Coping with Finals – Papers & Exams
Dec 5th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Are you slammed with writing papers and studying for exams? Freaking out and feeling paralyzed on how to get through this intense time? Most likely, there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get all the work done. Perhaps you procrastinated and now it feels like you’re living in HELL. Been there. Done that. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful.

1. Start with the basics. If you haven’t done so already, write out the date and time for the exams and when the papers are due.

2. Get organized. Know what you need in order to study or write. Need to go to the library and check out books? Research on the net? Borrow notes from a classmate? Actually read the material? (If you haven’t done this, obviously you know you’re in a rough spot and most likely can’t make up a quarter or semesters’ worth of reading. Do your best. Read the first three paragraphs of each chapter section and skim until you reach the last three paragraphs. Read those. In no way am I advocating this as a method of learning – but if you’re in crisis mode, it’s a decent solution.)

3. Block out time to work on the papers and study for the exams, then stick with the schedule. Isolate yourself if you need to and whatever you do, make a promise to yourself that you’ll avoid all social networking during that time. Social networking has a way of being a total time sucker! Don’t fall into the trap.

4. Know your teacher/TA/professors’ office hours. Take advantage of any study sessions they may have. If you have questions or know that you don’t understand something, don’t wait to get help. If you’re writing a paper and you’re not sure you’re on target, BRING IT TO YOUR PROF and ask her to look at it and give you direction. This shows you care and are concerned, so don’t worry about looking stupid or that you’ll feel foolish. If necessary, explain to your prof what’s going on and see if you can get an extension. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. And if you don’t get it, at least you asked.

5. Load up on protein. Protein prevents sugar highs and lows so it’ll help sustain you. Keep a few of your favorite munchies and caffeinated drinks and water with you.

6. Do your own work.

7. Avoid taking someone else’s prescription drug to enhance your ability to concentrate or focus. You might believe that you can do it once or justify it in order to get through this difficult time, but everyone’s body reacts differently to meds, and like any drug there can be serious ramifications. Or maybe not. But is it worth the risk? Once tempted who’s to say you won’t be tempted again? Be respectful of yourself and your body. Look at the big picture. Ask yourself: A year from now, five years from now how important was this?

8. Destroy your unrealistic expectations. Just flush the idea of perfection right down the toilet. Who the heck is ever perfect? Do your best in the moment based on the circumstances you’re facing. Teachers/professors can and do overburden their students. They don’t have a clue what others have assigned. Live with doing your best in the here and now. Don’t ask more of yourself. It’s totally unreasonable. Don’t berate yourself for any reason. Even if you procrastinated, move on. Take hold of the here and now and do what it takes so that you can be satisfied that you took charge in the moment. Negative self-talk is a huge waste of time and destructive. Stop. STOP!

9. Don’t take a “screw-it” attitude. If you’re thinking that you’ve already screwed it up, so why try, you’ll only hurt yourself. Self-destruction isn’t pretty. Seriously, just do something positive with the assignment. Even if you know that you could have done better, accept what you ARE doing as the best in the moment. And if you’re in crisis, even if it’s of your own making, talk to your teacher/TA/professor. Not everyone has a heart of gold and will cut you slack. But go in with a clear plan. Show that you have given it some serious thought and be reasonable. I’m hopeful that these educators will want to see you succeed.

10. Many need to pull all-nighters. If you can, snatch a twenty to thirty minute snooze during the day. SET YOUR ALARM. Good luck. And when it’s all over, do something nice for yourself. ☺

Serving our Country – TWO Amazing Young Adults Share Their Experiences
Aug 2nd, 2010 by Liza Wiemer


Richard Kern is nineteen years old, a ’09 graduate of Nicolet High School, Glendale, WI and is a student at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point Long Island, NY – He is currently serving on the Green Dale – heading toward Hyuga Valley around Japan – thanks Jeanne McDonald for this information – and here’s the link to track it:




New York Times Bestseller WAR, By Sebastian Junger


In honor of the two young men interviewed for this post, I will be giving away a SIGNED copy of Sebastian Junger’s New York Times Bestselling book, WAR.  Enter by leaving a comment below about this post or your own personal (you or someone you know) experience relating to military service.  You also may enter by posting or linking on Facebook, Twitter, etc., but please let me know.  For more information about WAR see Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/2edjms8 Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/2dn3lcx or Sebastian’s official site: http://www.sebastianjunger.com/ Giveaway ends August 16, 2010, 8 PM CST – GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED – WINNER HAS BEEN RANDOMLY SELECTED


Richard Kern


For as long as Richard Kern could remember he knew that he would go to college and serve his country.  This desire for both, stemmed from his relationship with his parents, his involvement in scouting, Badger Boys State, and his love of history.  He said, “My desire to serve didn’t start from 9-11.  I am grateful for the way my parents raised me and for this amazing country.  It’s because of those things that I wanted to give back.”

In addition, paying for a top-notch education without some kind of financial aid was not a possibility for Richard and his parents.  At the beginning of his senior year (September 2008), Richard applied to every Federal Service Academies. There were essays to write, recommendations to obtain from a senator or congressional representative, (Richard received one from Wisconsin Senators Feingold and Kohl and Congressman Sensenbrenner) tests, and of course, the applications themselves.  The process was long and difficult.

Richard received a full scholarship – approximate value of $230,000 – to the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point Long Island, NY.  This was just the beginning.  Though receiving this honor has been a tremendous experience, keeping it means a lot of hard work!  Some young men and women are unable to maintain the stringent requirements and either drop out or are disenrolled.  Four years of study is crammed into three years.  One year – broken down into four months and then eight months – is spent at sea gaining as much hands-on experience as possible.  Besides his responsibilities on the ship’s deck, Richard has extensive sea projects that must be turned in.  Upon graduation Richard is under contract to serve the US government for up to eight years.

