Are You A Bully?

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf

printed in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of October 25, 2018

IMG_0941I feel old this week, not in terms of years but in terms of muddling through the social landscape. I do not recognize the country I grew up in. Incidents personally and in the news keep me shaking my head in lack of understanding, and I am feeling rage. Rage is not an emotion I have felt very often in my life.

A few events in the past year weigh heavily on my mind and my heart.

Three football players in the area savagely beat and injure one of their teammates who is left with lifelong brain injuries. The incident was filmed on their cellphone. This week it was in the news that the school board hired an investigator to determine whether the district’s actions in the aftermath were in compliance with the Minnesota State High School League. They were found in compliance. Case closed. The boys received minimal sentences for their part in the assault. Meanwhile, the victim and his family had to move out of state because of the friction of opinion in a small community. If you believe the news reports, the parents of the boys committing the assault felt the sentencing was too harsh and the words bandied about, at least in the papers, were “boys will be boys.”

Another scenario played out in another small Minnesota community nearby — a break-in at a home, an assault on a woman and a rape. The perpetrator was caught immediately, but then, of course, he was released on bail and the friends of this person threatened the lives of the victim so much they, too, had to move out of the community for their safety. It was yet another slap on the wrist, even though the intimidation continued.

Another close friend had this experience: The 15-year-old son was bullied, harassed and physically assaulted in their school to the point of injury because of their sexual orientation. They had to leave school to be safe and attend an online school.

And just last week a ninth-grade student commits suicide because of bullying. This young boy is gone, but the people who chose to make life miserable for another will live on to bully another day.

This past year I also did a series on domestic abuse. My friend CeeCee James described her life of abuse as a child in an abusive family. Neighbors knew teachers knew and other family members knew; however, no one spoke out — the silence of their inaction in my mind is deafening.

I see the bullying rhetoric online from adults when they don’t like something: They attack. I can’t help but wonder if these individuals were bullied growing up and haven’t escaped the cycle. Are they providing this environment for their children, which in turn leads to bullying in school because they know no different, and, when confronted, the parents don’t want to admit to it because they haven’t learned how to let go of their fear and anger?

I recently had a conversation with someone who is trying to confront their way of communicating instead of lashing out and calling names and being abusive; they are confronting their past. The person grew up with an abusive father and in looking at the children in the family, the legacy lived on in the way they communicate with others, including those they love. This person feels it is time to break the cycle, but they can’t do it without first taking responsibility for their actions.

In all of these cases, it is the victims who will live with this their entire lives. They have been sentenced; they had to leave their homes, communities, and schools, or they took their life to get away from the pain. And that fills me with rage. And it should fill you with rage, too.

We love our children, but we need to recognize they are not perfect; they will make mistakes, but to grow into an adult they also need to suffer the consequences of their actions so they can grow. We need to teach them bullying toward another is not accepted by anyone. There will be consequences.

You can’t also tell me, teachers, friends, and relatives do not know and recognize who these bullies are. Does it make a difference which side of the tracks you live on? Who you are in the communities and who you know that makes a difference in the belief and the punishment? Are we afraid to speak up because we might lose our jobs defending a student who needs defending? Or do we fear for our well-being if we say something? Ask yourself those questions.

I think a perfect sentence for bullies would not be jail, but years of service in homeless shelters where they would have to live and be under supervision, or mental health facilities, where they must confront those who have been hurt and help them. Not days, but months and years.

And maybe I will get a little political. As both Democrats and Republicans, we need to stand up in our parties and say, “This rhetoric of calling names, demeaning women, lying and being dishonest has to stop. That is not what our party is about, that is not how we want to raise our children, and we are not going to support you if you do this. There are others in our party who do live up to honesty and integrity, and we are going to elect them.”

Responsibility starts at the top and filters down to us as parents and grandparents to stop the pain, to stop the victim from being the one with the sentence. And if you don’t feel rage that all this is happening, then I don’t understand this country anymore.

Check Out 10 Local Authors This Weekend

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of October 18, 2018

One of the blessings of writing this column and being an author is meeting my readers. This past weekend I was at the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato. I met some fabulous authors and interesting people. This coming weekend the big book event is in Albert Lea.

Sweet Reads Book Store in Austin is sponsoring a book event with 10 southern Minnesota authors at the Interchange Coffee House in Albert Lea on Saturday, and I am one of them.

