Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The History of Halloween

The year I started teaching a movie called The Crow came out in the theaters. It was a huge hit despite the tragic death of the lead actor, Brandon Lee.
The plot of the story is that a loving couple is brutally murdered on Devil's Night and the hero returns from the dead to seek revenge. Devil's Night is the day before Halloween and has been historically a time of riots, vandalism and mayhem. It was a particular tough time in Detroit, Michigan between the 1970-1990.

During my first year of teaching I had three students arrested for vandalism and malicious mischief on Halloween Day. They were given several thousand hours of community services. One of my students parents decided to try to use his learning disability as an excuse for his crime. I wasn't exactly cooperative on the matter and refused to support the parent. All three were completely baffled they were in trouble because as it turned out they were emulating the scenes from The Crow and using the history of Devi's Night as their reasoning for going on their vandalism spree.

This inspired my yearly English/Language Arts and History class on Halloween. The emphasis is always.. always.... this is not a night of violence! Each year, depending on what is the current fad I will also include the history of that particular "monster." Over the years my students have learned about the history of witches, werewolves, vampires, and zombies. This year, since zombies are a current favorite my students have been researching the history and development of the zombie.

Let me share with you a bit of history............. mooohahahaha!!!!!

The History of Halloween-- Courtesy of the History Channel

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their New Year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Halloween Comes to America

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.
In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

Today's Halloween Traditions

The American Halloween tradition of "trick-or-treating" probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as "going a-souling" was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.  
The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Halloween Superstitions

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today's Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today's trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl's future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces. Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Happy New Year!!!

Gleðilega Hrekkjavöku!

Calan Gaeaf!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Random Act of Kindness Tuesday-Why teach kindness?

This month is Bullying Prevention Month. Over the course of the month I have been emphasizing friendship and kindness to my students as tools to preventing bullying. 

It is incredibly difficult to teach these skills to students when our current political atmosphere, especially here in San Diego County is exhibiting the complete opposite of kindness and friendship. 

A parent asked the other day, "Viking Mom, whats the point of teaching kindness when our society is so unkind?" 

Yes, what is the point? 

There is a point and it should be encouraged and here is why.

KINDNESS INCLUDES EVERYONE. Kindness crosses all those distinctions that we sometimes place among ourselves — distinctions of race, religion, culture, gender, age. Students learn that kindness is a language that everyone understands. Through kindness, we celebrate diversity.

KINDNESS IMPROVES STUDENTS’ SELF-ESTEEM AND THE SCHOOL CLIMATE. Whether academically proficient or not, students are given a way to excel through kindness, and excel they do. One teacher said that a few students who appeared to be headed down destructive paths were turned around due to the increased self-esteem and positive involvement that the school’s kindness program offered 
them. Other teachers have said that students are more willing to participate in class when they know that ridicule of their answers will not be tolerated. Thus, the learning environment is enhanced.

KINDNESS IS EMPOWERING. Kindness is one of the most powerful interpersonal tools that we, as human beings, use to connect with one another. When we sense someone’s need, we either choose to help in some way… or we choose not to. If we act from empathy, we will offer kindness, and in that moment a surprising, gracious, humanitarian connection is made. This is the positive power that each of us — including children — possesses. During difficult times, kindness propels students into action and gives them power when they feel powerless. They can do something to improve the world. You will find examples of students’ responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in this guide under “Response to Tragedy.”

KINDNESS HELPS STUDENTS CONNECT ACTIONS WITH CONSEQUENCES. Students are almost always positively reinforced when they are kind to others. They see the gr of the recipient; they hear the “thank you.” They know that they made a difference.

KINDNESS IS A VITAL, LIFELONG, INTERPERSONAL SKILL. Students will use kindness daily in their relationships at home, at work, and in the community. Kindness is an awareness that each of us develops with practice and over time. Through the kindness we give and receive, we 
begin to understand that we are intrinsically connected to those around us. We realize that we are part of a human community, in which giving and receiving kindness are vital to our health, harmony, and hope.
 Our children deserve to learn and experience this life skill of kindness… and so do we all. Let kindness flow!

