On the night of April 14, 2016, a dear friend passed away due to complications from severe pneumonia.  She had been under an inordinate amount of stress and her body couldn’t fight it off.  She was someone who helped me deal with my own issues with workplace bullying, but in the end, it was that same kind of stress that took her life.  Please, please, please understand that workplace bullying harms people.  It harms health and it take lives.  I’m saddened, shocked and angry that this happened to such a special lady.

Workplace bullying has affected me directly and it has also affected many people that I know and care about.  There are still too many people that are unaware of this phenomenon and some who feel that it’s just something experienced by “weak people who don’t have a backbone.”

The friend that so many of us lost that night was far from weak.  She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known.  Bullies don’t attack the weak.  They attack the high performers, the competent workers who make the inept bullies feel threatened.  Bullies are the weak ones. 

Workplace bullying is very real.  Statistics reveal that many workers have experienced bullying as either a target or as a witness.  Workplace bullying affects most workplaces to some degree.  And its effects are deadly.  The stress it causes attacks vital organs in the body.  It causes depression, anxiety and PTSD. People commit suicide because of the terrible pain caused by it. It exacerbates already existing health conditions. 

If anyone wants to learn more, and I hope many do, please inbox me and I’ll direct you to several resources.  Workplace bullying is not BS. At any time, a bully may direct their wrath at you or someone you care about.

God bless my friend and her family, especially her grandsons who she loved so much and who will miss her terribly.

To: Amy Buttery, Ventura, California
From: Drew Mitchell, NW Illinois

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” Gimli, from “The Fellowship of the Ring” (JRR Tolkien)

Take a close look at the attached pictures. Can you explain the purpose of your comment and your purpose for attempting to explore my website? I refuse to believe that you were trying to access another website that was having the exact same issues that mine was at that exact same period of time. The screenshot from your Facebook page was taken during the period that I was having issues with my server. The message from the server has much the same language that your Facebook status had, although I believe the “belly button lint” comment was uniquely yours. In other words, do not accuse people of doing things that you yourself are guilty of.

Enough said on that. Please continue reading.

First of all, I admit that there were things I did wrong that first weekend of October 2012. I did my best to apologize to you for any disrespect I showed and/or any pain I caused you that weekend. I admit that up until you ended our friendship, I thought there was still a chance for us to reconcile our differences. I thought the world of you and wanted nothing but the best for you. As of this writing, I have so many mixed feelings about you, but I still hope for you a happy and successful life.

I would think that my behavior that weekend should have tipped you off that something was wrong. I was not myself. You had known me long enough to know how I typically behave. You had made statements over the previous three years that I was a lovable person, that you understood my condition and you never allowed it to have any bearing on how you felt about me. You seemed sympathetic and empathetic to my condition. You even signed some of your emails to me with X’s and O’s at the end. I thought we were pretty good friends despite the fact that we only knew each other through the Internet.

I have PTSD, depression and panic disorder. My condition was partly to blame for my behavior over the weekend in question.

The thing that hurt worst was that whenever I tried to explain what I was going through over that weekend, you would not allow me to, citing that you were very busy. It was as if your entire viewpoint of me had changed. I could not understand how anything I did that weekend was so bad that a five minute explanation was so out of the question for you. Instead, you acted like I was a hunk of dog crap on your shoe that you wanted to be rid of.

If you had allowed me to explain myself, you would have learned that I was grieving that weekend. It was the 25th anniversary of my mom’s death. The first week in October is always rough for me; the fact that 2012 marked 25 years since her death was extremely difficult for me. I don’t expect you to understand the effect the death of a parent has, especially when lost by someone early in their life (I was 24 when my mom died). I hope and pray that your mother has a long life so you don’t experience that kind of pain each and every year over a long period of time.

My mother meant the world to me. She was my first best friend. She comforted me when bullies tormented me. She went nose-to-nose with school officials who had made the bullying worse by dismissing it as a “rite of passage.” She stood by me when I was at my lowest. She hugged me and told me how proud she was when I beat all odds and was named salutatorian of my high school class. I live my life as a tribute to her. I want to continue to make her proud of me. My only regrets are that she didn’t see me graduate with honors from college and that she never got to see me get married. So that is who I was grieving the weekend that you ended our friendship. Mama had her faults, but she always loved me unconditionally. I will take that knowledge to my own grave.

Do you remember the chapter from a book I was writing at that time that I sent for you to read? The working title was “Behind Blue Eyes.” The book has little to do with the song by The Who and everything to do with my mom, who had deep blue eyes. I guess I thought you were pretty special to let you read something like that. Instead, you made the manuscript the centerpiece of your anger against me that Monday. I haven’t touched that manuscript since you ended our friendship – too many memories of what you did. I had intended for the book to be finished and dedicated to her in honor of that anniversary. I guess that was why I rushed you about reading it. I’m still very sorry for that. I know I could have explained it better, especially if my emotions hadn’t been all over the place.