The Merchant Marine is under the auspices of the US Department of Transportation, but there is also a connection to the US Navy.  A Merchant Mariner serves on ships that transport goods from ports all over the world.  Service to our country may be paid back through a “an appointment as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, or any other Reserve unit of an armed force of the United States.” http://www.usmma.edu/admissions/facts/serviceobligation.htm

So what’s the experience been like?  Richard describes the Merchant Marine Academy as one big family – a giant fraternity.  There is a ZERO tolerance policy for underage drinking and for drugs. [Zero tolerance for drugs.  First alcohol offense gets you into A.A. meetings and the second alcohol offense gets you kicked out.] Before entering Kings Point everyone has a physical and is given a drug test.  His first year (or plebe year as it’s called) is tough. “As plebes, we’re the bottom of the totem pole.  Cleaning bathrooms is just one of our duties,” he said.

The “Indoc” experience was the biggest test both mentally and physically.  Plebes would experience IT – individual training – when even a loose threat could be reason to have you “on your face.”  [It’s a lot more than just push ups.  Basically a sweaty, painful few minutes.] “The experience could push you to the brink, but it also brings you closer to each other – tests each other.  If a person breaks, then you know you can’t rely on him or her.  If you endure it together, it makes you stronger.  There is a trust that forms and brings you closer to others that is unlike anything you experience in high school.

“Many of us have two shirts with the names of all the individuals printed with all those who start out as plebe candidates.  By the time we reach first classman many names will be crossed off the list.”

“The best part about being a Merchant Mariner is the tremendous opportunities for our future.  We can go anywhere – from State Department diplomatic security to the Bering Sea with the US Coast Guard. We stand for discipline, integrity, professionalism and companies dealing in shipping know that they can rely on our training.  Ninety percent of all of this world’s wealth is transported by ship.  We’ll be responsible for a lot of it.  In addition, at any time we can be responsible for transporting military equipment for the United States government.”

“Some of the most difficult parts of being in the Merchant Marines is not seeing family and friends, sometimes for a very long time.  It also can be frustration living so close to each other with hardly any personal space. “

I asked Richard what separates him from other young adults his age.  He said, “I was fortunate to go back to my high school and talk with some of my teachers.  One of them pointed out that he sees many former students with no direction.  I have a direction and purpose in my life.  I know what I will be doing for the next ten years.  In my opinion, there’s definitely an advantage to knowing what you love and that you’re working toward that goal of accomplishing it.”

On a personal level, we talked about boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.  It’s not something that Richard sees for himself.  “It’s one thing if you come into The Academy already in a solid relationship, though many don’t last.  I just don’t feel like it’s fair to start a relationship when you know that so much of your time is going to be at sea.   Probably 10% of our school is women.  At this point, I see my chances of meeting someone as slim to none.”

KYLE PECUS – Currently Serving in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in the United States Army – 13B Cannon Crewmember

Military Service Right Out of High School

To learn more about Kyle’s unit:  13B Cannon Crewmember

Kyle Pecus is an ’06 graduate from Cambellsport High,  Cambellsport, WI.  He just celebrated his twenty-third birthday, July 31st 

Kyle Pecus in Iraq


Rank:  Specialist or SPC
Time in Service:  4 years
Time left:  2 years, 3 months
Plans after the Army:  UW-Milwaukee, not sure of a major yet

A note from Liza Wiemer – The Q & A was done via the Internet.

What advice do you have for other young adults who are thinking about choosing the military after high school?

I’d have to say that unless you are dead certain you want a combat job, definitely pick a job that is going to help you out in college/your career field.  So many times, I see people who join and they know they’re only going to do three years and get out and be a cop or a med student or something, but they pick jobs that won’t help with their career choice.  Tell the recruiter what you want to do with your life and ask what kind of jobs they have in that field!  If you want to be a nurse, be an Army nurse.  That way you get paid to train as a nurse, get paid as you do a nursing job, then when you get out the Army will pay for your nursing degree and you already have 3+ years of experience, putting you way ahead of the power curve.  Honestly, I think that the military is the best way for people who can’t afford college to get it for FREE.  And if you like doing your job in the Army who knows, you might even do your 20 years and retire.  Either way, you’re set up for success.

What were your reasons for joining the US Army after high school graduation?

One of my main reasons for joining out of high school was a lifelong interest in the military. Ever since I was a kid, I loved watching military shows, The History Channel, and I always wanted to try it for myself.  I always had a slight preference towards the Army for some reason.  I had the feeling that if I went to college (after HS) and got a degree, I really wouldn’t have a reason to enlist and I’d never get around to it.  September 11th cemented my decision to enlist.

Kyle Pecus


Why did you choose MOS 13B Cannon Crewmember?

Continuing from my last response, I definitely wanted a combat job, something where I’d get my hands dirty – blow stuff up and kill the bad guys.  I originally wanted to be an Apache attack helicopter pilot, but it requires at least two years of schooling and I didn’t want to wait.  I then had to make a decision between my next two favorites, 19K Armor Crewman or 13B Cannon Crewmember.  It eventually came down to the fact that I really didn’t want to be cramped up inside a tank, and historically field artillery had always caused the most enemy casualties.  I didn’t feel at all bad for the Taliban!  Dropping shells on them from miles away had a certain appeal to help out the infantry guys who might be fighting for their lives and put the hurt on the enemy.  And I also thought being a few miles away from the fight might keep my mother sane.  For the most part, I was right.

Where have you served and for how long?

Today (the day I write this) actually marks my four-year mark in the Army, as I left for basic training in Fort Sill, OK on July 19th, 2006.  My OSUT (One Station Unit Training, basic training and AIT in the same place, something the Army is doing away with) lasted until November 2nd.  I reported to my first duty station, Fort Campbell, KY, home of the 101st Airborne, two (very!) short weeks later. I’m still in the same unit, which kinda drives me nuts, but I really like the area around Campbell.  Fort Campbell is actually more on the Tennessee side than the Kentucky side and I love TN!  Great place to live.

What do you like the most about being in the Army?