— Your friends at The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

There are times when I wonder if I am fighting a loosing battle. Then I read about Malala Yousufzai. This courageous Pakistani young lady was shot along with two of her friends for wanting to learn. The international out pouring of concern and support is inspiring. There is still kindness around the world. 

I think when Hope stayed behind after Pandora's Box was opened Kindness was lurking in the shadows.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Manic Monday- Daffy Duck vs Donald Duck

This is not a commentary on the national presidential election. That must be taken much more seriously.

 This is a commentary on the San Diego mayoral race and Senatorial races. They are not just flinging mud but also their poo.

Good Luck in your area of the world!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

WTF!- Fire Tax??

1. Stupid irresponsible "hiker" sets a 200,000 acre fire creating one of the largest catastrophes in San Diego history. It is known as the Witch Creek Fire in 2003.

2. Poorly maintained power lines and high winds created the Harris Ranch Fire in 2007

3. Mother Nature caused a lightening triggered fire that burned over 15,000 acres near Julian in East San Diego county in 2012.

These are just the fires in East San Diego County in the last eight years. California has a history of epic level fires. It's part of our seasonal preparation in California. I grew up in Monterey County. Every year we had some wild land fire. Ironically, some of them were started by the Navy on Army property.

Now, many of us who live in rural communities are being given additional tax bills for $150 to help fund CalFire. It is a blanket tax to anyone who lives in a rural community even if CalFire isn't represented.

What??!!! Wait... let me understand this.... I am being taxed-again- for services that we already pay taxes on? Residence who live in towns and cities don't have to pay this additional tax even though CalFire does show up during major wildfires. This tax was created illegally but if I don't pay it I could loose my home?!

I feel like I am being punished for living in the country.

This is according to the Howard Jarvis Tax Payers Association


The State of California has begun mailing bills to rural property owners for fire prevention.
If you own habitable property in CalFire’s jurisdiction (known as the State Responsibility Area), you are affected.  You will eventually receive two bills this year–one for the State’s 2011-2012 fiscal year, and one for its 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Each bill will be $150 per habitable structure on your property.  For example, if you have one house on your property, and no other habitable structures, you will receive two bills this year totaling $300.  On each bill there should be a $35 credit if you already pay a special tax or assessment to a local fire protection agency.
This new annual fee was imposed by the Legislature (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed) at the request of Governor Brown.  It is being collected by the Board of Equalization and administered by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE DUE DATE.  You may have fewer than 30 days to pay.  If you are late, there is a 20% penalty, plus interest.  Every 30 days after that, another 20% penalty is added, plus interest.  The fee is a lien on your property, and failure to pay can result in foreclosure.

Is this legal? Is this even constitutional?
According to the California Budget Fact Checker site... NO! 

  • Assembly Bill 29x requires homeowners in State Responsibility Areas to pay a fire tax of $150 annually, but they do not receive any additional fire protection.
  • The fire tax violates Proposition 26, which requires any new fee or tax that broadly benefits the public to pass by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.  Assembly Bill 29x passed with only a majority vote.
  • The 2011-12 Budget Act includes $50 million in new fire tax expenditures and the Governor proposes $48 million for 2012-13.  During the same period, General Fund baseline expenditures have been reduced by $191 million, requiring reductions in engine and dozer crews, Tahoe basin staffing and air attack capabilities.  Any revenue collected from the fire tax is not meant to backfill these reductions.
  • The Governor's reliance on up to $88 million from the illegal tax could create an additional hole in the 2012-13 budget.  For example, the Board of Equalization recently estimated fire tax revenues could be $67 million. This uncertainty will put additional pressure on next year's budget.  The state has already borrowed $50 million from the General Fund in 2011-12 to make up for uncollected fire taxes.

