Monday, July 28, 2014


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

We began our BULLY FOR YOU journey on May 12th when I announced a series of guest posts, and one week later, I reviewed our special BULLY FOR YOU book, Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal by Karl Schonborn. To read the review, click HERE. If you haven't read the book yet, I encourage you to do so. It's packed with interesting information about Karl's life. He defeated the bullies who tormented him because of his cleft lip and palate, became a champion debater, traveled the world, and earned more than one college degree. He has what some people call "book smarts," but he has plenty of common sense, too.

I'm so pleased that Karl has weighed in on the BULLY FOR YOU guest posts when he could. He's been a pretty busy guy and undertook a book promotion tour while we were reading and pondering part of the series. Today, Karl provides a capstone to BULLY FOR YOU, by writing the final guest post.

Here's Karl:

Here's his book, which you can order at or

You can learn far more about what Karl experienced by reading his book, but for now, here's Karl Schonborn's guest post:

Dad dropped me off near the Varsity Theater on a Saturday afternoon in Palo Alto. I was happy because he and Mom had given me money for four movies in lieu of having a party on my 12th birthday. After I spotted the Art Deco sign of the theater a coupla blocks ahead, I stepped into a side street to check my money for It Came From Beneath the Sea, about a killer octopus. I wanted to see if I’d have any left over for popcorn and an ice cream bar.
Soon, despite the summer sun glinting in my eyes, I made out the silhouettes of Perry walking toward me from one side and Brad from the other. Mom had told me to never be with either bully, let alone both of them. She also said, don’t ever show your money in public
            “Going to Hsee a Hmovie?" Brad asked, mimicking my nasal speech.
            “None of your business," I retorted.
            “It's the monster movie today," Perry said.
“Give us the money, Squish Nose,” Brad demanded.    
As they closed in on me, I could feel my heart pounding and see sweat on Brad's upper lip. 
         “Give us the f***in’ money!" Brad insisted.
         “No! Go f**k yourselves!” I said.
With that, Brad wrestled the dollar bills from my grip.
       “Scram, Dipshit, before we beat you,” Perry threatened. “And don't tell a soul!”
          I bolted like a madman out of the side street onto the main street, my face expressing the anger my legs acted out. Soon I encountered kids standing in the movie line in front of the theater. Kids stepped aside and others watched me pass. 
        "What's wrong?" someone shouted
        "Schonborn's crazy," another said. 
         Others looked down the street to see what I was running from.
         I kept running. Possessed, my face and psyche glowed red from exertion and embarrassment. I knew I shouldn't be running because of doctor’s orders, but I feared Brad and Perry. I ran until I could breathe no more.
          After a moment, I started fast walking, still oblivious to my surroundings. Eventually, I found myself in the residential part of town. Once home, I told Mom I'd changed my mind about the movie. She sensed something wrong, but let me brood in my room. An hour later, the phone rang. It was Dad calling from the phone booth next to the theater, wondering where I was.   
Fast forward to the present … 
My being bullied like this—combined with an early interest in nonviolence—led me to study violence and eventually conduct research into various forms of it. Government agencies funding bullying research require adherence to specific definitions. To wit, bullying  must involve
-an imbalance of power between parties,
-physical or verbal abuse/injury,
-repeated incidents of abuse/injury the above.

Interestingly, except for the twist in Rick Watson’s story about Jack the Gentle Giant being bullied, most of the incidents related in Janie’s great BULLY FOR YOU series involve an imbalance of power:
-Mr.Squid’s Wonder incident about facially-challenged 5th grader Auggie vs violence-prone 7th grader Eddie,
-the Silver Fox vs a bigger older kid, 
-Stephanie Neighbour vs a bro-sis duo whose dad was a teacher,  
-Shady vs Ross’ posse [solo v group], and
-Shady and Neighbour’s accounts of autistic/cerebral palsy kids vs normals
Generally, the BULLY FOR YOU incidents meet the other criteria for bullying (abuse/injury, repeated occurrences). I mention the criteria because the 3 criteria help researchers stay focused on “bullying,” a phenomenon that may be growing (there’s debate) that profoundly influences kids’ development and life chances (let’s hope Rachel continues her recovery). Note from Janie: I have faith that Rachel will be successful.
[Cyberbullying is growing ‘cuz it’s relatively new. It’s scary for just that reason: adults don’t know what to make of new technology, which has created “new” kids.]
The phenomena, which’ve rightly been researched, too, but aren’t “certified” bullying, include
-hazing in frats, sororities, and adult social clubs

-taunting by teammates in sports (e.g., the Miami 
             Dolphins’ Martin-Incognito affair)

-hassling and brawling among equals in families and workplaces (Sorry, Nicki   
 Elson and your coworker)

It’s life, after all!