If you had asked a few questions, maybe you would have understood my state of mind, the heartache I was dealing with and then maybe you would’ve felt differently about me. I tried like crazy to apologize for allowing my emotions to get the better of me, but you were so busy that a time to discuss things never came up. I wanted to tell you so badly that I was not coping well in dealing with one of the WORST events of my life had made me act so differently than usual and that I was so sorry that my behavior had hurt you.

I waited all that day to hear something, anything, from you. Monday evening you said you were still busy. I needed help from you to understand where I stood with you. Then, later that Monday night, you bawled me out because it was after 11:00 at night when I emailed you, saying that it was not your “job or responsibility to validate me,” and that I should help myself. I never asked for validation from you. And how could I help myself? I needed answers that only you could give.

In my defense, there’s a two hour time difference between us, so I was awake at 1:00 AM because I was unable to sleep. I was driving myself crazy with worry at every turn that whole day. Yes, I should’ve been more respectful toward you, but my own well-being was at risk as well. It was a vicious cycle.

Even the next day (Tuesday, October 9, 2012), I asked you to allow me to explain and you said not to bother, that all was cool. I thought all was forgiven. I even “blessed” you for being so wonderful. I told you I loved you like a little sister. Then you blocked me from every site we were friends on. That hurt me so much. That was the anniversary of the day that we buried my mom. Just one bad coincidence after another. By this time, I was numb.

I soon learned that my wife sent you an email wanting to know what happened between us. I learned of this the next day (Wednesday). She asked for your help because she was worried I might harm myself (which I never intended). You didn’t respond; instead, you blocked her. When I learned this, it hit me like an ice pick to the heart. At that point I knew that I no longer meant anything to you, if I ever had.

You told me many times that you didn’t want to look like a self-absorbed teenager. Yet those three days sent me into flashbacks where I was dealing again with the mean girls in high school that made my life a living hell. It was awful. All of this and having to deal with real life: working when I could, taking care of our foster kids, and trying to be a good husband, all without turning into a raving lunatic.

I went to my therapist and told her about all that had happened. Instead of the usual treatment plan she used with me, she treated me using grief counseling. Essentially, I needed to cope with losing your friendship much as I dealt with the death of my mom. The similarity was mind-numbing. And the flashbacks? They lasted for quite a while. Eventually I started seeing a psychiatrist who would put me on a cocktail of medications to alleviate my symptoms as much as possible.

Through a lot of hard work and perseverance (and no thanks to you), I am doing much better. But to put things in perspective, prior to our falling out, my therapist listed my condition as being in “partial remission.” Afterward, my inability to cope caused a major setback. I’m not blaming you; I blame myself for failing to utilize the coping mechanisms I had previously learned. I was in a tailspin that started that weekend and I failed to get myself out of it. If it happened today, I believe things would have come out differently. I am a stronger person today than I was two years ago.

I will say that because of this experience, I learned some valuable lessons. I no longer trust easily. I’m more cautious with my feelings. I understand that online acquaintances and close friends are not necessarily the same thing. I believe you only saw me as some Internet guy, someone who lived in a box called a phone or computer that you visited when opportunities presented themselves. You were special to me. I trusted you. I never lied to you. I was loyal to you. And except for the events of that weekend, I treated you with respect. I honestly believe that I placed more significance on our friendship than you did.

I used to think that if things were reversed, I would have forgiven you. Except now I’m not so sure. All I know from you now is hatred. I’m tired of being blamed for bad things that happen to you. And I’m still curious about that bit of lurking you did on my website. Glass houses, dear. Glass houses. (smh)

In a few months, I intend to publish my first children’s book.  It is called “I knew a girl named Buttercup Bloom.”  It is a fact-based story about my struggles with bullying.  “Buttercup Bloom” is a composite character of several people from my childhood and into my adult life.  The first person that the character is based on is my first girlfriend, Marta, that I met at the age of seven.  The most recent person she is based on is someone named Amy, a person who taught me a lot about friendship, probably without her even knowing it.

I hope with the release of this book, I can call attention to the stigma of bullying throughout the lifespan.  It is something that goes on from the playground to the board room and from face-to-face interactions to cyberspace.  I am a staunch anti-bullying advocate, as I hope “I knew a girl named Buttercup Bloom” will prove.

And now, the excerpt.  Be kind, it is still a rough draft!

I knew a girl named Buttercup Bloom.  I met her Once Upon a Time when we were young and I last saw her after we had grown up.  When I met her, summer’s green leaves were changing to the reds, yellows and oranges of fall. She had bright eyes and a smile filled with pretty white teeth. She wore cute yellow dresses that were the color of buttercups, just like her name. 