I have to pay additional taxes without the benefit of additional fire protection?!  To read more click here...

Okay, my head hurts!

Anyone else see this as wrong?!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Story- Popular vs. Friendship

Popular vs. Friendship

Posted: 10/16/2012
This is not a thing I like to share because, well, this is something I'll regret for the rest of my life.
I'm fat, like, not really fat but I do not have the body most girls would like to have. My first whole year of elementary I got called by names and it was not pretty, you could say I was getting bullied, I hate it that they called me fat, I just couldn't stand it, I had friends, but i wasn't enough.
A year later my friend, Luz, enter my school and I was so happy someone like me was there, but then the weirdest thing happened, I was with the in-crowd, the popular crowd, the one place I thought I could never be a part of. But there was a price. There always Is. It was lunch and Luz had already made a friend so I sat with the group, that's when I heard the comments they were saying, I might have been their target last year but this year..... It was HER. They were calling her awful names, names they used to call me, one of them say it so loud the WHOLE classroom heard, they started laughing. I was shocked. She started crying and left, and they were watching me, expectantly, like I might go after her. A true friend would. She would have gone after her careless of the world. That's the thing. I didn't. I laughed.
3rd grade I was on the top. My life changed. But not hers. She was alone, and I just watched the whole time I didn't care. I saw what she went through, what I went through and I didn't do anything. She left. She hated me.
I'm in 8th grade now and I tell you that being a bystander and doing nothing to help another victim is awful, the sad truth is that I was bullying somehow. By not doing anything to stop it I was an attacker. Everything I went through was awful, but what she went through is worse. I hate myself for not stoping them, but you can do it, if you have a friend being bullied or you just see someone you don't know being bullied, don't hesitate on saying something.
Friendship is more important than anything. And loyalty more.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

David vs Goliath aka Monsanto vs Consumer Rights

If you have been reading my blog for long you know I am totally against the use of GMO in our food products. I also have little warmth for DuPont and Monsanto and their business practices. You can read  my posts on my views here and here. I am still wondering why two of the largest chemical companies in the world want to be in agriculture? Yes, this a rhetorical question.

In less then fourteen days the residences of California have to make a decision whether to make it a law to have grocers label any GMO products that enter into our state. This Proposition is called Prop 37. 

Now, as many of you know I am an advocate for Special Education and disabled students and I am also an advocate for healthy and safe foods for our children. I also believe that women and children's health is a bipartisan and universal concern. 
What I am not an advocate of are lascivious litigants who purposely use laws to sue people as a source of income. 

You can imagine my quandary regarding Proposition 37.

Proposition 37 was written by the same trial attorney, Jim Wheaton, who wrote Proposition 65 in 1986.  Proposition 65 is the initiative that has become the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The little signs you see posted from McDonalds to gas stations are part of this 1986 law. According to the California Attorney General Annual Summaries of Private Settlements, which is on line for public viewing, Jim Wheaton and his law firm have made over $3 million dollars in lawsuits regarding Prop 65. 

When I heard the advertisements on the radio against Proposition 37 the possible law suits it could create is heavily emphasized  However, if you listen further and listen to the list of companies that are sponsoring this "No on Prop 37" you will find out that Monsanto, DuPont and the major grocery chains are fully behind the campaign. This was my first red flag. Ahaha! Good ol' Monsanto and DuPont.

Here are the two sides.

Yes, on Proposition 37 Check out there website.

There is current research indicating that GMO plants are the cause of hive collapse in Europe. Round Up is banded in at least three European countries.

To be fair. Here is No on Proposition 37
Food Labeling, A Right to Sue? Here is another anti Proposition 37 article.

Either way you decide to vote. Being an informed consumer is important. There is labeling already on many of the foods we eat. Be A Stickler.... I drive family members bonkers because I read labels while shopping in conventional grocery stores.

I am still waiting for the biodynamic labeling. 