Tough question!  I’d have to say the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had.  I can’t imagine my life without the dozens of friends I’ve made in the Army, some of the funniest, craziest people on the planet for sure.  Sometimes work really sucks, but you all get to suffer through it together and it all brings you really close.  Depending on your job you get to do some amazing things that you’d never do in an office building!  During my 15-month tour in Iraq, we did everything from combat patrols and tower guard, to kicking doors and jumping out of helicopters.  The raids were definitely my favorite part; it’s hard to find something that exciting stateside and it’s something that I’ll never forget.  Also, the pay isn’t bad.  In the Army, you’ll never be rich but if you handle your finances responsibly, you will never be poor.  I’m saving up through this tour to build up a Mustang I bought, and it’s nice to have that kind of disposable income.  The Army, at the very least, always puts a roof over your head and provides food to eat, so what you do with the rest of your check is up to you!

Many find it difficult to be in a long distance relationship, but you’re in one. What’s that experience been like and how do you make it work?

Not going to lie, sometimes things are very hard!  When I’m stateside we usually only get to see each other once every two or three months, so it kind of sucks but at the same time it makes seeing her that much more special.  Before I left for Afghanistan, she drove down to Kentucky twice and I drove up to Wisconsin for a few days so we got to see each other a little bit.  It helps that she’s as tough as nails and probably the most honest and loyal person I’ve ever met!  We’ve been together for just over three years.  She and I met at the grocery store I worked at in high school.  We both went to the same high school but I really didn’t meet her until the day I was working the cash register at work and totally butchered her mom’s order and had to do everything all over.  I knew I made a great impression by showing both her and her mother that I couldn’t work a register.  We didn’t start seriously dating for a few years after that though.

Are you a person who thinks about the future and future plans, or do you live day to day? Why?

That really depends on what we’re talking about.  I try not to sweat the small stuff and live each day one at a time, but when it comes to big things like career choices or large expenditures then I definitely like to plan ahead!  If I thought about future plans all the time, I’d probably go nuts. I still have six months until I set foot in America again, so I’m not going to fill my thoughts with fantasies of a winter wonderland while I’m baking in the Afghan sun.

Take The Risk – Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone!
Jun 30th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer


Some Risks Are Worth It!

By Jeremy West, Age 19


Jeremy West


When I was sixteen, I learned the value of stepping out of my comfort zone.  I had spent the majority of my life in Anderson, SC going to school, hanging with friends, playing soccer.  So when a teacher at my high school presented the opportunity to travel to China as a foreign exchange student, I wanted the adventure, and so did my friends.  We had seven months to prepare.

But there were obstacles.  Money was one – the trip would cost $2300 for two weeks.  That would have been a big enough reason not to go, especially when you don’t have parents handing over the cash.  If only it were that simple.  The greater challenge was mental.  The teacher had told us that traveling to China would not be easy.  He told us that the food would be unlike anything we had ever tasted, that we would see extreme poverty, and that we would walk most places, so being in top physical shape was crucial. In other words, it was not going to be a vacation.  This was going to be a hardcore trip.

I started fundraising for the trip, working at school to pay for the plane ticket.  Family and family friends also helped out, which I deeply appreciated.  Unfortunately, every one of my friends decided not to go.  Sure, there were other kids from my school who committed to the program, but without my closest friends, I knew the experience would be harder.

The idea of leaving America was unsettling.  I had never left the country let alone faced an eighteen-hour flight around the globe, which was how long it took to reach Beijing, China. To say I was stepping outside of my comfort zone is a super understatement!

Upon arriving in China, I immediately became the minority surrounded by millions of people who spoke only Mandarin, not English. That was one of the scariest parts of the experience – not speaking or understanding the language.  The people stared at me as I walked down the street. They took pictures of me, and with me. Beijing was a nice city in comparison to the majority of cities in China, though it still had smog, litter, disease, and crime.

It wasn’t until I went inside the heart of the country that I truly realized that I had stepped into a whole different world, one of extreme poverty. I went from the grandeur of the Great Wall to the dirty rice fields of inner China. These people had nothing! I felt true compassion for the first time in my life. I had left my comfort zone so far away, and I didn’t even miss it. Sure, I missed a home cooked meal, but my eyes and taste buds were exposed to something completely out of my comfort zone, and I soaked it up.

At one point we traveled by mamu (a taxi cab, which is a motorbike with a cart) to a middle school – grades 7-9.  We had printed cards with the address of our destination so that the driver knew where to take us.  Some students from our group got lost and ended up arriving at our destination much later than expected, a frightening experience to say the least (some were even in tears). The school we visited was different from anything I have heard of or experience in America.  It was a boarding school with thirty-five hundred students.  There was no air conditioning, we were told not to even step into the bathrooms because they were revolting, and the English class we attended was crammed with fifty or sixty kids in a room way too small for that number of students.  They attended school from eight in the morning until seven at night with a two-hour mid-afternoon break for naptime.  Each day, from 7:30 until 8:00 A.M., the students were outside on their school field doing tai chi.

Food was definitely an issue.  Some kids hardly ate anything during the trip, but I am one to try new things, including fish heads, scorpion, squid,octopus, and even snake.  We stayed in a real nasty hotel – there wasn’t a vacuum cleaner in the entire place, we always walked with our shoes on, and bugs were crawling everywhere, even the beds.

If I had the choice to take that trip again, I would pack my bags and go immediately. Life is all about experiences. We learn through making decisions.  From those decisions come experiences, and from experiences we can learn how to step outside our comfort zone. The comfort zone constrains us, while leaving that place of comfort defines us.  My trip to China was definitely one of the most defining moments of my life, and I hope it inspires others to step out of their comfort zones.

While at first I was constrained by fears of all these things I had heard about China, ultimately I wanted to experience it for myself to know the truth. The experience changed me, changed my perspective on the world.  I had never seen so much poverty in a nation, except for on TV, and experiencing it touched me in a much more personal way than seeing it on TV.

Renowned video game developer Steven Coallier once said, “Attack life, it’s going to kill you anyway.” He couldn’t be more right! Life is about experiencing all that you can, but if you are held back by your fears then you will stay stuck inside of your comfort zone forever. It takes true courage to take that leap, but once you do you’ll never look back and miss it.

Before I left for China, I was perfectly content  staying where I was.  There was no reason for me to go on that trip other than the desire to leave my comfort zone and experience all the differences that China had to offer. I ate some of the grossest (and best) food I’ve ever tasted. I made friendships that will last forever. And most of all, I kicked my comfort zone to the curb, and now try to live every moment as if it were my last. I am more willing to help others, more up for personal challenges and try new things.

