National Day of Action Against Bullying & Violence
Today has been designated especially to raise awareness about bullying, to help communities prevent it, and give children tools to combat it. What an amazing and worthwhile initiative, and something dear to my heart.
Find more information here.
This week there has been a lot of media support leading up to the National Day of Action Against Bullying & Violence, and one of those initiatives included interviews with bullying victims, by Jodie and Soda on Mix 102 radio. I found these really traumatic, because it was obvious from the shake in people’s voices and the occasional tear, that decades later these emotional ordeals were still fresh in the victim’s minds.
And I understood this, because I was a victim of bullying too. I like to think I have a certain objectivity about it 3 decades later, but my voice shakes too when I talk about it.
Your average victim
I think it’s really important for people to realise that there isn’t an average victim. Bullying can be physical or emotional, the victims can be children, teenagers or adults, male or female. In my teenage years I was relatively self-confident and outgoing. I prided myself with standing out from the crowd. I didn’t expect to be victimised.
How it started
A community disco, a cute guy, and a shared kiss. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, a girl at school ¾ let’s call her Ms Busybody ¾ heard that my best friend liked this guy. I knew that, it was a few months ago, no big deal. I was not the kind of person who would betray a friend.
Little did I know that Ms Busybody would start a campaign against me while my best friend was off school due to illness for three days. By the time my BFF came back to school, Ms Busybody had developed quite a following, but it didn’t matter to me what she thought. I sat down with my BFF and she agreed we were all good.
Now, I honestly can’t tell exactly how the situation snowballed, but it did, and fast. Before I knew it most of the girls in my year level were saying nasty things about me, all kinds of disgusting rumours were circulating and I was feeling like shit.
Somewhere along the line my BFF started believing she’d been betrayed and sided with the bullies (obviously not someone worthy of missing from my life), but the situation took a frightening turn when the ‘tough girls’ heard a rumour they didn’t like. Apparently I was sleeping with one of their boyfriends. Mind you, I was also pregnant and stole my BFF’s boyfriend. Hang on, are these stories taking on a life of their own?
This was about the time my sister started walking me to the car after school (not that she could provide any real physical protection), and I hid between the buildings at lunch time, with my two true friends. And cried… a lot. My thoughts went to really bad places during those long months of bullying, but I refused to let my persecutors win.
In retrospect, I’m not sure how my parents didn’t realise that something was wrong. I guess they put it down to a sullen teenager not giving much away, but I felt like it was the world against me.
Ignoring bullies isn’t as effective as you might think. I suffered for many months, and my life was never the same. For the remainder of my high school years I spent time with a long-term boyfriend, or one of a handful of friends.
Once I left school, I thought I’d left those awful days behind, but when I look back on those teenage years, I think this traumatic experience as the catalyst for me turning my back on my career aspirations and becoming independent in the extreme.
Perhaps it was my refusal to regret that I’d kissed a boy, or the way I brushed off Ms Busybody in the beginning that exacerbated the situation. It doesn’t really matter how it started anymore, but it still affects me as a middle-aged mother and successful woman.
What can you do?As a parent, I talk to my children about how other people feel when people are mean to them, and about bystander behaviour. Watching for behaviour changes and trying to keep the communication channels open is an ongoing battle as my children turn into independent teenagers, but I will never stop being vigilant.
Parents and children can seek help here.
As an adult, I try to practice what I preach by being kind to others and speaking up when I see someone else behaving inappropriately.
What is your experience with bullying?
It’s the small moments that make a life special
The Happiness Jar is Launched
I first saw the idea for a happiness jar on Facebook, and loved the notion of the family writing down the little things that make them happy each week, so we could reflect on them in the New Year.
Life is so busy that it passes in a flash of colour and motion. It’s easy to remember the huge events that shape us, like the release of my first book in February, but sometimes we forget about the small kindnesses, or secret triumphs that make us smile each day.
So… at the beginning of 2015 I turned a pretty glass jar I received as a Christmas present, into a vessel to capture memories throughout the year. The children really enjoyed this activity too, although we became lax towards the end of the year.