My advice. When examining a Proposition look who is backing the various advertisements but also look at who wrote the Proposition. DuPont, Monsanto and major grocery chains are spending a Goliath amount of money to defeat this proposition. The backers of Yes, on Prop 37 are the Davids who have to have faith that people are ready to informed and will vote Yes. 

Personally, I would like to see Monsanto slide off the Stock Exchange into oblivion.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lessons Learned

I had originally planned to write about an exciting new adventure the Suburban Homestead was experiencing. However, now my plans have had to change. It is still a new adventure and learning experience but this time this blog is being written with a heavy heart.

It is not uncommon to find on our property feral cats that take up refuge in our barns, under the house, or on our back porch. We try to discourage them from staying or we try to capture them and have them humanely taken care of by a lovely non-profit organization called Friends of Cats. These feral cats are often sick or hurt and need additional care that our little homestead can’t handle.
Plus, we have five goofy cats of our own that keep us on our toes and entertained.

I have to admit I have a very soft spot in my heart for cats, especially calicos. I grew up with a calico and she was family favorite. A year ago we adopted a little calico and her brother. As the Fates/Norns would have it this little calico, whom we named Freyja, is a bit twitchy. I think we need to find a new name for her. What is Old Norse for "Twitchy"? One afternoon she escaped. I have to admit up front we hadn’t had her fixed yet. So, when she returned she was knocked up.

Raising Great Dane puppies and kittens can’t be that different? Right?
Viking Dad and I decided this would be good learning experience for the Viking Kiddos and also a good lesson on responsibilities.  As Freyja’s due date grew closer we decided to keep her in the Master Bathroom so she could give birth to her kittens in the bathroom and not under my bed. Yes, call me picky. One of these days my beloved Master Bathroom is going to be used as an actual bathroom and not a pet nursery, pet covalence room, or a pet isolation room.

What is the Old Norse word for “Twitcy?” Right before Freyja was due to deliver she escaped-again! She actually chewed through the screen window and escaped. That was the same week the projected weather was to reach 105 F. Yes, we were frantic. Yes, we looked every where. Yes, we put food out and lots of water. Yes, we prayed that she would be smart enough to find a safe and cool refuge. Yes, we drew the Viking Kiddos together and prepared them for the inevitable. Then to our surprise! Freyja sightings! We grew concern when we discovered she wasn’t pregnant any more. We looked every where for signs of the kittens. Last week found them!

Last Wednesday night as Viking Dad and I were preparing for bed we heard very loud mewing sounds. Freyja had come into the house finally without her kittens and didn’t seem concern about returning to them. Viking Dad rushed outside with a flashlight and located the two tiny two week old kittens. Of course the one location we didn’t look in we found them.  Now, as I reflect back on the sightings I  remembered that this was the same spot that Freyja would have some nasty cat fights with some of the feral cats and one of our cats. She was protecting her babies!

We brought the tiny kittens inside and placed them in a hamper with clean towels. I gently coaxed Freyja into the Master Bathroom to take care of her babies. She sniffed, looked at them and then hissed at them. She basically, scrambled over me to escape. I was crushed! Viking Dad dutifully at 11:30 pm went to the only store open, WalMart, to get kitten formula.

Sadly, that very next morning one of the kittens past away. I have to say at least she was warm and safe and not given to the elements. But, the second little one was still alive and very active.  The next day the Viking Kiddos stayed home sick with Viking Dad while I went to work. Viking Dad dutifully cleaned, fed and kept the little one warm through out the day.

We honestly thought this little one was going to make it. We even started to come up with names. Friends of Cats even offered to “baby sit” during the day while we were all at school and work. She had been eating, gaining weight, sleeping, peeing and pooping just like a healthy kittens should be doing. So, you can imagine this morning my horror, sadness and surprise when I discovered Little Fluff Ball aka Kissa had passed away.

Our family has experienced a lot of life and death on our farm. We have a growing grave yard under an oak tree of family pets that have died on the homestead. The Viking Kiddos are very accustomed to the cycle of life with the chickens and other life stock. They know that certain animals “drop their bodies” so they can feed us.