I let Buttercup Bloom into my life during a very sad time. I met her after my mother had died from a very bad illness. At first, it seemed that Buttercup Bloom didn’t like me. I may have annoyed her at times. But in no time, Buttercup Bloom filled the empty space that my mother’s death left in my life. She could never take Mama’s place, but she didn’t need to either. Talking to Buttercup was very easy and she became almost as good of a friend as my mother had been.

My name is Wes Wormer. I was not well-liked at school. Kids would pick on me because I looked funny to them, especially mean girls and one particular big boy. I didn’t have good eyesight, so I wore thick glasses. I had big ears that stuck out from my head like handles on coffee cups. They thought my last name was funny, and instead of calling me by my right name, they called me “Wes Wormy.” I was smaller than other kids, so the big boys liked to hit me and throw me to the ground.  I had horrible ear infections when I was young, which left me partially deaf in my left ear. This affected my speech, so I talked kind of funny as a kid. The other kids picked on me because of it.  Later, in high school, I was often shoved against or into one of the lockers near the cafeteria.  Yeah, lunchtime was usually quite eventful.

Mama stood by my side and tried to make me feel better.  She couldn’t be with me at school, but she was there for me at home.  Many times she saw me cry and she tried to say the right things to make me feel better.  In some ways, she over protected me.  I couldn’t try out for Little League and I couldn’t join Boy Scouts.  I think Mama was afraid I’d get hurt.

Buttercup Bloom was different than other kids. She didn’t make fun of me. After she got used to me, she spoke to me like I was any other kid. I never had to think about how I looked or about my funny name or my poor health – none of that seemed to matter to Buttercup Bloom.  Buttercup even liked my glasses.  She would take them off of my face and put them on herself, saying they made her look “sophisticated!”

My Examiner article from August 23, 2013.  Hopefully it’s helpful advice for budding freelancers.

September is “Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month.” Many writers and editors earn a living as freelance workers. A freelancer is someone who sells services to clients without the commitment of long-term employment to any one person. Freelance writers and editors are able to work on a variety of projects for various clients at fees that are agreed upon between the client and the freelancer. This allows freelancers to diversify their skills and improve their portfolios while working with different people.

Reasons for becoming a freelancer

Freelancing is wide open with opportunities for professionals in many areas. Forbes lists the writing professions as some of the top areas where freelancing continues to be a prosperous option. Many people begin freelancing to escape the routine of the traditional workplace. They want the freedom to set their own hours, rates of pay, assignments they want to work on and the ability to work wherever they choose. Some do it because of the lagging job market and the inability to find suitable work in the private sector. Still others choose to freelance because of family obligations such as child or elderly care issues or health concerns.

Read more here.

 

The long-awaited sequel to Stephen King ‘s classic “The Shining” is on its way.  It is due for release on September 24, 2013.  Be one of the first to read it  by clicking on the link above.

Amazon Product Description:

Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the King canon.

My review:
Harry Potter’s creator takes a pseudonym, learns the “F” word along with other colorful words and uses them. A lot. And BTW, this is a pretty good detective novel. Give it a try if you can get past JK Rowling’s use of expletives. Many, many expletives.

Amazon Product Description:

A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

It has been a while since I added any new content here!  I hope to remedy that. Over the past year and a half, my wife and I have been busy being foster parents to two mischievous boys, ages seven and nine.  Well, they have now been back with their biological family for a month and the “empty nest” is starting to become more and more real to me.

Now that I am not playing “Mr. Mom” anymore – at least until a new placement comes into our home – I will have more time for one of my other great loves – writing.  Not that I have been completely dormant as a writer.  I have a few projects that I am working on, namely a children’s book and a sort of memoir, both revolving around the topic of bullying.  I also continue my assignments at Examiner.com as the Rockford (IL) Workplace Issues Examiner.  You can find my work for Examiner here.

As I progress on the books I am writing, I will give updates here. I also plan to post some excerpts as they become available.  I am targeting the middle of 2014 for publication of both books.  They will be available on Smashwords and Amazon.  Until then, keep reading whatever you can get your hands on, even if it’s just for a few minutes per day.  Keep your brain sharp and your heart open!

By Laurie Mega | November 1, 2012

As a freelance writer, you certainly want to present the best writing you can. Knowing how to write content that is well-written and well-researched gives you credibility and makes you shine in the eyes of your editor. When an editor is considering writers for the next assignment, you get the call.

However, there is another way to stand out in your editor’s mind. We all have our bad days, sure, but there are certain gaffes that, if they show up in your work consistently, will make your editor cringe and file you away in his or her brain as a weak writer.

To help you navigate the sometimes-uncertain world of web content, I thought I would share the top ten pet peeves that make most editors wince. But rather than looking at this as a list of peevish complaints, think of it as a handy checklist to go through before you submit a piece. I promise, your editor will be grateful.

So without further ado, here are the top ten editorial no-nos that make your editor grimace.

Continued @ How to Write Content: Top Ten Writing Gaffes and How to Make Them Work for You | Skyword.