Of course, there were some rotten things that happened last year, but we didn’t focus on those. We made sure the things that make us happy on a daily basis went in the jar, and those things are different for each of us.
When I was a child I used to puff the fine seeds from a dandelion and make a wish. It's amazing how many of those dreams have become a reality over the years.
On 2nd January 2016, the family sat down to a delicious dinner of salmon steaks with jasmine rice and vegetables, and took turns in taking a sunny yellow piece of paper from the jar and reading it aloud.
This is what we found…
Naturally my teenage sons were most impressed by triumphs on or new games for their game consoles, and a lot of my highlights were literature related, but there were some surprises too, like:
* We all enjoyed family outings, but from a different perspective, and chilling during long weekends, and hanging out with our friends rated high on the ‘happy meter’.
* People also mentioned how much they appreciated one another, or how another member of the family inspired them.
* There were some awesome sporting achievements in high jump, soccer and swimming.
* The children really loved having exciting birthday parties and appreciated the effort I put into making spectacular birthday cakes.
* A school camp at the beginning of the year was an action-packed learning adventure.
* Catching up with friends who have moved interstate.
* Being thrilled to see our dog after we’ve been away on holidays.
* Hubby was extremely excited when we finally pulled down the rusting above-ground pool to make way for a new shed.
* Enjoying the elaborate Christmas light in our street.
Some other highlights for me were:
* Doing author talks, local art events, and a radio interview, and all of the fabulous people I met along the way.
* Taking a sick friend who doesn’t have a lot of money, out to a movie and lunch. We also did some window shopping in the expensive part of town.
* Swimming with dolphins in Western Australia.
* The support and friendship I receive from the Novelist’s Circle critiquing group.
* Self improvement through public speaking at Toastmasters.
* Wine tasting (lets face it, living in a wine region means I’m spoilt for choice).
* Missing the family members we’ve lost, but being able to smile at the good times we shared.
* Seeing the historic organ rise from the floor and play incredible tunes at the Capri Cinema.
* A tour of the Haigh’s chocolate factory in Adelaide, which of course involved some taste-testing and a rather large bag of goodies to take home.
* A meet and greet with one of my favourite bands, Seether. I even got to chat and have a photo with the members.
* A day at the Myponga Gun Club with the South Australian Romance Authors group. All in the name of research of course!
Reflecting on the year that was and being thankful for everything we have, was a great experience for my family. We’ll definitely be keeping the Happiness Jar going in 2016.
I don’t like to make new year’s resolutions, because I hate to feel I’ve failed. Instead I have dreams (lots of them) and I make small goals to work towards them. They include personal improvement, literary and family oriented goals, but I’ll make time to ‘smell the roses’ along the way too.
I hope you all had a successful 2015, and even if it contained heartache or illness or loss, that you also managed to appreciate the sunsets and friends and dream a little.
Do you have a different way of reflecting on the past year?
What was your most precious memory for last year?
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What a fantastic year 2015 was. When I look back at all the things I did this year, it's no wonder I am always tired. Thanks for coming on the adventure with me.
Check out the highlights in my December newsletter.
Things you may have missed on the Fearless Prose blog this year
My amazing experience swimming with dolphins.
The lengths novelists will go to for research.
'Custody Combat' is my latest WIP.
Public speaking - Part 1 define your topic, Part 2 write your speech, Part 3 present the speech.
How to seek out distinctive details to lend authenticity to writing.
Treat back story like a pungent spice.
Artistic licence can be anywhere from week a little to utter balderdash.
I'd love to know what you'd like to see on my website in 2016.
Join my community (Sandy’s Spitfires) and get exclusive content.
This evening the members of the Novelist's Circle group will be celebrating 5 years of nurturing authors. Come and join us.
I am very proud to have started something that has touched so many lives and enriched the careers of many local writers. It's amazing that one little idea can lead to something so valuable. 43 people have passed through the group in 5 years, and 8 have been published in one form or another. I still count many of those past members among my friends.