So, why did the death of this little tiny innocent creature hit us so hard? Why did it hit me so hard?
The kind lady at the Friend’s of Cats offered some comfort. We gave this little one a fighting a chance and she was safe and warm. But, sometimes Mother Nature and the Mommy Cats know things that we silly humans can’t comprehend.

This evening, the youngest of the Viking Kiddos and I curled up on the couch and together and I expressed the same bit of comfort I was given earlier in the day. We comforted ourselves that we did the best we could for the Little One and she is comfortable in heaven with her Sister and the other cats.

Sometimes, in life the paths and experiences we face defy immediate explanation. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Random Act of Kindness Tuesday- Friendship

"But, Viking Mom! She's my friend!"
"Sweetheart, friends don't hurt thier friends or say unkind words to their friends."
But, Viking Mom, she always says those things."
"Sweetheart, true BFFs do not play around with words like, 'if you don't do this I won't be your friend.' That is mean and unkind."

Raise your hand if you have had similar conversations with your children?

I was completely flabbergasted when Viking Lady Bug came home in tears one day telling me that her "friend" won't be her friend if she wasn't invited to her birthday part. This particular girl has a routine of walking up to classmates and bullying them into being their friends.

I am not sure if I handled the situation with my daughter correctly. My mind went into protection mode. This being the month of National Bullying Prevention Month I have been reading a several inspirational stories about how students and adults have overcome bullying situations. A current theme in all of these stories was the power of friendship. 

We take it for granite the friends we have in our lives. But, what is a friend? 

According to Wikipedia:

"Friendship is a relationship between two people who hold mutual affection for each other. Friendships and acquaintanceship are thought of as spanning across the same continuum. The study of friendship is included in the fields of sociology, social psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and zoology. Various academic theories of friendship have been proposed, including social exchange theory, equity theory, relational dialectics, and attachment styles.
The value of friendship is often the result of friends consistently demonstrating the following:
  • The tendency to desire what is best for the other
  • Sympathy and empathy
  • Honesty, even in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth
  • Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
  • Enjoyment of each other's company
  • Trust in one another
  • Positively strong, deep, close reciprocity, mutuality — equal give-and-take between the two parties
  • The ability to be oneself, express one's feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgement"

This definition seems so clinical but in honesty these are qualities of a good friend. 

In my classroom I have worked with Autistic students about the qualities of a good friend. We have discussed what a toxic friend is and how that is a form of bullying. One of my students coined the phrase, "Energy Vampires." These "friends" suck the energy out of someone without taking the time to reciprocate the emotions or energies. 

In one of the Inspirational stories I read on the Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Month a young survivor of bullying credits his solid friendship with his friend for helping him struggle through the emotional roller coaster of the incident. 

Now, that is a sign of a true friend. 

Bless Bless

Monday, October 22, 2012

Manic Monday

Its been a bit rough this morning. 
The Viking Family has been dealing the seasonal crud complete with croupy coughs and fevers. 

Have a great Monday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teens Against Bullying and Friday's Story

It is always an inspiration to me to see students step up and take on a cause. This month is National Bullying Prevention Month. I have been using information and ideas from a website called Pacer's.

On the Pacer site is a link for teens and children on how they can also prevent bullying in their schools. Click here for the resource link.

