Sunday, October 2, 2011

Farewell Ethel

Well, I'm sorry to bring you sad news.  I had to say goodbye to a dear friend, Ethel.  She was such a sweet little thing.  Short, stout, kind of an Aunt Bea looking type.  Sweet just isn't enough to describe Ethel.  She is one of those dear souls that wouldn't harm a fly. Ethel  just loves everyone.  She always made me feel special. When Ethel saw me she would jump up and come to greet me, so obviously happy to see me.

You may be wondering why Ethel had to leave.  For some reason the other girls were just not getting along with her.  Out of the blue, after a year and a half, Ina decided she didn't like Ethel.  Then, one by one, the others joined along.  First Ida, then Lucy, then Millie and Minnie, Fannie, Clara, and finally  Lilly. Eventually the bullying got worse. It was so hard to watch - Ethel just trying to join in and the others really obviously not accepting her.  It actually got violent. This makes me so sad.  I just don't understand why some are just not valued by others.  . .  why some get bullied . . .and why some are bullies. 
As a child I was often bullied. While walking home from elementary school, I was actually hit and pushed to the ground by a mean little boy.  This lasted for several months, and then I guess he just got bored with it.  There were a couple other mean little boys that would occasionally torment me, chasing me, kicking me.  I can't tell you why.  Looking back, I can't imagine why a parent or teacher on the playground never noticed it.  Oddly, I never told my parents.  I guess by then I felt so badly about myself that it didn't occur to me that I shouldn't have to put up with it.  
The girls were mean in another way - by not accepting me and by making fun of me.  I was a tiny child, very sensitive and easy to intimidate and pick on.  Isn't that the way it always goes?  The little ones always seem to get picked on. And please allow me to add in an afterthought here, my friend Meri points out that not only the little ones get picked on, the big kids get picked on too, and many other kids who are different are easy targets.  Her comment brought to mind another sad little girl that used to wander the playground alone.  She was quite chubby, and very shy.  I did try talking to her a few times but she would turn away. Sad but true. Just now remembering her and the sad look in her beautiful blue eyes breaks my heart.  

I really didn't like school at all.  I didn't mind the actual classroom part, but recess was really lonely.   I would wander around and try to join in on games with the other children, but they had their little groups and I wasn't welcome.  I guess I was a little different than them.  I remember for weeks watching the girls in my class playing with the jumprope. Not just the ordinary jumprope but the really long one, the double dutch jump rope.  I wanted so badly to try, but was never included.   I mentioned this to my mom, and a few days later there was a bright pink with yellow handles double dutch jumprope on the kitchen table when I got home from school.  I was so excited!!!!  Now for sure they would play with me.  I could barely sleep that night I was so excited.  The next day I carefully packed my jumprope along with my bag lunch.  Sitting in the classroom, I  stared at the clock all morning, willing the hands of the clock to move a bit faster.  After what felt like an eternity the bell rang  and it was time for recess.   I rushed outside with my new jumprope and stood in the spot where the other girls normally played.  It didn't take long for me to figure out that nobody was really interested in joining me.  The same group of girls gathered together, just like every other day.  After a few minutes I just folded it up a few times and jumped by myself.  At lunch recess I tried again, with no luck. By afternoon recess with nobody to jump with I just sat on the school steps and waited for the bell to ring.  I was so sad.   When I think back I just wish I would have been bolder and asked people from a different grade to jump with me. I'm sure there were a few lost souls like me wandering around.  I wish I would have gathered them all together and we could have played together.