All of life’s experiences, whether good or bad, define who you are. Challenge yourself – completely revolutionize your future. It doesn’t have to be by traveling to China, though I recommend it!  You could challenge yourself by taking a harder course in school or not smoking dope when everyone else is doing it.  Desire to have more, do more, and see yourself as someone who can be different by stepping out of your comfort zone.  If I had passed up this opportunity to go to China, I don’t know if it would ever have come up again.  One thing is for sure, my life would not be the same.

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist and lyricist

About Jeremy West: Jeremy is a student at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL studying film.  He’s a photographer, writer, designer, and Apple computer lover.  His blog, NOVEL THOUGHTS, is another way he shares his creative side with the world – reviewing YA novels, interviewing authors, and providing cool opportunities to win awesome giveaways.  Find Jeremy through his blog at  www.novelthoughtsblog.com

A Powerful & Emotional Interview with the Extraordinary Jennifer Brown, Author of Hate List
Apr 28th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

Extraordinary Author Jennifer Brown

It is with tremendous gratitude and admiration that I share with my readers this incredible interview with Jennifer Brown, author of one of the most powerful books I have ever read, Hate List. There are many fine YA novels on the market, but only a few have the ability to impact the reader in such a emotional and visceral manner.  Hate List, in my opinion is a must read for every teen, teacher, and parent.  It shows the fragile line between being bullied and bullies and the horrendous consquences that can occur when an individual has had too much or has been pushed over the edge. Personally, I believe that Hate List should be required reading for middle school and high school students. To see reviews or for more information here’s the link to Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/y9a8m5w or Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6316171-hate-list AT THE END OF THIS INTERVIEW ARE FIVE WAYS TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF HATE LIST!  Please enter!

Q:  As the reader, I went through an array of powerful emotions reading Hate List. What was the emotional experience like for you as you wrote the novel, especially since characters live and breathe for the author?

A:  At times it was a bit tough. I was, in some ways, reliving some of the things that happened to me in school, and that brought back emotions that I hadn’t felt in a long time. But fortunately, I also write humor, and having my weekly column was very helpful in getting me out of somber mode and into a lighter state of mind at least one day every week.

Q:  Have you personally experienced violence or bullying?  If so, how did the experience impact your life and influence writing Hate List?

A:  Yes, I was bullied in junior high and part of high school. It very much influenced who I became as a person. Other than being tripped in a crowded lunch room and receiving threats that I was going to be beat up, I wouldn’t say I was a victim of violence, really. More, the bullying I endured was along the lines of rumors, gossip, and “mean girl” stuff. What happened to me did impact not only the writing of Hate List (in fact, some of the bullying scenes are very similar to things that happened to me), but have impacted my life in that I now have a means to reach out to students and talk to them about bullying. That is very important to me. Nobody should have to go through what I went through, and I know that what I went through was nothing compared to what some kids out there are going through.

Q:  Since Hate List came out on the market, what has surprised you the most?  Readers?  Reviews?  Reactions?  Something in the story you would have changed or perceived differently?

A:  Librarians. I have been the most surprised by librarians. I mean, I’ve always had a love for libraries, but I never, until now, realized how passionate

Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

librarians can be — not only about reading, but about sharing books with readers. I’ve visited a lot of schools since Hate List came out, and am always just… floored and fascinated… at how the librarians are the heartbeat of the school. They know all the kids. They know who needs to hear my message the most. And they get so excited about sharing a good book with “just the right student.” Librarians rule!

Q:  If there were anything that you could have said to Nick and/or Valerie to have prevented the tragedy, what would it have been?

A:  It gets better. It does. If you can just hang on and get through this bad time… life gets so much better. You will graduate and leave these mean people behind and will never, ever have to see them again.

Q:  We’ve all heard the verbiage, History repeats itself.  How do you think our society can reduce or prevent the violence you describe in Hate List?

A:  I wish I knew how to make it stop! But the best I can say is… keep talking about it. The more we talk about it, the more we learn how to make it better, no matter what the problem is. Talk to your kids about it. Talk to your students about it. Talk to each other about it. And encourage the young adults in your life to be nice, to be responsible. The best way to do this, by the way, is by modeling nice behavior. There are so many adult bullies out there — all you have to do is check out comments on any given message board or blog site… or watch some reality TV… to see that.

You know, one thing that continually amazes me is how many people really only think bullying is bullying if someone is physically harmed. But that’s just not true. Rumors are bullying. Gossip is bullying. Keeping someone out of a group is bullying. Teasing (and taking it too far, or teasing in a mean way) is bullying. Saying bad things about someone on your Facebook page is bullying, even if you think they’ll never see it (trust me, they’ll hear about it).

And, finally, talk to someone if you’re the victim of bullying. Go to an adult who can help you. You shouldn’t be keeping miserable and lonely and sad feelings to yourself.

Q:  Please share an experience that deeply moved you since Hate List was published.

A:  I was visiting some schools in a city about 2 hours away from where I live. I had a packed schedule, and barely had breathing room. But I received an email from a principal of a local alternative school in the area, asking if I could please squeeze in 20 or 30 minutes at their school while I was in town. She was so passionate about getting me there, I agreed to do it, even though it meant I was going to have to really fly to make my next school visit. I got to the school and found out that I was the first visiting author that the school had ever had. Ever! The students were so attentive and wonderful, and the teachers so appreciative that I would talk to them. After my visit, I received an email that the students had decided to create a student-led book club, and that their first club read was going to be Hate List.

Q:  What advice do you have for middle school and high school students who have been bullied?

A:  Go to your school counselor and ask for help. Bullying does tend to stop if an adult who knows what they’re doing confronts it head-on. If your counselor isn’t helping, keep talking. Talk to teachers, talk to administrators, talk to your parents. Eventually, someone will help you.