When I first decided I wanted to write a novel, I attended several writing groups, where I met a variety of wonderfully supportive people and started to develop my writing skills. However, I found that the majority of writing groups catered for people who wrote short stories or poetry, so it was difficult to get feedback on a longer work.
After attending a few literary workshops and events, and speaking to other novelists, I was always fired up! I knew I needed to connect with more of these people, to share information, and support one another through the challenges faced with a longer story.
Members sit down monthly to critique one another's work, share industry news, improve our literary skills, and the result is motivation.
The Novelist’s Circle group aims to provide a non-threatening environment to nurture budding novelists, build on literary skills, and receive constructive feedback from peers.
Join me as I share space with wild bottle-nose dolphins
off the coast of Western Australia.
It was an exhilarating experience that left me breathless.
We were up at the crack of dawn to catch a boat at Rockingham. The sky was clear, the sun bright, the sand golden and the passengers excited.
We didn’t know exactly what to expect and there were quite a few people who were nervous about being exposed in deep water. (I think most of us can sympathise with galeophobia — the extreme fear of sharks, but there was no need to worry, because our guides wore shark deterrents on their suits.)
As the boat cut across the sparkling ocean in search of slippery friends, we breathed in the salty air, waved at passing fishermen, and even spotted a few penguins floating by.
It was all very relaxing… until they brought out the wet suits.
I’m no small-fry and the idea of cramming my ample flesh into a tube of rubber did not appeal. But cram I did (I’ll spare you the details). Being fitted with masks and snorkels was far less challenging.
After a safety and environmental presentation, we were raring to go, and scanned the waves for dolphins. It didn’t take long before we spotted a pod the boat slowed and we spotted grey dorsal fins breaking the surface only metres away. Eyes widened.
The first group of floaters (no swimming and splashing allowed, so this is the most apt description - keep your minds out of the sewer) sat on the swim deck at the back of the boat. We were to be towed along by our guide and a hand-held underwater propulsion device. With hearts thumping, we grabbed the arm of the next person and… SPLASH.
I was right there, swimming with dolphins!
Sleek bodies torpedoed through the water, twisting and looping, audible whistles and clicks drifting by. We had to be quick to keep up with them, which meant hopping on and off the boat, but the dolphins seemed happy to interact, showing off their playful nature. No-one was nervous anymore, because all eyes were following the movement of these beautiful mammals.
I had an instant feeling of joy and peace.
I’ve never experienced anything like it before. These dolphins didn’t do tricks, they weren’t being lured with food, and we couldn’t force them to stay. They were wild animals who allowed us to enjoy their company for a while. I felt so privileged!
There was a 12-month old calf, called Kelly, among the pod, and her mother was trusting enough to let her show-off for the visitors. She whizzed around, thrashed her fluke and waved her flippers.
Where did I swim with dolphins? Check out Rockingham Wild Encounters.
* Dolphins can reach speeds of up to 35 km/hr (22 mp/hr).
* They are warm-blooded mammals, and have a thick layer of blubber to help maintain their body temperatures.
* Their eyes can move independently and have a huge field of visions. Their eye muscles are so strong that they can change the shape of the lens, making it possible for them to focus both above and under the water.
* Their swallow their food whole, and eat up to 15 kilograms (30 pounds) of fish each day. Often they will work together to herd schools of fish to be eaten.
* They can dive as deep as 915 metres (3,000 feet), but they breathe air, so have to surface approximately every 7 minutes.
* They don’t breathe involuntarily, like humans, so they can’t ever fully sleep. One side of their brain has to stay active so they remember to surface and breathe. Honest!
* They communicate by making high-frequency clicking sounds with their nasal sacs. (Humans can’t hear many of these sounds.) These sounds are also deciphered when they bounce back from objects, so the dolphins can determine the size, shape, distance and speed of an object.
Although the scientific community is divided on the medical benefits of dolphin therapy, for handicapped children, there’s no denying it is a spiritual experience. There are claims that it assists the immune system, awareness, attention, and self-control.
Have you had an amazing wild life encounter? I'd love to hear about it.
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