BTW my social science colleagues would ding me if I didn’t theorize a bit. Here goes:
I’ve noticed that some BULLY FOR YOU cases seem part of society’s trying to support and enforce “norms,” those informal understandings that govern one’s behavior (e.g., shaking hands).   In most societies, people squawk when deviations from norms and “normal” threaten them.  It’s like coworkers wanting everyone to work within a range—not too fast or brilliantly, but not too slow or stupidly. Just right.
-Linda’s pretty tapdance daughter kicked and soaked with milk by a “mousy” classmate,
-Janie’s daughter Hurricane bullied for being too smart,
-Shady’s CP friend Clifton for being too slow,

-Neighbour bullied for her differentness.

I’d like to conclude by sharing some hard-earned—along with expert-derived— advice for parents re: bullying:

-wait till the 2nd nonviolent incident (forget the one-offs) in school, elsewhere
-talk with the bully/ies, the parents, teachers, playground personnel & superiors  if   
- insist that school and district policies be enforced (ditto any other institution)
-work out a nonviolent plan with all parties  

If violence is involved beyond pushing, shoving, etc., move up the ladder quickly from officials, to the police, to lawyers. Save torn clothing, broken glasses, etc.

For cyber bullying,  
-educate yourself re: the signs your kid’s being bullied (e.g., set up Google Alerts for
     your children’s names)
-learn the ins and outs of any chat rooms, message boards, IM sites, and social media 
  networks your children use
-role model care, respect, and civility in your own tech use
-notify all parties and talk things out re: teasing; use threats, attorneys, therapists if sex
impropriety or crimes are involved
-preserve evidence (emails, posts, tweets)

Don’t expect miracles. Everyone’s hands are tied in some way. Again, it’s life, after all. 

Thank you, Karl. I wish I'd been able to learn from your experience and advice twenty years ago. The Hurricane will be 28 in just a few days.

Thank you, also, to everyone who commented on a post or shared an experience. Special thanks to our guest posters: Rachel of  When A Lion Sleeps Let It Sleep, Tom of Shady Dell Music & Memories, Sherry of Mama Diaries, The Silver Fox of The Lair of the Silver Fox, Stephanie of, Nicki of Nicki Elson's Not-So-Deep Thoughts, Linda of PRACTICAL PARSIMONY, The Armchair Squid of The Armchair Squid, Rick of Life 101, and

Karl Schonborn
Author Cleft HeartChasing Normal
        Love, tragedy, mystery and triumph.
"A poignant, heartfelt tale."
                Secretary of State John Kerry  
Available at Barnes and NobleBooks Inc, Amazon  

If you want to continue our discussion by writing a guest post, then please let me know. We don't have to stop talking about a topic with which so many people need assistance or need to get what happened to them off their chests.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


  1. My pretty tap-dance daughter has a little girl, 12 now, who was born without the little toe on one foot and is missing all the foot structure along the whole side of her foot. And, one leg is slightly shorter than the other. She wears two greatly differing size shoes. As far as I know, the only bully about this issue was the principal!

    Her daughter also was born with a huge beauty mark that eventually grew much larger, over half her upper lip and then grew hairs. The g-daughter was bullied very much about this. Eventually, my daughter did have it removed and the lip repaired. Her daughter's best friend started bullying my g-daughter as they sat at some program. Granddaughter K promptly texted my daughter. My daughter then texted the girl's mother. The girl's mother texted the girl about the bullying about the huge hairy mole. So, within minutes, the problem was solved via texting. (All four were in the same room attending an assembly.) However, I thought the g-daughter should have stood up to her best friend.

    I know a parent is there to protect a child, but sometimes, especially the first time and with a good friend, the child should handle the problem or try to. My g-daughter is no shrinking violet. However, texting stopped the bully dead in her tracks. I am not sure this is good or bad.

    My daughter will not monitor anything her children do online because "I trust them." I cannot get it through to her that "trust" is not the point.

    1. Cyberspace is a dangerous place, especially for children.

    2. The texting loop described might be just be the answer in some cases. If this is a hi tech solution to lo tech bullying (verbal teasing), then all we need now is a lo tech solution to hi tech bullying (of the cyber variety).

  2. Great post, Karl. I really like that he gave a definition of bullying, because I think everyone has an idea of what bullying is, but to have a clear definition is very helpful. Also, great advice too, practical, doable. I commend you, Janie, on this series, it has been very interesting, sad, often infuriating (at the bullies, not the guest posters), but informative as well. Good job.

    1. Thank you for joining us, Pickleope.

    2. Thank you PVP. Nice to be of help. Ironically, there's more agreement, and hence funding, for research into physical as opposed to psychological, abuse/injury. No one agrees on what a hit to one's "self esteem" is, but most—even ppl in other cultures and countries—agree about a "5 stiches" laceration or a broken arm.