Q:  In Hate List the lines blur for many of the characters.  For example – Valerie and Nick are being bullied, but also are perceived as bullies.  They are hateful and loving.  We also might say that Valerie and Jessica are victims, perpetrators, and saviors.  You did a phenomenal job of showing different sides to many of the characters.  What overall message do you feel is important for the reader to take away from your portrayals?

A:  That you are not only your reputation, so why should anyone else be only theirs? We are all human. We are all flawed. And we are all complex. It’s so easy to “hate” someone you don’t really know, based on something you’ve heard about them, or the first impression they gave, or whatever. Valerie’s main goal in Hate List is to “see what’s really there.” I’d like my readers to do that as well. See people for who they really are.

Q: As the mother of three children, what life lessons do you hope to impart to them?  (They do not necessarily have to relate specifically to Hate List.)

A:  Oh, so many! I want them to be caring people. I want them to see that their actions do matter in this world. And I want them to follow their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to. And I want them to always come home for Christmas, even if they live far away. 🙂


Readers may find up-to-date information about Jennifer Brown and read her blog on her website: http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/

Enter to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Hate List by choosing any one of the following:

1. Leave a comment about how bullying has impacted your life, or the life of someone you know.

2.  Explain why you would like a copy of this book.

3.  Ideas you have to put an end  to bullying.

4.  General comments about this blog piece.

5.  Add a link to this blog piece on your website, Twitter it, or post a link on your Facebook or MySpace page. (Please list it.)

A winner will be selected randomly and is open to individuals in the United States or Canada.  Deadline is May 20, 2010

This Isn’t Eyewear Fashion – LENSES Shape Who We Are
Apr 15th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

The Lenses We See Through Might Leave Us Blind To What's Around Us

There are people in this world that just get under my skin.  You know… grrrrr, the proverbial experience of nails trailing down a chalkboard – highly grating and definitely frustrating.*  I’m certain there are people who feel the same way about me.

But here’s something very important for all of us to remember.

We all come to each and EVERY moment looking through different lenses.  Every experience is filtered – our perceptions, reactions, beliefs all stem from our experiences.  Situations that occur in our lives are based on those filters.

Filters are:

  1. Our childhood – the awesome, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  2. Where we live and with whom we connect with every day and how these connections affect us.
  3. Our intimate experiences – and I’m not just talking about sex!
  4. Our friends/co-workers/teachers.
  5. The barriers we face – fear, lack of faith, lack of trust, low self-esteem, self-centeredness:  http://www.whorublog.com/?cat=7
  6. What we know – and I’m not just talking book-smarts.
  7. What we don’t know.

When we become aware of our filters, it becomes easier to ask questions, questions that we may not have readily known to ask because we are only looking through our “lenses.”  Sometimes we have to look deeply at what we perceive and why we react so strongly.

Imagine this post on Facebook:

Party at Ron’s house, Friday night 8 PM – NO LOSERS – that means you Maxine!

How does this affect you?  Does it make you angry?  Sad?  Does it make you laugh?  Is it no big deal?  Does it make you feel sick to your stomach? Would you go to the party?  Would you stay home or still go out, but not to the party?  –  What experiences have you had that makes you react the way you do to this post?

What if you hated** Maxine?  What if Maxine was your BFF?  What if your BFF hates Maxine, and you have no idea why – you just go along with it?  What if Maxine just broke up with Ron?  What if you are Maxine?

What are your lenses that have shaped you to see the world as you see it or react the way you react to a situation or to behave in a certain way – good or bad?  Once you know, then the next time you feel like a complete idiot or you get upset or make fun of someone else or continue to make the same mistake over and over again, or on the flip side you stick up for someone or you say no when you feel pressured to say yes, realize what lenses you came to the experience with and how those lenses have shaped you.  And hopefully, you would never, ever post something that would be hurtful or interpreted in away that causes another person pain – cause those lenses are ones no one should ever have to look through.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing through your lenses, the way you react, or the way you treat others or how they treat you, then recognize that it’s time for a new prescription.  Ultimately, you’re the optometrist!

*Though I might feel frustrated with someone, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t MY issue.  Most circumstances relate to how someone is treating a child or a peer!  I just can’t stand it when someone is horrible to another person!

**Hate is a very strong word, and I don’t use it lightly.  If you despise someone soooo much that you would act in a hurtful way toward another, please stop.  Think about it.  Hatred is always a vicious cycle.  No one ever wins.  It is a painful, destructive emotion that needs to be transformed.  It’s perfectly normal not to get along with everyone.  But targeting someone and justifying it is never okay!  There is always a price.  It could be someone’s life, it could be someone’s freedom, or self-esteem.  Hatred – anger – destruction.  That is not who you want to be!

Date Rape, Alex Knepper, is Rape – With or Without Alcohol, No Matter What…
Apr 7th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

I personally know three young women, teenagers actually, who have been raped.

Each knew the perpetrator.

Only one involved alcohol.  Poor judgment – yes.  But to say that a young woman has no right to “cry date rape after you sober up the next morning” is ridiculous.  This is what American University’s Alex Knepper said in his controversial article published in AU’s The Eagle, titled Dealing with AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade.

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

To see the full article, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/ycnup39

Alex Knepper is an articulate young man.  Few would want to face him on an opposing debate team…  He has a way of twisting words to make what he is really saying into something else, and I think most people would have a tough time arguing against his points.  This doesn’t mean that he is right.  Not even close.  He responded on national TV, addressing the firestorm of controversy.  See the following video of how, in my opinion, he twists his written comments to justify his words:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

It is absolutely ridiculous that Knepper asserts that a female who goes back to a guy’s room is “indicating” that  she is interested in having sex.  He stated in his TV interview that he said “indicating” because “men cannot know what women don’t tell them” and “at anytime a woman can say no.”  “At that point it constitutes rape.”

Many of these sexual encounters don’t take place in someone’s bedroom.  Sadly, these events are often public displays.  If a girl is so drunk, does she even know where she is?