I wasn't your typical cutesy little girl.  I had long, unruly, wavy locks, thick glasses, and didn't really care all that much about my appearance.  I was a tomboy to be sure.  Playing with dolls was not my idea of fun.  I would much rather climb trees or play football.  I do think the fact that there were a million boys on the block and very few girls had something to do with it.  I was also sandwiched  between two brothers, each of us two years apart.  My sister came along six years after me, but she was really much younger.   That was back when large families were the norm, and I'm telling you that block must have had a hundred kids on it.  Mostly boys, and a few girls with . . . you guessed it . . . . Barbie dolls.   
As I got a little older, the boys were getting so much bigger than me that playing football and the rough and tumble games boys play was not really a good idea anymore. Even though I would still join in on Kick The Can and 'Round The Moon at night, little by little I withdrew into myself and found ways to amuse myself.  I think right around then is when I realized I like doing things with my hands.  My grandma taught me to knit and I enjoyed it.  I liked to color and draw.  I recall putting a piece of paper over a leaf and rubbing a  crayon back and forth and getting a tracing of the leaf.  I also read a lot as a child.  I would ride my bike the mile and a half to the local library and spend hours going through the books. As I parked my bike in the metal bike rack, (remember those?) and walked up the cement steps into the red brick building I felt I was no longer alone, the outcast, because within these walls I had more friends that I could count - Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, and countless others.  I can still remember the smell of the library. I would get as many books as I could fit in my bike basket each week. On the ride home I always rode down the street paved with red bricks.  I would sing aloud and hear my voice vibrate as I drove over the bricks.  
Once home, I carried my huge stack of books upstairs and  opened the door to the balcony outside my bedroom. The huge maple tree in the front yard would provide shade, and I could watch the world go by unnoticed.  I spent so many wonderful  hours out there reading the afternoon away, writing poetry, daydreaming of the many adventures I would surely have as I grew up.  I remember getting a little certificate, a summer book club award for reading such a huge amount of books.  At night I would sneak a book under the covers with a little flashlight, keeping one ear uncovered so I could hear my mother coming upstairs to tell me to stop reading and go to sleep.

No, I didn't really have any friends to play with, but my life was full of little adventures.   I would climb trees, ride my bike, swim in our little backyard pool, rake leaves into a huge pile, make snowmen and snow angels, all the typical things children will do.  Just with my siblings instead of friends.  There were always tons of kids nearby since we had a family of 7 children right next door, so who needed friends anyhow?  Weekends I would spend with my grandma and grandad.  Talk about feeling loved, right?  My grandad passed very young unexpectedly, and after that I spent as much time as I could with my grandma, who missed him so.  I spent a great deal of my summers there with her after his passing.  I didn't want her to be alone.

As an adult, I find I spend most of my time with my family, and any spare time keeping myself busy with my crafts.  I guess that is where I feel the safest and happiest.   Of course we had the sibling rivalry at home growing up, but  I never had the feeling of not being good enough or different.  Lucky for me I had a wonderful family and I have many wonderful childhood memories to offset the sad ones.

Back to Ethel.  I don't know if you might have figured it out yet, but Ethel is a chicken.  A Salmon Faverolle to be exact.  I did lots of research before picking out the breeds of chickens I would purchase. My top priority was for them to be very docile and calm and quiet.  I didn't want noisy chickens since I'm technically a "chicken outlaw" and not zoned to have them, and I didn't want aggressive chickens, since I would be scared to handle them.  Ethel was such a sweet little thing.  In my research I remember the description for her breed noting that in a mixed flock this bird often gets picked on because they are so docile. Since all the other breeds I picked out were supposed to be especially calm and nonaggressive, I didn't think this would be a problem.  

Watching Ethel get bullied was so difficult for me.  It upset my husband too. He's another one of those sensitive ones. It probably would be hard for anyone to watch.  I guess I am the defender of the underdogs, the protector of all things too weak and small to stand up for themselves.  Because I lived through the bullying I never forgot how it feels. Looking on the bright side, I do think it made me a better person.  By some crazy twist of fate, I actually made the cheerleading squad in high school.  At that point the bullying was over and I was instantly in the "in" crowd.  Walking down the halls of the high school I would look at the faces of some of the other girls passing by and recognize the look of wishing to fit in with the crowd, wanting to belong, longing to be popular.   I made a point of always saying hello to people by name, especially the ones that weren't considered to be the most attractive or talented or popular.  Seeing someone's face light up because a "popular" girl actually singled her out from the crowd and said hi to her and called her by name made me feel really good.  I knew how happy I would have felt to have someone treat me like I mattered.  I ended up being friends with a lot of the girls, cheerleaders and non cheerleaders, but my two best friends throughout high school were girls who were not "popular", but just really nice girls.  My high school was pretty big, our senior class had around 700 graduates, so there were actually many different "popular" groups - band, sports, art, drama, etc. It was easy to find a place you kind of fit into, but it was also easy to get lost in the crowd.