    3. The psychological abuse should be considered the same as children who are emotionally abused by their parents or other caregivers. It tends to lead to adults who suffer from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. It's my understanding that scientists are looking at the damage done to the brain by these childhood experiences in that connections fail to develop--the kind of brain connections that allow a person to have an emotionally healthy and happy life.

  3. I realize I arrive at Janie Junebug World late in the game, but dang! These are great posts in this series.

    The three points he made about bullying are spot-on, with the most important one being the imbalance of power. So true.

    What really speaks to me in this one (all of it is great, don't be misled!) is the part apart enforcing "norms". Gosh, that is so true! I've seen that time and time again. At a certain point in life, the world celebrates unique and creative people - but it is never when they are children, in my opinion. Childhood is all about the norm and peer groups, unfortunately, and that is when I really want to encourage those glimpses of unique talent and nurture ability. Nothing worse than unrealized potential!

    Great job, Janie!

    1. Even adults go back and forth between admiring or criticizing people who are unique. I'm so glad you joined us, Cherdo.

    2. Thanks, Cherdo, for weighing in.

      Ppl drill into our head's that life isn't fair. . . and sure enough, power imbalances exist and result in much bullying.

      Yeah, I wish ppl could tolerate a little more "deviation from the mean." Sheesh, much that is human is distributed a la the "normal curve" (e.g., conventional IQ scores), and so we should all strive to tolerate at least 1 or 2 standard deviations from the norm (the center of the hump curve).

  4. I could soooo empathize with the movie story.
    Except my tormentors weren't named Brad and Perry.
    They were Bob and Rich Zowine.

    1. I hope Bob and Rich Google themselves and find their names here.

    2. You and I should have a movie outing to see the movies we missed due to our bullies Brad and Perry and Bob and Rich. With our big boy pants on now, maybe we'd want to see "Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice."

    3. Funny, you should mention them Googling (not as dirty as it sounds) themselves. In my book, Shag Carpet Toilet (now available on Amazon for far more than it's worth!), the ONLY real names I used in that work of fiction (well, MOSTLY fiction) is that of the Zowines. I'm not really all that worried. I'm not sure either of them could read. They might have someone to read it to them in the prison library, though.

  5. Thank you, Karl, for your post. Your tips on how to deal with cyberbullying are quite useful. That is something my daughter has already begun to experience.

    1. Oh, I'm so sorry, Sherry. She shouldn't have to go through that, but I know you monitor everything your children do and will try to stay on top of it.

    2. Thanks, Sherry, for your kind words. Your vigilance will reward you in dealing with cyberbullying. Also, the fact that you are tech savvy enough to post comments on blogs means that you've got a leg up over many parents in trying to deal with the problem.

  6. Good luck to any who suffer from cyber-bullying. It's a whole new world, and not one that always matches old solutions... if indeed there were any solutions.

    1. I guess people used to receive nasty anonymous letters. Do you remember slam books? They got passed around for a while when I was in junior high.

  7. I've read about this book somewhere. My ex-husband's cousin's son was born with a cleft palate and he was absolutely the sweetest boy. They had several surgeries to correct it. I think in future generations, they'll find a way to correct it so that nobody can tell. There was an actor in the 80s--Stacy Keach, I think his name was? He always wore a mustache and you couldn't even tell, but he became fairly famous.

    1. I remember Stacy Keach. I'm glad you've heard about the book before. Spread the word, please! It's worth reading. I assisted in editing it, but when it was published, I read it all over again.

    2. Stephanie, let's hope future plastic surgeons spend more time developing refined correction techniques than they do tricks for turning 9.9's into perfect 10's in Hollywood. This will be particularly challenging vis-a-vis girls since they can't sport mustaches when they grow up like Stacey Keach and I have to hide our scars.

      What often bedevils cleft kids, tho, isn't the scars and nostril asymmetry. It's the speech difficulties which arise from messed up tissues and muscles in the speech-making parts of the mouth and throat.

  8. I've learned a lot from reading this series. Thanks to all.

    1. Thank you for joining us, Carol. I've learned a lot, too, and Karl's post ties together a lot of what I've seen in the other guest posts.

  9. Thank you, Karl, for your thoughtful post. The definitions are important. A common vocabulary is a good place to start.

    1. A common canon, too, might be useful. Your selection of "Wonder" to review was brilliant. Perhaps you and others can suggest various books parents, teachers, and people concerned about bullying can read.

  10. Karl is a gifted writer and his work benefits all of us. Bullying is such a terrible epidemic these days.

  11. I wrote my post for Janie's family-oriented website, little knowing that it would soon turn into a spicy site filled with sheer delight.