A Parent's Perspective on Bullying:

A Parent Advocates Perspective

Posted: 10/16/2012
"Do you believe everything happens for a reason?" she asked. I looked at her long hair strewn over my pillow. My pulse quickened a little, sensing the pain behind the question.
"Are you asking whether all this school bullying will come to some good?" I clarified.
"Yeah," she said softly.
"Well, I believe a lot of things happen because of people's choices--yours, and theirs. But OUR decisions and our responses to those choices are what make up the outcomes. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, I think so."
For a couple years, the bedtime snuggle tradition I share with my older daughter has often been heartbreaking. It's when I hear of the exclusion, insults, clothing critiques, daily lewd gestures, fat thigh lists, shoving, being hit in the privates with a paper, whisper campaigns and more she's experienced at school. A few social leaders started treating her poorly, and it has eventually spread to even her closest friends being unwilling to be her friend in public. The few who occasionally stood up to her had to deal with the wrath of the bullies. One of her last allies switched sides only last week. She's heartbreakingly generous in her assessment of some of these former friends: "They're just trying to survive fifth grade too." She has had sleep problems, hour-long crying jags, uncharacteristically defiant behavior at thome, lack of motivation, refusal to get dressed in the morning, and more.
We are working with her teacher and a wonderful therapist to encourage assertiveness. She's scared to death to engage with her classmates assertively, for fear of escalation. But I'm convinced that until she demonstrates a certain willingness to defend or counterattack, very little will change. Sometimes, when she wants to say something in defense of herself, she finds herself panicked and mute.
She calls her depressive episodes "being stuck." So far, they have lasted only days or weeks. But she and I have both been terrified at times that they will become more serious. Rule-abiding girls don't often lash out, but rather in: In my darker moments, I know that she is at risk for self-injurious behaviors, eating disorders, addictions, and more. My husband and I try to provide lots of affection and encouragement when we are with her. But will it be enough to counteract the 30-plus hours in a hostile peer environment?
I have written enough emails to the school to fill a small book. We have had two meetings with staff. The emails fell largely on deaf ears to one teacher; another has responded in very helpful ways. We have a couple strong advocates in the building now. One student's family has had to come to school to address his behavior, and since, he can't stop talking about how stupid the anti-bullying efforts are. His mom does the same thing in the hall, in front of my daughter, although she did not voice objections at the official school meeting on the topic.
Why is my daugher in particular a victim? It's hard to say. Because bullies need victims.  She's more sensitive to others' feelings as well as her own than most people. She's less willing to follow the crowd than others, in her dress and behavior. She's better read than almost anyone her age. She's stood up for other kids being bullied. She's had to wear orthotics to school at one point. She has vivid, striking hair. She's smart, and although she doesn't brag as some boys do, she doesn't try to hide it as many of the girls do, either.
She is only 10. And she has seen far more of the dark side of people's social behavior than many adults. She's doing her best, and we're doing our best to advocate for her. We participated in a PACER Center anti-bullying walk, and she enjoyed seeing hundreds of people who understand we're not just imagining this horrible experience--just trying to deal with it the best she can. Does everything happen for a reason? I don't think it's all so grandiose and predetermined. I still think a couple brave bystanders could turn this around any week now.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Teasing vs Bullying

"But, Viking Mom I was only teasing."
"So, why is your sibling crying?"
"But, I was just teasing."

Okay, so raise your hand if you have heard that one before?

Bullying is a current topic on the Viking Homestead. Despite having the personas of  Vikings we also have to deal with the realities of bullying.

The controversy between teasing and bullying is a tricky one; I have to admit. In the classroom I bring a lot of play and goofiness in due to the nature of some of my students disabilities. I rather play then do something boring anyways. Many of my students do not know how to play or just goof off with out being mean.

Teasing and bullying usually involves in poking fun at someone in a away that is thought to be funny, looking foolish, mocking, taunting, or joking around. Teasing and bullying can become physical. Tickling is also a form of teasing. When tickling becomes uncomfortable then it crosses a line.

The difference is that teasing generally involves a mutual sense of play. Teasing rarely involves religion, race, appearance or other important characteristics. It also doesn't hurt feelings.

Bullying does not involve a mutual sense of play and it will always include religion, race, appearance, or other important characteristics. Bullying is also considered a power play between the bullying and the target. Bullys will often target a person to manipulate or harass that target. It always leaves the target hurt feelings and does harm.