I guess Ethel and I are just a different breed.  I am certain there are more of us out there.  I know it to be true, because I have met many of you. We love deeply, we are compassionate and sensitive, and only want to be loved. It must be genetic, because my children seem to have the same trait.  Each of them is sensitive and very kind, and would never hurt someone else. They are the ones who say "Thank you" to the speaker on the fast food drive through, and smile at the bank teller and ask how they are doing. They tell me they love me each time we end a phone call even if we talk every single day. I am so lucky.  I have three boys and one girl. One granddaughter and two grandsons.  I am so proud of my kids, they are such wonderful people, each of them, and I am so blessed to have them as my family. And, as before, when I am with family I feel accepted, and loved.  I think this is why I wanted a large family, and other than being a teacher my only wish in life was to be a mom and housewife. I never did finish my college education, but I was a teacher in more ways than one! 

My youngest son actually took on the role of playground protector and stood up to the bullies who would try to pick on the weakest kids at school.  I was so happy when he would tell me about it because I knew he just couldn't stand by and watch someone get bullied. My heart would swell with pride and gratification that my children were not the "bullies", and also not the "bullied".

I made a temporary home for Ethel in the shed at night and let her run loose during the day while the others were in the pen. It was double cleaning, double feeding, and just plain double work, but I was determined to keep her safe.  And happy.  She got extra treats.  I would get her out early in the morning and she got to run loose around the back yard all day while the other girls  watched enviously from within the fenced in area.  I can't tell you how many times I would let them know how displeased I was with them and throw the little remark out to them, "Well, that's what you get for being mean". The saddest thing for me was during the day going back to check on her.  I did this several times daily to make sure she had enough food and water, and to make sure she was alright. We had a fenced in area in the backyard for the chickens, right next to the coop, to keep them safe from predators. Every time I went back to check on her, there she was, peering in at all the other girls, obviously wanting to be in there with them.  She would just stand or sit right next to the fence, getting as close as she could to her "friends", even though when she was allowed to mingle they would again bully her.   It was so pathetic.  It almost made me cry.  I would go pull some lettuce from the garden and give her a huge pile to eat and throw a little in for the girls, but I was still mad at them. I know they are just chickens and maybe this is more instinctual than anything, but it was still sad.

Eventually a friend offered to take Ethel.  She just bought a new batch of young chickens, and we were hopeful that the little chickens would be intimidated by Ethel's fluffy chubby little body and look up to her as a leader, not someone to bully. A mother hen, if you will.

I don't want to end this on a sad note, so let me say that throughout the years I have met some wonderful, kind, sweet people, both through my blog and in the "real world", and my faith in human nature has somewhat been restored.  My husband is one of those kind-hearted people who would never hurt someone.  I am very lucky to have met these wonderful people, and some of you are reading this right now.

Sadly, if I am asked if I was one of the popular ones, I would probably have to answer no.  I can still relate to the outcasts, the unpopular, the unattractive. I was one of them.  Nobody likes to get picked on . . . we all just want to be loved.  

My hope is that all of the people who feel unloved will have love,  those without friends will find friendship, and those who are certain they will never be good enough will know that they always have been good enough . . . all along.  

P.S.  I never did learn to jump double dutch.



  1. Awww Julie. I love your post and know right where you are coming from. So glad your friend took sweet Ethel. At least you know she will have a good home. You can go visit her. But I know that if feels good when she runs up to you in her loving way.

