunately, not everybody was like this and there was kindness. People who didn’t just take pity on me but valued me as a person. Were my friend.

I can’t recall anyone ever getting in trouble for this bullying or the school taking any action whatsoever and my parents were never contacted. Even when I zoned out for a year and a half, I was left to my own devices because I wasn’t bothering anyone. I cut up magazines in class, decorating my school diary and wrote lengthy letters in class to friends at other schools but it took a long time for anyone to step in. I eventually got a new maths teacher who instantly confiscated my diary and scissors. I was in shock. Somewhere around this point, Mum, who was used to glowing reports, heard quite a different story. No doubt she heard I was “zoned out” or “distracted”…not that I was being bullied. That I was showing very evident signs of depression, which might have been a serious concern. But, as I said, we didn’t have bullying at our school…just beautiful people.

I never said a word about what was going on. What could I say? How could I possibly put all that hurt and cruelty into words? I did end up seeing the school counsellor but I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that in particular.Remember “bullying” wasn’t a term I could use back then.

What I went through was bad enough. Yet, it is comparatively minor.

Fortunately, once I left school and started university, I never looked back. I was the same person and yet, I had loads of friends and things were radically different. Go figure. I was still me.

Others never escape. Indeed, bullying and suicide are inextricably linked.

I do wonder what those girls who bullied me are doing now that they’ve grown up? I certainly haven’t received any apologies in the mail. No confessions either. Don’t you ever wonder how bullies sleep at night? Or, perhaps school was just a stepping stone to greater heights? That they’re still knocking other people down to get what they want, be it popularity, status, money, that promotion? Doing whatever it takes!

Speaking of bigger arenas, dare I mention anyone in particular?

No! I’ll leave that up to you.

Meanwhile, click  Here if you like to find out more about Troll Free Day. I recently also wrote a fictional poem about bullying… Hopscotched.

xx Rowena

Hopscotched.

Your smile turned upside down.

Beaten, you hid yourself away

deep inside an inner labyrinth.

A maze of twisting, turning tunnels

where light goes in

but only darkness comes out.

Your eyes switched off.

Their animated sparkle gone,

I can’t find you anymore.

 

Beaten black & blue,

whipped by their brutal words,

your anguish took root,

spreading its tentacles across a blue sky,

turning it black,

as their poison coursed

through your veins,

straight to your heart.

 

Frantic, I’m running.

My heart’s beating

right out of my chest.

I’m gasping for breath so much

my lungs ache.

Where are you?

How will reach you in time?

I don’t know but please just hold on.

Hold on!

I’m going to take you home.

 

“Forgive them.

They know not

what they do.”

Rubbish! They know!

They have always known.

Twisting their vicious knives

deep inside their hapless prey,

the sacrificial lamb,

they leave no scars.

Not even a scratch.

Oh to be popular!

They can do what they like…

A pretty face but an ugly heart.

Is it worth it?

Selling your soul to buy friends?

I’d rather be alone.

 

Sweetie, I don’t know

why they hurt you

but I won’t let them win.

Oh no!

I’m holding on,

gripping you tight.

As tight as I can,

even by the barest tip

of my fingernails.

I’ll never let you go.

My love is too strong.

 

Indeed,

they’d better run!

 

Rowena Newton

 

This is a fictional poem and yet we all know it’s not but it’s not one particular person’s story. Unfortunately, it is rare to find a child who hasn’t experienced being bullied at some point in their lives. However, just because it is common, that doesn’t minimise what bullying does to people. The incredible pain and humiliation it brings.

On eof the things that has spoken to me in recent years, is the importace o speaking out. Not being a bystander. Here’s a great clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruBqetaMd5g

Bullying is like with so many other issues. You can’t just sit on the fence. You’re either in or you’re out. If you stand by and allow someone to be bullied without intervening in some way directly or indirectly, you are part of the problem as well. Guilty! You’re a bully!

Bullying has both directly and indirectly caused people to take their own lives not just as teens but also later in life as those ghastly ripples keep flowing.

At home, we try and talk about the importance of the Golden Rule in our family. I find that’s a good starting point for teaching children how to have better relationships. Treat others as you would like to be treated. You might not get it exactly right but at least your intentions were good.

I think it is also good to have that conversation about what it means to be popular and whether it is worth selling out on your personal values and ethics just to be one of the cool kids? Is it worth it? I’m not saying that all popular people are bad or bullies. Indeed, it might be kids somewhat on the outer who are putting others down to make themselves look good. I don’t know.

