Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Beth Anne, you are not Jesus."

I don't think I have written a post, a story from my childhood. This oldie but goodie has been, in front of my mind's eye for a long time to share. I am in the process of overhauling this blog but I can't wait any longer to write and share these stories. I am really excited for the new name and look and feel of the the meantime, I will share pieces of where I came from - experiences that shaped the woman I am now.

Now that we are raising kids and hearing the word, "bully" almost daily, from our kids and the media - I can no longer remain quiet about bullying. I don't disagree that bullying is something our kids are confronted with. Cyber bullying is a real problem. I believe there are ways to not give cyberspace so much power. Are we monitoring what our kids are participating in online? Are we requiring our kids to be the representative branch of our family unit? Are we doing activities and spending time with our kids while unplugged? Are we forcing our kids to use their imagination and create play time apart from the internet and electronics. I haven't perfected this concept. Some nights, I lose the battle, out of sheer exhaustion and lack of energy to "deal" with it. Though, it is easier now that the weather is nice. I send them outside. Then the neighbors get to witness the grumbling, eye-rolling, limbs flailing, misdirected frustration towards siblings, then mama bear's booming alpha-male voice rolling out of our humble home to remind them they are being ridiculous. It is so weird how that voice works. My overall point is this: are we helping, in fact, empowering our kids? Are we holding them accountable for their words? Their actions?
We have a serious epidemic and bullying is only the product of this epidemic- family units are broken. Kids and their activities have parents running ragged. I can't get into all of that. Another post. Don't tell me, but when was the last time you really had family time? At home? Around the table? Conversing with the family you created? We can rationalize and make any event fit "family time". But you know what I am asking. The other evening, we turned tv off. It was raining outside. We nixed the kindle and iPad and video games. We listened to music and enjoyed watching our kids play on the living room floor with each other and our Tilly. It. Was. Awesome. Truly.

Part of my frustration comes from knowing I was bullied several times in grades 6&7. Now, the word "bully" gets used because socializing is tough sometimes. But true bullying? Well......let me just share my experience.

I was 12 when my parents separated. Looking back now, I wonder if this made me a vulnerable target? What I do know is my mom was the one present when I'd come home crying and defeated. I had always been feisty. I still am. This part of my personality makes my husband giggle. I digress......    After my parents separated, it changed me. I felt vulnerable and unprotected. Plus, we had started going to church regularly and I had learned about Jesus turning the other cheek and as a firstborn, perfectionist child that lived for pleasing adults - I wanted to learn the lesson of what it is to turn the other cheek.
I don't remember the details of what started the bullying. I remember it was about a boy. I was in 7th grade. He was in 9th grade. An 8th grade girl liked him and he liked me. The 8th grade girlfriends started taunting me. I had never met them prior to the bullying. They wrote nasty words on my locker door. The group of them (4-5) would follow close behind me, down the hall and step on the back of my shoes. They'd dead leg me as I stood at my locker. There were only 2 of the girls that were particularly nasty. They started sitting at the table behind my girlfriends and I at lunch. The day these two sat on either side of me, and made my friends make room for them, then pulled my hair, in sharp, short tugs, made fun of the way I ate, called me names -  that was the day I went home crying and told mom what was going on. I wasn't actually "going with" the 9th grade boy. I wasn't allowed to "go with" anyone . I remained quiet and didn't cry (to my remembrance) in front of them. I was turning the other cheek. I hadn't done anything wrong and the more I remained quiet, the worse they got. I went home a mess, the day they started kicking and shoving me as I exited the lunchroom. There would always be a bottleneck, in the hallway where all exited. They were kicking, shoving me from behind and pulling my hair. That night, I cried to mom. She had already placed a call to the school guidance counselor - and my mother was visibly frustrated. I had dealt with this crap for over a week.
Finally, my mom looked at me and asked, "Beth, why are you letting them do this? You rough house with your father. You know how to get them to back off." I started bawling and said, "because Jesus would turn the other cheek!" My mom has a look when she means business and of all mother's looks, hers is the best. While I was staring back at her with my big eyes, tears mother lowered her head, set her jaw, grabbed my chin and with her big eyes looked into my soul and said, "Beth Anne? You are not Jesus."

*blink* *blink*

Mom continued to say she would back me to defend myself against these girls since the school had done nothing - to not fear the consequences but she expected me to stand up for myself the way she knew I was capable of doing. Since it would be two against one, I also remember her saying, "But once you start, don't you stop." Boy oh was like my whole thought process turned upside down and it felt good to know that I had my mom's support and that if there was any more crap, I would put an end to it. I knew I could do it. I was scared shitless, but I knew I could do it.