  2. oh i am sitting here crying my eyes out my friend for you and for Ethel -- my heart is breaking in half on all levels of the story. sending you and miss ethel as she flies high all the love in the world and for all of those that were and are being bullied in life -- i believe in the old addage that it is so much easier to be kind and nice then nasty and mean. take care and God bless. hugs...

  3. Dearest Julie,

    I knew we must have a lot in common......this story proves it. However, I do have to enlighten you about your theory of "Isn't that the way it always goes? The little ones always seem to get picked on." I got picked on for exactly the opposite reason........I was bigger than everyone else. There are so many hurtful ways to pick on people, whether they be small or tall, and none of it is right.

    I'm so sorry I still haven't managed to get your package out to you, the only excuse I have is that I keep forgetting and I'm so exhausted. I'm so sorry, but it will be sent, I promise. Thank goodness it's not something perishable or growth related, as it would have molded or you'd have grown out of it by now....LOL.

    Big Hugs,

  4. Your post really touched me today. I can totally relate to your feelings, having gone through similar incidents while growing up. Sad about Ethel, but I'm sure she'll enjoy her new home.

  5. Oh Julie each time you write something it seems I can relate to it so much. I was extremely shy when I was young so I found it hard to make friends. I did have a couple of good friends at school but as we lived out of town, even though there were a lot of kids living there, I just didn't seem to fit in with them too well for a long time. One day one of the families moved away and I became friends with a girl who had been friends with them. A bonus for me really. A few years ago I started writing about my growing up years and it seemed I was lonely for a lot of years but I have no regrets and I feel quite lucky because like you I had parents and brothers who loved me. I grew up with the beach at the front of the house and bush land behind it. It was fantastic. I know I have said thanks to you before for your posts but thank you again for this one. Hugs

  6. Wow, I guess I wasn't alone. I figured as much. And Meri, yes, the bigger kids got picked on too. So what if some kids are bigger and some are little, and some have freckles, and some have ears that stick out. So what? What is so sad for me is once you are picked on and told you aren't good enough, it stays with you. Even as a cheerleader, (and I still can't figure out how I made the squad,) I never felt good enough. I felt like the dorkiest, ugliest, most uncool cheerleader, and felt I never quite fit in. I actually quit cheerleading halfway through senior year because I had a part-time job afternoons (I left school at noon because I had enough credits) to help me save for college, and I was told that by missing daily practices each afternoon I would be given a demerit, and after 17 demerits I would be off the squad. I told the cheerleading advisor that we should just save everyone a lot of time and trouble and I quit. I wasn't going to give up my job, I needed the money. So even cheerleading didn't help my self confidence. Bullying is a terrible thing, and I wish it didn't happen, but it does. Look at Ethel . . .

  7. What a tear jerking post - you are a beautiful writer Julie. I grew up just like you did - I not only was shy and small but also had curly hair, freckles and thick glasses - I was a bookworm like you and loved Nancy Drew and the same books you did. My three sisters were "in" while I was "out" if you know what I mean. They had lots of friends, straight hair, no freckles and good eyes - wonder where I came from?? I survived childhood but to this day am still shy and find it hard to really make lasting friendships - my children and husband are my friends. I feel so bad for Ethel but am sure she is happy now. I have been reading that bullying has really become a serious problem in schools - am so glad both of my children are past that stage.

  8. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I was feeling so sad for you, but clearly your experiences have shaped the kind and caring person that you are now. And you passed that down to your childen. I have always thought that no matter what happens away from home, if you have a family that loves you you can get through it. Sadly though, that isn't always the case. I also have read the stories of how common bullying is in schools and am glad my kids are past that. I was never bullied as a child, but definitely was not in the "cool" group. But I think that's really where I'm most comfortable anyway.

    And as for Ethel, I'm happy that she is in her new home. I know that must have been hard for you. But you considered what was best for her.

    You've really hit on a timely subject with this. It brings up memories of similiar experiences for so many.