 I have always adviced the Viking Children that if they are being teased by someone and they don't like it they need to speak up. The motivation of the "teaser" becomes irrelevant and the teasing becomes a form of bullying.  Teasing can be as harmful as bullying, and for young ones can be perceived by a child be the same thing.

"Do not let your self worth be defined by a bully."

As parents we need to be our children's advocate and first line of defense. Speak up and take action of teasing becomes a form of bullying.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anti Bullying Resources

Anti-Bullying Resources

Unfortunately, bullying has become an all-too-common issue among teenagers lately, and it is happening all around the world. Check out these organizations that are actively working to stop bullying in schools. Read their suggestions, watch their videos, and look into their resources.  The more aware our students are of the negative affects of bullying, the more likely they are to help work with educators and parents to prevent it.

Ophelia, and The Bully Project are three great organizations working hard to raise awareness of and end bullying all together. A source that I have been using in my classroom and for my family comes from The month of October has been designated National Bullying Prevention Month. Pacer's motto, " The End of Bullying Begins with You."  Right On!

Read an article featuring Mary Gordon's ideas of how to bring  kindness to the classroom.

Bullying is like a cockroach. Cockroaches hate light. If we all stand up and shine a light on bullying then we can end the bullying. 

Please add to the list if you have any resources for bullying prevention.
"Knowing is half the battle."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Random of Kindness Tuesday-Inspirational Quote

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.

The 14th Dalai Lama (1935)
Head Monk Of The Gelugpa Lineage Of Tibetan Buddhism

Monday, October 15, 2012

Manic Monday- No Decaf Please on Monday

I have no idea why my Sister warns people about serving decaffeinated coffee to me on Monday morning......

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Inspirational Stories

"Don't let your self worth be defined by a bully." 
 Powerful words.... 

Emotional Win

Posted: 9/10/2012
The topic of bullying is never an easy topic to bring up even after all these years. In fact now, when people heard that I was bullied as a child they tend not to believe me until I dig into the painful facts from the past. The problem today is people do not realize that bullying leaves a lasting effect on a person's life. Words hurt and emotional pain lasts a much longer time than physical pain. 
As a child because my parents were of a different ethnicity it made me look different than other classmates.  I was called so many names so much to the point so my parents even suggested I conceal what nationality I was. My most tramautizing bullying experience was in fourth grade when all the students formed a petition in the class claiming I was "the ugliest student."
The bullying lasted for about 4 years and instead of telling someone I kept it all bottled inside.  By high school I had grew into my looks and achieved popularity but was extremely angry with rage and hurt inside. This led me down a destructive path to which made me lash out at my parents because I blamed them for the bullying because of their nationality.
The only shine of light I had in me was I refused to bully anyone even though I had become part of the "popular crowd" because I knew what kind of pain and suffering it brought. One day after reading a story about a teen commiting suicide because of bullying, I decided I was not going to let this painful part of my past dictate who I was to become. It does take time to heal from bullying but it will happen. 
There is no greater high in the world than overcoming the feeling of beating your bullies not physically but emotionally.  From a bullied elementary school kid, I am now a college graduate with a degree and lead an enjoyable life.  As for my bullies? They did not get very far and that is the best strength once can receive.


I understand how Chole feels. As a kid I had a learning disability that took me out of the class twice a week. It left a stigma and a deep rooted fear inside of me. It didn't help that I was also bullied by my 4th grade teacher and later by a 6th grade teacher. Can you image having some one in a position of authority and protection also tease you? It motivated me to become a teacher later down the road. Deep down I never wanted another student with a disability or other health issues to feel like I did. My secret revenge. I have become a successful teacher, mother and mentor. 
~ Viking Mom

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Belated Happy Leif Ericksson Day

Columbus did not discover America. He followed the maps that the Vikings, the Welsh, the Irish created.

Happy Leif Ericksson Day!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Random Act of Kindness-Bullying

October is Bullying Prevention Month. 