The next day at school, it all started again at lunchtime. They wouldn't allow me to talk to my girlfriends. They were making remarks about how they couldn't wait til lunch was over so they could knock me down in the hallway. I knew Mt. Saint Hoffman was ready to blow. I was intentional to wait til we were in the hallway because I'd have better leverage standing than sitting. We got about 4 steps out of the lunchroom when one of them shoved me from behind, almost did knock me down. But I bent over, gathered my power in my legs, and turned into Taz from Looney Tunes. I spun around and decided I would wail the one right behind me though I didn't know which one it was. Turned out it was the short chick with the huge jugs for an 8th grader. With all my force I knocked her backwards by hitting her square in the chest with the length of the top of my forearm. Then.....I don't remember much except the other one dove at me and I did whatever I did. The only thing I remember was they were both crying and my little league baseball buddies, pulled me off the one, on the floor, while the circle of students was huge and not very loud considering the amount of students present. I remember more of an awed hush. My buddies boo'ed the 2 girls down the hall and I was a trembling mess.

Then the tears came and the fear came because of my actions and because the girls ran away from me really upset too. My friends gathered around and we got collected to head to Mr. Yarger's health class. I couldn't stop shaking and all the blood was rushed to my head. Mr. Yarger stood, in front of his desk, his arms crossed his chest and he began talking about whatever chapter we were covering. Let me say, in case I have not at this point, I was a teacher's pet a few times in my life, a great student, the good manners, sweet, respectful. I knew I was not going to be able to sit there any longer.
I slowly raised my hand while Mr. Yarger was talking. "Yes, Miss Hoffman?"
My voice cracked, "Mr. Yarger, may I be excused to go to Mr. Hopkins office?"
 "Now Miss Hoffman? Why?"
"Well sir, I just got into a fight after lunch with two eighth graders and I need to go see the guidance counselor."
"YOU? Miss Hoffman? YOU were in a fight??"
Then one of my baseball buddies burst out, "YES! And she beat the crap out of them!" The class started cheering and laughing and they were still in shock, as I was.
"Yes, Miss Hoffman. You may go see Mr. Hopkins."
The class cheered as I got up from my desk and exited the classroom. I got into the hall and my knees almost buckled. I'll never forget the feeling......I feel it as I write.

Needless to say, Mr. Hopkins was not pleased with me. I was the first one in his office. He hadn't caught word of this fight yet. I was reporting it, which also shocked him. He summoned the other 2 girls - gave us a talking to. Then he called my mother because there would be consequences. My mother sat across from him with the same look she gave me when she affirmed I was not Jesus. ;) It was a short meeting and I had no consequences because my mother reminded him that she had made him aware of the girls bullying me. He said something about how I should have come to him. She said, "I told her to stand up for herself since you were doing nothing." He asked, "You gave her permission to fight?!?!" My mother, with her look, said, "Yes. It was that, or call a magistrate." Meeting over. And I went and looked up the word, "magistrate". hahahahahahaha!

By the end of that school year, one of the girls had sought me out [the non-jugs one] and apologized for what happened. We were never friends but it was nice to know I could make eye contact with them again and not worry.

I was bullied two other times, in my life. Once was the neighbor boy chasing me off the bus to kiss me and I busted his braces. I was a 6th grader, he was an 8th grader. I had another occasion, in high school, where I wrote a satire piece and volunteered to read it out loud, in the class, because all who it was intended for were sitting, in that class. That's my favorite way I combated bullying.

Brains and brawn are a good combination. ;)

Besides, reliving a good story, from my life - I think of these challenges often, as a parent. It's a different world we live in. The question remains: Are we empowering our kids to take care of themselves? Are we building their confidence when they aren't capable of weighing out the options? Tragedy is tragic. So is creating little humans that don't know their worth and how they learn victimhood over self-empowerment.

xoxoxo~ Beth 

What would I tell my 18 year old self?

It's graduation time. The time when so much buzz about having our houses spic and span for the onslaught of visitors and the hub-bub about keeping up with the Jones'.... right? is about the rite of passage, going from a "kid" to adult as our graduates exit high school and go to college AND again as they go from college to "the real world".

I sound cynical. I get annoyed at the fluff and nonsense we pump our graduates with. They are intelligent. Keep it real. Want to inspire them?  Speak with them, not at them, about the challenges ahead, which are completely surmountable and if they turn out to be insurmountable? Well...that's why there is yoga, exercise, journaling, traveling, and the good ole nose to the grind theory. Here's a sample of what my near 40 year old self would tell the 18 year old me.

1) Breathe - it's not overrated.
2) You are flawed - embrace it.
3) You are not on the earth to please and impress!
4) Your mama still knows you best!
5) At 18? Self love is the most life changing.
6) If it doesn't add value, don't do it. If you do it -  don't be blaming.
7) Your mama is right.
8) No one made you do anything!
9) Making decisions to please family members and then blaming family members for having made the wrong  decision is irresponsible, cruel and child's play.
10) Error much? Own it.
11) Rejoice much? Re-live it.
12) Life is unfair when it comes to cancer or death  of loved ones. Otherwise? Life is life. STD's, sucky grades and DUI fines are results of poor decisions. Period. End of sentence.
13) God is real. Don't worship yourself, don't direct your  worship as if to a far- off land. Worship your Source, your Creator, living in you.