  9. You would probably be amazed at how many kids felt this same way. Sad but true. And those of us who experienced it spend years trying to get past it - often in vain. It should remind every mother to be watchful and to validate their kids in every way possible. blessings, marlene

  10. Poor little Ethyl. I'm so glad you protected her and then found her a new home where she would be safer.
    Your childhood sounds so sad. Makes me want to cry. I would have been your friend. I don't think I ever belonged to any "clicks", but I did join lots of different clubs and interest groups and I was friends with pretty much everyone I crossed paths with. We moved several times and so I went to 3 different high schools, so I was always in the "making new friends" stage. I do cherish my longtime friends and continued to nurture those relationships via mail, and now e-mail, all these years later.

  11. PS- The little town I visited was in Missouri.

  12. Well! I hope Ethel will stick up for any new chickens that come along to her new school!

    Our new kitten torments our old mama cat and it makes me so mad! Our mama won't fight back and I feel so sorry for her!

    I was a tormented underdog in grade school and always made friends with other underdogs. I had a strong sense of justice and it **infuriated** me that the teachers allowed the bullying to go on and that they clearly favored the smart/ pretty/rich kids... what a difference it would have made if I would have had just one caring teacher and/or a caring home life.

    It only got worse in highschool and with no spiritual life, it really fueled the rebelion I was already in. If you've seen the movie the Breakfast Club, I would have been that vile stoner guy...

    The schools are supposedly cracking down on bullying these days but kids still won't tell so I feel the only answer is for better supervision. Some kids handle bullying and teasing better than others. One of my boys was teased for being nerdy in school but it didn't phase him and he actually grew up to be a "cool" guy. On the other hand, people like me still have to recieve healing from the Lord for the abuses in childhood.

    (Or homeschool like I do!)

    Come by and say hi for Dotty Hop Day! ♥

  13. Julie, how sad all those children missed out on a wonderful friendship.

    Throughout middle & high school I wasn't popular nor unpopular. I don't know how I would of been labeled.Perhaps freinds with all. But my very best friend was picked on all the time and I was often asked "why are you her friend" and other questions. But the sad thing was those people never stopped to take the time to know her. Had they, they'd seen she had a heart. They missed out on knowing a fabulous human. They ruined her MS & HS years sadly.

  14. Lucy,
    I am so sorry that you lost your Ethyl :(
    I can relate to being bullied, I was called Jaba the Hut (by the son of the PREACHER of my church.) for 6 years! All through Jr high and high school, I was never once asked on a date, I was told over and over I was too fat (I was a size 14) to date...the list goes on.
    Know you are loved beyond measure now and I am so glad we "met".

  15. Julie, It seems we were the same girl in childhood. I think now I am glad for this as it has made my heart a kind one as an adult. I admire young women with all the confidence in the world, and I am so surprised to find they admire me. It seems they must see in us what we can't see in ourselves.
    Have a lovely week ahead Julie! Elizabeth

  16. So glad that you are following my blog Julie! I thought that I followed you also because your on my favourites, been here before, now a follower, Marilyn. I like to think of myself as looking like my beach photo, but the truth is I am much paler:)! I love your vintage images, and it's a pleasure to meet you, Busymartha
    My daughters gave me that handle when they were young, they thought I was just like Martha Stewart!

  17. Thanks for stopping by my blog!! I hope you will post some before and after pictures of your sewing room. I love to be organized too. My space is still very much a work in progress, but it's coming along. I only have half the room ( and a very small closet where I keep my quilting fabrics) to work with, as the other side of the room is the computer/office space.
    We didn't want to "take over" our kids rooms yet... someday when they are out of college and into their own apartment and working full time, it might make sense to spread out a bit more, but for now we want them to know that their rooms still belong to them.

  18. Hi Julie,
    Thank you so much visiting my blog! I am your newest follower! There is so much truth in your story--things that have happened to so many of us in one way or another. I wonder if we ever outgrow needing acceptance--I don't think so!