Another obvious problem with Knepper’s statement is that if a woman is so inebriated it is impossible for her to give consent.  Without consent, then any intercourse is rape.  He mentions five glasses of jungle juice.  Is the guy standing there counting?  Is he handing them to the girl and watching her drink?  Even worse, is he slipping something into her glass so that she won’t even remember?  Unfortunately, this takes place every single day and the lines have been blurred so much that women in this situation are often not believed.  Take a look at this article titled:  Hook-up Culture At Boston University Leads To Skepticism About Sexual Assault – http://tinyurl.com/ykbphxt

Drinking and driving do not mix.  Sex and being wasted do not mix either.  The consequences can be dangerous and life altering.  I’ve written about this before in Binge Drinking, Hook-ups, and Self-Esteem http://www.whorublog.com/?cat=74

We need responsibility.  We need to think about our actions.  We need to think about the consequences.

We need respect.

Rape is not okay, with or without alcohol.

A suicide left a permanent mark on my life – Don’t do it, get help!
Apr 1st, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

Catherine – She was beautiful.

I actually couldn’t wait for my parents to leave the house, because it meant that Catherine was coming over.  She didn’t babysit; she came over to hang out.  We did art projects, enjoyed ice cream, walked to the park in the summer and skated in the winter.  I loved to watch Catherine meticulously cut out paper and Modge Podge the image onto a rock we found on the beach.  She layered paper and created the most awesome collages.  She spoke to me like a friend and seemed to always be interested in what I had to say.  I totally wanted to be like her.  Her golden hair was long, straight, and shiny; her skin was flawless and like porcelain. I loved the attention she gave me, and I hated it when she left.  One of the last things I remember asking her was when I would see her again. She said, “Tomorrow.”

I remember waking up excited. Catherine was coming over.  Would we paint?  Would we cook?  Maybe a treasure hunt?

But she didn’t show up.

I was confused. Where was she?

Catherine had killed herself the night before.

She had sat in her parents’ car in the garage, turned on the ignition, and let it run until she inhaled enough carbon monoxide.  She was dead.


Never coming back.

I was devastated.

It’s been over three decades since Catherine killed herself, leaving behind her parents and five sisters.  I’ve never forgotten her.  I loved her.  And I was just a small child.

It hurts ‘til this day.  I was just the kid she babysat – but she changed me long before that fateful day.  She loved me back.  I am certain that Catherine never truly knew how much she meant to me, that I would miss her, and think about her even after all these years.  She was the best – and she didn’t even know it.

How many Catherines are there in this world, thinking about killing themselves because life’s horrible?  Because the world is closing up around them?  Because they’ve been bullied and they can’t take it anymore?  Because of pressure so great it seems unbearable?  There are so many reasons why teens think about suicide…

PLEASE DON’T DO IT!  Please get help – NOW.

Don’t leave a trail of broken hearts.

DON’T KILL YOURSELF – please.  You are important, you are valued, and loved – you may not even know how much.

Get help.  Talk to a relative, teacher, counselor, friend, minister, rabbi, neighbor. Don’t stop until someone hears you and helps you.

Here is a number for you to call:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvjEmRBuKiU&feature=player_embedded (A video on for suicide prevention)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGcGfPgLOc0&feature=player_embedded (A young woman talks about her sister’s suicide)

http://tinyurl.com/yzt2dj9 (An article on cyber-bullying and suicide, by Cindy Springsteen)

Do You Give Away Your Personal Power? TAKE IT BACK!
Feb 22nd, 2010 by Liza Wiemer


Oh no, Mr. Bill! Who's intimidating you?

Dear Liza,

Love your blog.  I have a story I need to share with you.  I know a beautiful, confident, bright college student who has always been well-liked, dated guys she wanted to, and had a close circle of friends.  She had and has a lot going for her.  

After high school, she moved out-of-state for college and everything changed.  She met a guy that she fell head-over-heels for and after a few months things started going downhill.  He started to control her life – who she saw, who she talked to, where she went, and he called her cell-phone a million times a day to check up on her.  He even moved into her apartment.  He used her car and stopped working. 

Pretty soon she lost all sense of herself.  This once confident girl has no longer saw how special she was and is.  I am telling you this happened very quickly, surprised her parents, and all of her friends.  No one would have ever thought she would become prey to an abusive boyfriend, but it happened. 

She has had a happy ending.  She was able to get him to leave her apartment, and they gradually broke up.  It wasn’t easy.  Fortunately, she was able to come out of this experience with next to no physical scars – emotionally it was a lot harder. 
Just wanted to share this with you, since others can definitely learn from it.

Best, BH  

This story is a very important one, not just because this scenario happens every day, but also because it epitomizes a key problem for a lot of us.  Nearly everyday I interact with people who are struggling with feeling out-of-control, vulnerable, or victimized.  I’ve experienced it too.  Getting out of these situations are not easy, but it can – no – it must be done!

Who or what is consuming your life?  Are your thoughts, conversations, and emotional wellbeing focused on negative interactions?  If yes, you have little or no control over your personal power. 

Are you sitting down, ‘cause I have EARTH SHATTERING NEWS! Lol! You’re a human being, not an alien, not an angel, not perrrfect!  We’re here on earth to grow, to make a difference, to change our lives for the better, and help others.

Don’t give away your personal power. 

Don’t give away your personal power.

Don’t give away your personal power.

Here’s the thing.  The minute we start seeing ourselves as less than someone else, when we live in fear, or when we are overtly critical of others, we give away our personal power.  Someone else consumes our thoughts, emotions, energy – and the direction we ultimately take in life can be deeply influenced by our perceptions.

Scenario 1 – You have a friend who is critical of almost everything you do – what you wear, who you date, where you go…  All of a sudden you can’t make any decisions unless that person approves of your choice. 

Scenario 2 – You have spent half of your life arguing with your brother/sister and the other half not speaking with him/her.  You hate him/her, you’re sick of him/her, s/he’s just mean, mean, mean.  Well, maybe you luv him/her, because after all, s/he is your brother/sister.  But, s/he’s destroyed your life, hasn’t cared about you, forgotten your birthday, been totally insensitive to your needs, and s/he’s a selfish, rotten brat!  Oh, and the whole world is going to know it too!

Scenario 3 – Pressure – you feel pressured to have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend or hook up without any commitment to any relationship/friendship. 