There are many ways to prevent bullying. However, once someone is bullied the emotional toll they experience can be devastating. A random act of kindness can mean the world to someone who has experienced bullying. 

Share your acts of kindness!

Here are some ideas:

- send a supportive text or Facebook message to a friend who's been bullied

- sit with someone at lunch who is usually left out

- volunteer at a community centre or charity

- holding open a door for someone

The smallest acts of kindness and support can make the biggest difference in a person's life - especially if they've been bullied and are feeling down. Lets spread our message of kindness, respect and generosity.

Random Act of Kindness will also stop bullying. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

National Bullying Prevention Month-Friday Story

The Month of October is National Bullying Prevention Month

This is the time to empower ourselves, our children, students, friends, love ones, families and strangers to take back their personal power from the bullies. 

"Do Not Let Your Self-Worth be Defined by a Bully"

This one hit home to me. I have heard many of my female students tell stories like this one. 

I Was Bullied

Posted: 9/10/2012
At the end of last school year, I was happy. But as the last day of school ended, these 3 girls texted me. All of their messages said just about the same thing:
"We were never friends. You're annoying and I never liked you. Don't talk to me anymore."
I was broken. I thought these 3 girls were my friends. Apparently not. One of the girls continued to bully me. She called me a stalker for looking at pictures of my friends—that she was tagged in, and that's why she called me a stalker—and she harassed me. The others made me feel awkward whenever I got close to them. As time went on, I talked to people about it.
Everyone tells to to get over it, that it's over. But it's not. It happened.
Then this one girl came along. Her name was Lauren :) When I told her about my issue this is what she said:
Oh well I know those girls can be nice
and idk how she's really like with
people she doesn't like but I'm sorry
it's not a big deal and that one girl-she's
making a big deal over nothing. Ur not
a stalker. What you do isn't her
business but don't worry about it. You
didn't do anything wrong just ignore it  all.
Yea I'm older but even I get annoyed by younger and older people.
I'm sorry, don't let it get to you! No one
should hate you. There's nothing to
hate- honestly your fine :) Don't let
that meanie get to you because you did
nothing wrong ok?? Please
She made me feel so much better. Now and then people get to me but it's ok. Sometimes I'm still sad about them faking friendship but I got over it. They're the mean ones.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bullying- Hot Topic!!

I have been wanting to post something about bullying for some time. But, I have not found the words to really eloquently write about the topic. 

As a teacher I deal with bullying on a daily basis. It breaks my heart to watch students deal with the emotional impact that "teasing" creates. I have had the displeasure of sitting on an expulsion board and re-tell in graphic detail the bullying a student of mine experienced at the hands of an older student. 

Bullying also is an issue we deal with on the Viking Homestead. The Viking Kiddos have also experienced bullying and it breaks my heart to watch the confusion and hurt on their face. It also pisses me off!

I have also been a victim of bullying. Yes, Viking Mom in all her confidence has also experienced bullying. 

Bullying is a learned behavior. It starts at the home. It is not an opinion or "freedom of speech."

"Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of racereligiongendersexuality, or ability. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target"." 
~ Wikipedia

There are over 83,700,000 results on the word "bullying."

How does one stop bullying and teach "self defense" to love ones?

As much as I would love to go "All A-Viking" on some of the bullies out there it is not legal nor does it really stop the problem. 

There are two Middle Schools in our Humble Little Town. They have two seriously polar opposites ways of dealing with bullying. 

School A:  Bullying happens. It is illegal. Lets meet the County Sheriff and the County District Attorney and learn about how illegal bullying is. And here is a form to report the crime. 

School B: Bullying is happens and it is illegal. But, bullies win when they take the targets power away. The school teaches empowerment and self esteem building. A student's strong self esteem and empowerment will encourage them to stand up to the bully and also report the crime. 

Empowerment! Taking the power back from the bullies... These all resonated with me when I watched this video. 


"Do Not Let a Bully Determine Your Self Worth!"

Please share this..... Take back the power from the bully!!