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  19. Hello Julie...You have wrtten this post so eloquently...I am sure many will be able to relate to your story...Poor Ethel..I am so glad that you have found a happy outcome to the situation although I am sure you will miss her...but it must have been so hard to watch her being bullied.
    Thank you so much for calling by my blog and your lovely comments about the emboidery...I hope you have fun at your machine is a Bernina and I love it!
    Wishing you a great week,
    Susan x

  20. I just found your blog! You write so beautifully! I'm glad everything worked out with little Ethel.

    I'm a new follower!

  21. I think we can all relate to your post so well, this has happened to so many of us. I am now having to go through it with my seven year old Gabs, she is a little bigger than the others in her class and very strong willed but such a lovely lovely girl, I tell her that everyone will catch her up, but as we know when we are little we don't listen to grown ups!!
    Think it has all turned out the best for Ethel,
    have a great rest of your week,
    Andrea x

  22. Wow Julie, I could have written this post. Except that I was an only child, which added to the loneliness growing up. Thanks for sharing your heart. I hope all goes well for Ethel.

  23. Julie, Wiping the tears from my eyes for Ethel. And unfortunately, my own self, yes, as an Adult, I Still feel picked on. Actually, it happened this past weekend on my job and I feel so sad about it. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and people seem to use it against me...:( As a child growing up, I was in the popular with the most of the kids, but as soon as I needed to, I would put any of them in there place, and stick up for anyone who needed my attention and spoke my mind whenever necessary, so I lost a few "friends" along the way. But, when at my 10 year High School reunion, and a boy I had went to school with that had been outcast for belonging to the Boys Club in High School, came up to me and said, I was the only person he was looking forward to seeing again, I felt proud of myself as a young women. But still, here in adulthood, I seem to have to stick up for myself and the way I feel. Only, now at 47, I seem to be the one on the outside the fence like Ethel, and If I dare get inside with the other chicks, I will be pecked to death. I feel for Ethel, and am glad she had such a kind women like yourself to love her enough to take her away from such a sad situation. Thanx for sharing your story. It touched my heart, and made me understand that, we can't change the way people treat us, but, we can take ourselves out of the situation. Or, in Ethel's case, someone can love us enough, to take us out of a bad situation. :D
    Hugs, Christine

  24. I too was the lonely child in the playground. Too rub salt into the wound I had a brother with a disability and back in the 70's it was unheard of to 'keep a child' like this. Most were sent to a childrens home. I was outcast so others wouldn't 'catch' his Downs Syndrome. People can be cruel. I too would seek out friendships in literature and made best friends with Nancy Drew and anything by Enid Blyton....this was my refuge.
    I went on to have a large family and love the children we have brought into this world. Each one of them is friendly, compassionate and takes into their fold 'the new kid' or lonely children in the playground. My stories have become a gift to all the lonely kids in their playground. They feel sad to know that their Mummy was sad and lonely when she was little.
    Your story is beautiful and apart from your chooks our stories are very similar.
    There is power in words and stories such as these can open people's hearts and create a better world.

  25. I know exactly what you mean. I was not the outgoing cheerleader type. I have always been introverted stand to the side and watch everyone else type. I remember one time I really stood up for myself. I girl who was part of the very loose group I associated with grabbed my fountain pen (yeah showing my age now) and wouldn't give it back. That was the day I had had enough and I told her if she didn't I would hit her, she laughed and said no and I slapped her right across the face. Everyone at the table was stunned, she gave me the pen, and oddly enough NO ONE ever grabbed ANYTHING of mine again. We were never close friends, but no one ever bothered me again. I think I was 11 or 12 (still in elementary school). The only other person I ever hit after that was my youngest brother (oddly enough for doing the same thing) only this time I threw a glass with water in it at him and never had anymore problems with him. He caught the glass but got drenched with the water. Only 2 times in my life have I gotten violent, but both times the problem was solved. I don't advocate violence as a general rule, at all but sometimes it works.

  26. This is my first time here - reading about Ethyl made me want to cry. Seriously.
    Bullying happened to me also. I was so glad to leave that HS and switch to the county school. Things were so much better.

    I love your blog.
    I’m a follower