Small, independent bookstores are making their comeback in our society today, and Sweet Reads is very supportive of local authors. Besides myself, Sherrie Hansen, Sean Williams, Benet Stoen, Judi Bergen, Chris Norbury, Margaret Smolik, Jeffo Oilman, Lydia Emma Niebuhr, and Karl Shaper will be in attendance.

Not only will we be displaying and selling our books, but we will also be on the authoring stage for 20 minutes apiece explaining our various genres and talking about our writing. I get to start off the morning at 10 a.m. and it will be cozy, meaning cozy mysteries. Do you know what they are? I didn’t until I wrote one and was accepted by a cozy publisher, Cozy Cat Press. I was amazed to find out it is a popular category in the fiction world.

Maybe you have heard of us, or maybe these names are new to you. My problem with attending a book event is that I want to buy all of the books. Did I mention I tingle when I am in a bookstore or library? We all know about the New York Times best-selling authors and those from large publishing companies whose names and books are advertised in every magazine and online by their publishing companies. We always tend to gravitate toward these books because we feel they must be the best because we see them front and center constantly in the media.

I encourage you to read authors you have never heard of. I find by taking a chance on an unknown author, I read some of the best literature and novels. The difference between these authors not being recognized is because small publishing companies do not have the capital to advertise, and independent authors also do not have the means of promoting their books because of lack of ways for exposure. It’s work to get your name and book out there. Big stores like Barnes & Noble do not always carry small publishers or independent authors’ books because of return policies. Small publishing houses cannot meet their requirements or they would be out of business. Always ask if you can’t find the book, because they can be ordered from the store on an individual basis.

There are many books by unknown authors that are not on the New York Times best-selling list or have not won any awards but are award-winning reads in readers’ minds. What many do not know is the costs involved for a book to be considered for an award — again, small publishing houses and authors do not have the money to enter their book for the prestigious awards. The same can be said for reviews by esteemed reviewers such as Kirkus reviews. It can cost an author $425 for them to review your book. It may pay off in the end, but many independent authors and small publishing houses, again, can’t afford the cost.

What I am saying is to not write off an author or a book because you don’t see that award sticker or prestigious review on the book. Instead, read online reviews of the book by readers or talk to the author or take a chance on one book —  you may want to buy the next.

Anyone can publish a book these days, and there are those clinkers out there which are badly edited and loosely put together, but I always feel they do not have the support in a good editor — because editors, too, are expensive. But these authors had a dream and their dream has been realized — to see their book in print.

I will never be in the category of William Kent Krueger or Allan Eskens. There is a difference between a great author and a good author. I will put myself realistically in the good author category because some people do like my books. I will never win any awards, as I don’t try for any, but I have been in the top 100 Amazon Cozies with my books and I have been No. 1 occasionally when my new books come out. That is enough for me.

The best reward for my writing is to meet my readers, get to know them and see what they enjoy reading. Their lives count and so do their stories. Every person has a story in their lives. It may yet be written.

Come down on Saturday to Sweet Reads and meet the authors, share your stories and let us get to know who and how we influence your lives. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Interchange. Visit for a short time or stay for the day.

“Authors by the hundreds can tell you stories by the thousands of those rejection slips before they found a publisher who was willing to gamble on an unknown.” — Zig Ziglar

Take a gamble on an unknown

It’s All About The Dress …Code That Is

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf


Published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of September  27, 2018, ©Julie Seedorf 2018


Typical high school dress of the 60’s

Watching my cousins get ready for school while I was a visitor to their home in California many years ago, I was thankful. Yes, kids can be thankful. I was in my early grade school years. I was thankful because they had to wear uniforms in their Catholic school, and back in Minnesota I didn’t.

We had a dress code, but it didn’t involve uniforms. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses, and boys had to wear dress pants and dress shirts. In the winter in Minnesota, it gets cold so we would put on pants underneath our skirts and dresses to get to school and then take them off from under our dresses and hang them up until the end of the day. You didn’t see jeans and T-shirts, but you also didn’t see uniforms.

Parents whose kids wore uniforms to school were in favor of it. It made school shopping much easier. There were no fights or arguments about who was wearing what and if someone was better than someone else because they all looked the same.

I did a little survey on different schools in Minnesota, Iowa, and California by reading their student handbooks and occasionally asking one of the students about their dress codes.