What is clear, though, is that bullying is having serious ramification a for young people and we as a community and as a culture need to stand up and make it very clear that it’s unacceptable. Indeed, that it’s a crime.

Now, to try to do something about it!

But…where do we begin…? Any ideas? I love to get a good discussion going.

xx Rowena

Parents Saying Too Much!

Should there be tighter laws governing what parents write and publish about their own about children?

“Loose lips sink ships”and loose lips also sink kids.

Yesterday, I read a paid post over at Mamamia, where a mother wrote about her son’s Asperger’s and how she ended up spending $1000 on his birthday party in an attempt to “buy” him some friends. Her son was named and photographed, leaving no doubt about who he was and the duck’s guts of his struggles were exposed, detailed and publicised.

Was that okay?

I don’t think so and I wasn’t the only one:

“As a painfully shy child and now introverted adult, I would have been mortified as a child to find my (well meaning) mother making all my vulnerabilities so public. Children and teenagers can be so cruel and I feel it is quite insensitive of the author to lay all his social awkwardness out in the open.
It may take him a lot longer than most but he will eventually develop his social skills. His mother micromanaging every tiny detail will only make this boy more anxious and paranoid something is “wrong”with him.”

This mother clearly loves her son and would do anything for him but did she have to do this?

I don’t think so and you don’t need to be Einstein to wonder about the consequences both now and down the track. Children aren’t always loving cherubs. Indeed, they can be brutal. Bullying is rife, particularly involving kids with any kind of even perceived difference. While people are all very encouraging of kids with special needs in theory, when it comes to the competitive world of kids’ birthday invites, it gets brutal. Kids don’t even need a diagnosis to be excluded. Not being flavour of the month is enough…no invitations! That can hurt. Depending on your personality and outlook, it can really hurt.

So why draw attention to her son’s troubles? Does EVERYBODY truly need to know?

From me, it’s a resounding: “NO!!! DEFINITELY NOT!!!!”

Indeed, I asked my kids what they thought in the car today and they said: “That’s private!”

Jonathon sunset

If it was only one parent writing uber-personal details about their child, that might excuse it.

However, there’s a plethora of parents doing it. Is it so they can get a paid to write? Have the kudos of being a published writer? Or, to boost traffic to their site?

Or, have the lines between public and private become so blurred that people are forgetting to keep some of themselves and their children back? That is doesn’t all have to be out there? Indeed, much of it shouldn’t be!

Many of these parents, at least in my opinion, go too far.

amelia heart painting

Being a blogger, I’m hardly what you’d call a private person. I routinely post photos of my kids on my blog but nothing too embarrassing. While I might refer to their ups and downs, there’s nothing that personal. Moreover, I don’t use their names and call them “Mister” and “Miss”. Maybe, even this is going too far and I know parents who don’t put their kids’ photos on any form of social media. I haven’t had any haters on my blog and even though it’s all out there for the world to see, the reality is that I don’t get THAT MUCH traffic. My blog is more of a community and it’s almost like having coffee in a cafe, even though I haven’t met these people in person.

However, I don’t believe any parent has the right to disclose private personal information about their child, just in the same way it is illegal to post naked photos of your child (At least, I hope it’s illegal!!). I personally do not see the difference. In one instance, the body is exposed and in the other, it is them…their self. This is just as private.

We teach our children the importance of the Golden Rule and the need to treat others the way we would like to be treated. Yet, these parents flagrantly invade their own child’s privacy seemingly without any consideration …children who have no way of fighting back.

Why are they doing it and why are media outlets buying and publishing these stories? These are children. Precious children who need protecting, sheltering…NOT exploitation!

There are a lot of wonderful bloggers raising awareness of Aspergers, Autism and all sorts of other conditions anonymously without exposing their child in the process. These bloggers often form supportive communities where no money changes hands…just good will!

As a writer working on a memoir, privacy is a serious consideration. I’m very conscious that once you put your stuff out there, you can’t take it back. No amount of money or fame is worth selling your self. Or, even worse, throwing your self away.

What about your child? Are you really happy throwing them to the sharks…especially without their consent?!! What are you going to say to them when they grow up?

I’m sure I’m not the lone voice in the wilderness.

What are your views about these privacy concerns? Do you feel too many parents are exploiting their kids through their writing? I’d love to hear your views.

xx Rowena