Scenario 4 – You live in fear, stuck with whatever you’re doing because you would rather not take any risks of changing.  After all, you might make a bad choice, worse than the already bad scenario you’re in now.  You hate your job or school, but why change if the next one might be worse?  You’ve got an abusive boy/girlfriend, but no else will love you, right? Fear keeps you stuck in dead-end relationships.

Scenario 5 – Abuse – you’ve been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused and the painful experiences consume your life.  Does s/he deserve your nearly endless energy/emotions/thoughts directed toward him or her?

TAKE YOUR PERSONAL POWER BACK.  We’re human beings.  Unfortunately, not everything in life is going to be perfect.  As I said, if it were perfect, then we would be angels. 

WE DO HAVE PURPOSE AND MEANING in our lives.  I am a firm believer in using whatever God-given talents we have to make this world a better place.  No one is meant to be the same as another.  Do we want to be a force for good or for… – No, I don’t even want to think about it. 


One of the saddest things that a person could say is that s/he has no value, no meaning, or purpose in his/her life.  I hear it more often than you could ever imagine.  Perhaps it’s because we are looking for something so grandiose that we lose focus of the small things that make a difference?  I’ll never forget standing in line at the grocery store before a major holiday.  The lines had to be fifteen people deep when I noticed a woman struggling to unload her cart.  A baby was sleeping in her arms and a toddler was fidgety and whining.  I walked from the back of the line to the front and offered my help.  The look of gratitude in her eyes and the relief I saw on her face were unforgettable.  As I zigzagged back to my cart several people said that they thought about helping her too.  (Obviously, they didn’t.)  It was a simple act, but it had value for me, and hopefully for the woman, too.  We can all do these simple acts of kindness. 

What are your talents?  How are you using your skills to make our world better? 

When you are in control of your personal power and use it for good, a spark of light shines in the darkness.

So, who have you given your personal power to?  How has it affected you?  How are you going reclaim it? 

Maybe you need to say, “No, I don’t want that drink.”  Or, “I want to go home (even tell the person you’re not feeling well – believe me, you’re not lying – cause you’ll feel a lot worse if you do something you don’t want to do!)

Maybe you need to say, “Yes, I am breaking up with you!”  “Yes, I can work one night this week and on Sunday, but I am trying to get into college so I need time to study.”

What words do you need to practice, say, and follow through on?

Perhaps? “I’m tired of being angry all the time.”  “I am not going to spend another minute thinking about how so-and-so hurt me.”  “I am in control of my life and with whom I interact.”  “I will no longer associate with so-and-so.”

These are just a few suggestions.  I know it’s not easy.  If you find yourself struggling, please speak to a trusted teacher, minister, counselor, or professional.  It’s time to take back your personal power!

Hope this helps! 🙂 Liza

How Can I Figure Out What To Do With My Life, When I Can’t Even Decide What To Wear?
Feb 16th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

How Can I Figure Out What To Do With My Life, When I Can’t Even Decide What To Wear?

Sometimes Classes Aren't Enough!

*First, thanks to a reader for suggesting this topic! <3

Perhaps you’re a student approaching the possible dreaded decision of what to do after high school.  Or, perhaps you’re in college and you haven’t declared a major yet. Okay, so let’s tackle these different scenarios.

You’ve already been asked about a million times what you’re going to do with your life, what college you’re going to attend, and/or what you would like to major in.  “Fun” isn’t exactly the answer most people would expect or appreciate, but you might have a little “fun” throwing it out there.  Lol.  “I don’t know,” is a viable answer, but most people don’t seem to buy into it.

You’ve been in college for two years, and you still don’t know what you want to do.  The four-year-plan seems to be looking more like the five or six-year-plan.  Now what?  Should you declare, even if you’re not sure you’ll be happy with your decision?

Here’s my best advice:

I’m not going to tell you not to worry about it, but I am going to tell you don’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  Plans can and do change, but having some kind of plan is helpful.

1.  Know yourself.  What are your interests?  Do you like to: Read, write, dance, sing, play a musical instrument, socialize, hibernate, debate, cook, play sports, paint, watch sports, sail, create science experiments…  Computers, films, fashion, the beach, photography, politics, your faith, warm weather, cold weather…

The more you know about yourself, the better decisions you can make.  If you want, make a list of you likes and dislikes.

2.  Be willing to explore.  You might think that you’d like to be a writer, but take the opportunity to try out different courses.  A cousin took a linguistics class her freshman year and fell in love with it.  She ended up getting a dual degree in business and linguistics.  Another friend was interested in being an English major, but she found that Art History were one of her most favorite courses.  Now she integrates Art History in her writing.  A family member uses www.ratemyprofessor.com and saw that an Archeology professor received high ratings.  He took the class and loved it.

Don’t be afraid to change majors. When I was touring colleges with my elder son we heard an admissions director say that 90% of all students change their majors.

3.  Use Internet and social media sites to learn about yourself, integrate your interests/passions, and connect with people.  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, MySpace are all great social media sites, but how are you using them?  If they’re just for socializing with friends, then you’re missing a huge component that could help you figure out what you want to do with your life, or at the very least, utilize a talent that you possess.  Nicole, who started www.wordforteens.com in 2007 when she was thirteen, uses her passion for reading and has created a highly successful YA book blog.  It includes author interviews, giveaways, reviews, and some cool personal interests – she’s a Johnny Depp fan. J  Nicole utilizes social media sites like Twitter (555 followers as of today) to share her thoughts and connect with readers/authors!  Pretty amazing!  Blogging is a great way to share your interests with others.  Anyone can utilize social media sites like Nicole has – to connect with other people who have similar interests.  Want to know more about scuba diving? Use social media to learn more and it is an effective use of your time to discover what you do and do not like about a topic.

4.  Take responsibility for the decisions you make.  Want to know how this connects with figuring out what to do with your life?  It may seem simple, but it’s not.  If you make poor choices, the consequences can be severe.  How can you have direction if you are getting into trouble, drifting, vegging, doing drugs, binge drinking?  I can’t begin to tell you how many incredible, bright teens/YA end up making poor choices and find themselves in such difficult situations that they can’t dig themselves out – at least not for awhile.  The key is to ultimately take responsibility for the choices you make and THINK FIRST!  Do something active, positive, even if that means going on a walk through the mall to figure out what kinds of things you like and don’t like.  And gasp – do it alone so that you’re not influenced by what a friend thinks.    