I checked out the parents and students handbook from Loyola High School in Los Angeles. I have relatives that attend this school. It is a private, all-boys Catholic school. Their dress codes still are much stricter than public schools. No over-size apparel, military-style fatigues, sweatpants, torn or ragged clothing pr tank tops. Mode of dress is collared shirts, pants or shorts. Hair must be its natural color, and certain hairstyles are restricted, such as mohawks, lettering or lines, braids, dreadlocks, spiking or excessive hairstyles. No flip-flops or sandals. Also, boys must be clean-shaven.

At their sister high school for girls, the rules say no excessively low-cut tops, shirts, pants or shorts. No bare midriffs. No backless shirts. No ripped or torn jeans or excessively tight or baggy clothing. There are more restrictions as to jewelry, shoes, and hair.

I also checked the dress code for Ankeny High School in Ankeny, Iowa, as I have a relative there who attends the high school. It states no clothing advertising items that are illegal for use by minors or no clothing with displays of vulgarity, profanity or sexual remarks. No clothing that exposes the midriff, cleavage, buttocks or underwear, or pants that expose skin. Shoes with cleats and bedroom slippers cannot be worn or shoes with wheels. That’s right, wheels, not heels. Also, according to the student no chains or spikes.

At Shakopee High School in Shakopee, what I found in their student body handbook was much shorter than the other schools. It was a short paragraph — again no lewd or discriminatory words or safety hazards such as illegal activities. Students must cover their midriff, have no bra straps showing and all students must wear shoes.

I also looked up the dress code of United South Central School in my hometown, and I was impressed by their dress code list. It was more extensive than the big city schools, all except for the private Loyola High School. Though it contained much of the same, it was more detailed such as, “Any holes in jeans must be below fingertip length when fingertips are fully extended.” And “No short shorts/skirts(must be longer than your fingertips when fully extended) spaghetti straps, bare, exposed cleavage, bare midriffs, halter tops, backless tops, underwear showing, hood or gloves etc., etc.” The entire list is very detailed.

If you are wondering why I am obsessing about the dress code in schools, it was because of an article I read by the Associated Press in a Sunday paper, which highlighted a school in Alameda, California. The title of the article was on how school dress codes are seen increasingly as targeting girls. The gist of the column was that they are relaxing their dress codes and adopting a more permissive policy that is less sexist. Students now have the freedom to wear anything, as long as it includes a top, bottom, and shoes, and it covers their private parts. According to the statements, if they have rules such as no midriff tops or low-cut blouses, they are targeting one group and are singling out girls. Students can now come to school in hoodies, ripped jeans and even pajamas if they want.

My parents and I suspect the parents of all my friends, would have been aghast at these new dress codes. According to the article, teachers are relieved they now can focus on teaching rather than on how their students are dressed. I wonder how long it will be before other public schools adopt this dress code. I wonder if the difference in dress codes will be split between rural communities and private schools with a more stringent dress code and the city schools with the more relaxed mode of dress.

I never thought of the dress code specifically targeting women. However, in talking to female students in these schools, I was told the article was correct. They felt they were unfairly targeted. For example, in a couple of the schools, girls cannot wear a shirt that shows off their shoulders, such as the style now with cut-out shoulders, but they tell me if a guy wears a shirt, they can cut the sleeves off and shorten the shirt and show their shoulders, chest, and stomach. Another complaint is that male student-athletes for cross country and track run with their shirts off as well in practice. Not that the girls want to take their shirts off, but they just feel there is a double standard.

I must admit that it makes sense, especially when a male teen in the article in the Sunday paper stated, “If someone is wearing a short shirt and you can see her stomach, it’s not her fault that she’s distracting other people.” Of course, this is from a young gentleman who is for the relaxed dress code. I guess it isn’t the male student athlete’s fault if he is distracting the teenage girl with his shirtless body.

I am split in my feelings about this. I actually really like the dress codes and rules of Loyola High School. I feel they are teaching respect in dress and in manner. I noticed one of their rules apart from the dress code was no profanity or it would be punished. That doesn’t happen anymore in our public schools.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, we celebrated when we could have a jean day in high school. Usually it was during Homecoming week or a special Friday, otherwise, it was business as usual with dresses, skirts and dress pants for boys and casual dress shirts.

All in all, no matter the dress code in the school, it is up to parents to control what their kids wear to school and to approve apparel that won’t offend or entice. Then maybe there wouldn’t be a need for a dress code, although after thinking about it in this designer world, I might vote on the side of school uniforms for everyone. It would solve the clothes wars — and maybe class wars — because everyone would be dressed the same.