  12. Bullying has always been with us and maybe, thanks to this series Janie and the views expressed by your guests, this will teach us all a few more ways to deal with this phenomena.

    1. Yes, Janie has done a great job with this series. I'm sure it required a lot of work on her part. Bully for her.

  13. It's wonderful that you did this series, JJ. This book looks very powerful. I can't imagine a better way to rise above the bullying than to teach about it, mentor others, and write a compassionate, powerful book on the topic.

    1. Thank you. I'm dismayed that we need to talk about this topic, but I'm glad we've shared important information.

    2. Thanks for your kind sentiments, Robyn. A lot of other people, as we've learned in this Bully for You series, have managed to make lemonade out of lemons.

  14. I don't get why some people bully others, I was bullied and picked on and hated school with a capital H

    1. Not sure if you've read many of the posts in this series, but it's clear bullies more often than not have the problem, not their victims. For example, contributors to this series have pointed out that bullies frequently have had hard knocks themselves, have been influenced by lousy role models, or feel inferior in some way and find that picking on others makes them feel better.

      I'm sorry that bullies ruined school for you. Go back a few posts and read how Rachel felt about bullies and school. She's managed to turn around her life, and she seems to love learning now with a capital L.

  15. Hi Janie and Carl - it always helps to read others' stories from which we can learn ... and gives hope to others. Bullying is so invidious now-a-days .. and as you say Janie - I too am dismayed we need to talk about this subject ... but we even have slavery now in our countries ... appalling times for some people ..

    Excellent idea to write about Bullying ... Hilary

  16. This is such an important topic that sadly has only gotten worse with cyber bullying. Most of my bullying took place on the school bus, and the playground. As vivid as those memories still are, it can't compare to children and teenagers harassing others publicly online. Thanks to you, Karl, and the other writers for shedding so much light on this subject.


    1. Thanks, Julie. I think we guest posters depend on commenters like you.

      Don't minimize what can happen on a bus. Remember the 4 boys a while back who bullied an older lady who was a bus monitor. Unbelievable, but the YouTube video had a happy ending. Enough money flowed into a fund that Ms Klein was able to retire at age 68 and set up the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has promoted its message of kindness at concerts and through books.

  17. Janie,
    Thank you for hosting this series so that so many bloggers had a place to discuss such an important topic. You helped teach a lot of different people what bullying can do, how to help prevent it, and what it's like. I think you may have actually saved lives because of it. Also, thank you for your confidence in me and for the special mention.

    I am so sorry that you were bullied. It's a horrible thing that nobody should ever have to go through. I am proud to say that you turned all of that pain and negativity into something amazing. Too many people are trapped in the anger and depression. You've managed to write a book that will also change lives. Imagine a little boy or girl going through what you did, finding your book, and thinking "If he survived to do something great with his life, why can't I?"
    You tied every single post together and really did bring it full circle in a way that nobody else could have done. If there is ever a time that you want to write a guest post on my (much smaller and lesser known) blog, I would be honored to have you and tell my readers about the amazing things you've done.

    1. Your message of thanks means a lot to me, Rachel, because you've been thru the darkness of bullying and fought your way back into the light.

      I hope my book not only helps bullied kids and adults, but also anyone who has felt like an outsider at one point or other. The proof that one can not only survive hard knocks but thrive is contained in the romantic substory and various big city and high seas adventures in Cleft Heart.

      Will try to take you up on your kind invitation to write a guest blog on your site. Thanks for the offer.

  18. Some days I think if people could just see what's going on in other people's heads, these kinds of problems would disappear. It's the compassion we're lacking, the investment in other people. Sometimes I wonder what's lacking in other people's lives that contributes to them bullying.

  19. I wonder how many bullies were on the fast track to prison? I know the worst of the bullies I went to school with mostly ended up in the criminal justice system.

    1. And it's ironic (poetic justice?) that most jails and prisons expose them to an all-bully, all-the-time lifestyle ... like some horrible TV channel. Guards often get in on the bullying, too, sad to say.

      Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth, and thanks to all the other commenters and contributors who've made Janie's Bully for You series so successful.

  20. This was a great series and I enjoyed reading all the thoughtful guest posts. Since bullying seems to be on the rise it is something we should all think about and be aware of. Thanks for doing this, Janie. And thanks to every one of the contributors. :)

  21. Hi Janie and Karl,

    Such an enlightening post, straight from the heart. Thanks for such a thoughtful guest post. I do know that a bully needs an audience. A bully targets somebody they consider vulnerable to mask their own insecurities. I have been subjected to a lot of bullying. It cost me my job, my health and my marriage. Thankfully, bullies do not bully me now. I'm better than that.



Got your panties in a bunch? Dig 'em out, get comfortable, and let's chat.