5.  If you’re passionate about something, pursue your passion.  Please, please be passionate about something.  Apathy is your enemy.  Care about something!  Dogs? Art? Music?  A family member loves film/multi-media.  We encouraged him to use his talents to: 1. Start his own business, which he did when he was fifteen.  2. To find a college where he could excel in this area.  We knew that if he really loved film, then he would need to integrate it into his academic life too.  He’s now at BU in the Business Honors Program and getting a second degree in Communications with a focus on film.  If you don’t utilize your passions in some way, you’re going to be awfully unhappy.  Whether you find a club, play intramural sports, take art classes, join an a cappella group, find some way to engage your passions.

5.  I’ve said it in other articles on this blog, but it’s important to mention here, find mentors/role models!  You want to be the best writer?  Great, a wonderful ambition – maybe you’re close, maybe you’re interested, but don’t know how to get started, or maybe you’ve already won awards or have been published. If you really want to excel, continue to grow and learn, choose top authors and read their work – study it, digest it, understand it to the best of your ability.  This goes for many things in life.

6.  Surround yourself with people who have the same interests, but aren’t so competitive that they can’t be supportive.  Negative, self-centered, egomaniacs have a tendency to surround themselves with people who reflect their beliefs or whom they can bully/boss around.  Choose your friends wisely.  Don’t give your personal power up to anyone! (Look for a future blog piece coming soon!)

7.  Volunteer.  I’ve known many teens/YA who have discovered what they want to do with their lives through volunteer  work.  Many have used these experiences to get paying summer jobs.  There are thousands of non-profit organizations, many through churches and synagogues, that are in desperate need for volunteers.  Ask around your high school or college – I am certain you can find a perfect match for you. 

And last but not least… 

8.  Your experiences can shape who you are, but they don’t need to define you.  Mistakes happen.  Hopefully the consequences of those mistakes won’t be life changing.  Learn from them and move on.  People don’t make decisions or changes because of fear.  Most fears are in a person’s head.  Ask yourself what is or isn’t real and then be willing to at least explore different possibilities. 

Hope this helps.  🙂 Liza

Wisdom from Starbucks – Life Lessons from Teens to Seniors
Feb 8th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer


 Life Lessons from Teens to Seniors

I love connections and people’s stories.   I’m also a Starbucks addict.  If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m not shy.  So, I had no problem walking up to complete strangers at various Starbucks and asking them to share some wisdom with the rest of us.  I was blown away!  Some of the most brilliant thoughts came from teens and young adults! 

The priceless question:  What has life taught you so far?

The answers:  Definitely worth your time – a lot of wisdom came from people waiting for a mocha or cappuccino!

Kelly, 28, “Spend time with the people you love because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

Molly, 13, ON FRIENDSHIP: “When you have two friends who are fighting – stay out of it because they will put you in the middle and then you’re the one who will end up in the most trouble.  It’s okay to know that your best friend today may not be your best friend in the future.  Friends can change.  I lost my best friend because of a stupid mistake, but true friends are forgiving.  True friends also don’t focus on clothes and all the outer stuff.  Years from now, it won’t matter.  WHO YOU ARE INSIDE IS WHAT MAKES YOU A STAR!”

Also, don’t overreact because it’s pointless – a waste of energy – and in the end, it’s not nearly as important as you most likely thought it was.  Instead of wishing for life to be different, deal with the way things are. (Wishing doesn’t do anything – change only happens if you make it happen.)

Amanda, 25, NOTHING LESS.  I read this phrase in my assignment notebook in sixth or seventh grade.  It struck me then, and it has stayed with me.  What it conveyed was a message that I should settle for nothing less than fulfilling my personal goals and dreams.  It motivated me.  As I got older, I continued to follow this idea.  The only thing that has changed is that I realized that sometimes you can alter your dreams as you go along the way.”

Isaac, 13, Respect your friends.  Don’t yell at them or keep things bottled up.  It will only come out at another time or land on someone else that you care about.”

Jodi, 34, “Trust in who you are, and trust your heart.  Sometimes your head can get in the way, especially when you start wondering what other people are thinking.  Let that go and when you do, you’ll find that things fall into place.

Taylor, 14, “Boys can be stupid.  When they act like they’re interested in you, they’re not, and when they act like they aren’t interested in you, they are.  Why don’t they just say exactly what they mean!

Maureen, 62, “It’s important to find something to laugh about every day.  Surround yourself with people whom you enjoy and feel good to be around.  True friendship involves relationships that understand that things happen – we all go through a lot in life – so appreciate how precious life is and cherish each moment.”

Jamie, 45, “Never underestimate what (you can do) or what your children can do.  Your children are capable of so much more than you think; so don’t limit them with your perceptions.” 

Marnie, 30, “When you put anything on the computer, even when you think it’s private, it’s not.  Facebook, e-mail, Twitter etc. is not private.  If you don’t want the world to know about it, keep it off the computer – PERIOD!”

Hannah, 13, “Don’t put off your homework!  I had an assignment and had two weeks to do it.  I kept thinking that I had time to get it done and when I finally got around to doing it then night before, it was way too late.  I could have done a lot better.”

Jennifer, 46, “Don’t make drama where there is none, because doing so is unnecessary.  There’s enough real drama in your life to deal with without creating more.  Also, don’t play the “what if…” game if you’re going to focus on the negatives.  It doesn’t help you one bit in life!”

Judy, 63, “A person’s worst qualities can also be his/her best qualities.  For example, if someone is stubborn, this quality may mean she will keep at something until she gets it perfect – she will be driven to succeed.  On the other hand, being stubborn might lead to being inflexible.  A person needs to learn how to use these qualities for the best, and in the most positive way.”

How about sharing some of your own wisdom?  You don’t have to be at Starbucks to do so – just click on comments.  Thanks, Liza

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