The Neighborhood Witch-Hunt
Elizabeth Johnson Lee

Our former neighborhood seemed like a dream come true until the “McDermotts”, who did whatever they could to manipulate and control me, moved in next door. I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and I’ve since studied how such bullies lacking in compassion or conscience think and how they operate. My family’s Earth-based religion, and my disability, were used against me in what turned into a neighborhood disaster.
I have Tourette syndrome, a neurological condition where my brain sends signals to my body, including my vocal cords, to move against my will. Onlookers unfamiliar with the syndrome sometimes misinterpret those noises and movements, called “tics,” as disruptive or intimidating. Even though my Tourette made me an easy target, what happened to me could happen to anyone. Only the victims of bullies understand what they’re really like. Bystanders don’t realize the truth until they too become victims. By then money is lost, reputations are ruined.
My nine-year-old daughter, “Janie”, played for hours everyday at our old house with two neighborhood girls, “Carol” and “Nonie”. When they were hurt or upset, I comforted them and helped smooth altercations. In order to avoid misunderstandings, I explained to the kids and their parents about my tics and asked for their understanding. Janie and I shared with her friends some things about our spirituality. I felt grateful for having such wonderful neighbors.
Then “Bruce”, “Suzy”, and “Dora”, after having lived elsewhere, moved back in next door.
Dora was a 10-year-old girl who was so charming, as she shared stories about her life, that she seemed too good to be true.
Then, in an instant, she changed. She insulted kids, lied, and refused to follow rules for respect in our home. Often as I moved about my house, she stared at me. It was unnerving.
Most disturbing of all was Dora’s finding the pain she inflicted on others, whether emotional or physical, funny. One day I gardened in my front yard. Dora walked up, obviously in her charming mode, and shared how she was caught lying by her parents about stealing money.
“Then I told them the truth about taking it,” she said, “but they punished me anyway because when I admitted it, I laughed.”
“Yeah,” I said, “when you laugh at people when they’re upset, it hurts because it seems like you don’t care how they feel.”
“I know,” she said, nodding. She wandered off. A minute later, as I bent over to plant a rose bush, I heard a loud scream. Looking up, I saw Dora sticking her foot out in the path of her older brother on his skateboard as he hurtled through the air and onto the ground in what looked like a painful wipe out. Dora laughed.
Another time Carol came into our house crying because Janie and Dora wouldn’t let her play their game. Janie and Dora came in, ignoring Carol’s tears.
“Hey,” I said, “you two apologize to Carol.” Janie looked at me and then down, contrite, but Dora laughed. Carol cried harder, and as she did Dora laughed louder, until it was hysterical, uncontrollable. I stared, speechless. It sounded sadistic.
Dora’s parents believed that kids should work out their own issues without parental involvement, an opinion I thought sounded like an excuse to not hold Dora accountable for anything or take responsibility for her actions. When they first moved in, we carpooled the kids to school. Things seemed to go fine until one morning when Janie pleaded with me not to make her ride in the same car with Dora because Dora had been teasing her. Not wanting to upset Dora’s parents, I hesitated, but Janie cried and pleaded until I finally gave in.
That afternoon Dora played on our front yard, which had become the neighborhood playground, as if nothing had happened. “Dora,” I said. “I’m sorry I excluded you this morning when we drove to school. Janie said you were teasing her, and she was very upset about it. Could you both please tell me more about what’s going on?” Both girls aired things, and just as we were resolving them, I heard Suzy’s high, whiney voice.
“Dora, could you come here please?” Dora ran off, and a moment later Suzy walked over to Janie and me. “Don’t talk to Dora about problems!” She yelled. This can’t be happening, I thought, looking in shock at her furious, reddened face. Hadn’t Dora told her I’d apologized? “If you have a problem with Dora, you come to me! You think everything’s always Dora’s fault!”
“No, that’s not true—” I began, shaking my head, but Suzy cut me off. She yelled and yelled, saying that if I was mad at Dora, it was my problem, and that kids should “figure things out on their own”.
“From now on when you have a problem with Dora, you come to me!” She turned and walked off.
I asked “Maddy”, Carol and Nonie’s mother, about Dora. “Dora has a disconnect,” she said, saying that Dora was unable to understand why other kids’ got upset when she was mean, or why she got punished for it; She had no understanding of such cause and effect relationships, nor did she have empathy. “Her teachers have had trouble with her at school, and she’s always in trouble with her parents.” Maddy also said that Dora took after Suzy. “As much as I love Suzy, she’s self-centered.”
One day Janie came to me in tears because Dora told her I was creepy and worshiped the devil, a comment that was a direct insult against our religion. Carol and Nonie had joined her against Janie.
I told the kids to leave, to not come back until they apologized. “I can play here any time I want, and you can’t make me leave,” laughed Dora from the upper branches of our magnolia tree. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally convinced her to come down and leave. Twice during the next half hour, we caught her playing in our yard. The third time, I yelled, telling her again to leave. Let Suzy come yelling, I thought. Did they expect me to be a saint? I had to let Dora know I meant business.
Suzy was back. “You were in her face a year ago, and now you’re in her face again!”
“This is the only time I ever yelled at her.”
Leaning her face within inches of mine, she said, “That—is—a—bunch—of—crap!” Feeling threatened, I stumbled backwards.
For five months, Janie became a whole different child. She gave up biking and rollerblading and wouldn’t go outside because she was afraid of Dora. She withdrew inward, defeated, and complained of stomachaches and headaches.
I asked the police if there was anything we could do. They suggested a restraining order, and asked to talk with Dora’s family. I refused unless there was another incident, but there wasn’t because Janie wouldn’t play outside. In order to quell any rumors, I told a few neighbors. “No wonder I never see her playing outside anymore,” they said.
Trying to be positive, I smiled and waved whenever I saw Dora. One of those times she looked away and went behind a car. Wanting to reassure her she didn’t need to fear me, I went over, peeked behind the car, and again smiled and waved to her. She quickly walked away. Feeling discouraged, I left. I would later regret what I had done.
Dora’s harassment of Janie continued at school and my husband, “Scott”, and I complained to the principal. He met with the girls and emailed all four of us parents. Rather than investigating past problems, the principal said, he asked them instead about their current relationship, saying that both girls denied current problems. His misleading statement led to an ordeal I’ll never forget.
The next morning Bruce came to my door. “I was wondering if I should take legal action against you,” he said.” Legal action, I thought, for stopping their kid from bullying my kid? I felt instantly on guard. “We doubt your claims of harassment are true.”
“They’re true, but Janie hasn’t had any problems with Dora since we reported it to the school.” A month later my words would come back to haunt me in the most twisted, distorted way.
Scared and not knowing where to turn, I did what would later be considered an unforgivable act:
I spoke with Dora’s teacher.
I wanted an advocate, some support, and if the McDermott’s really did take legal action, I wanted information. After school let out, I waited until five minutes had passed. Then, thinking that Dora had left by then, I entered her classroom. There, with the teacher and two other kids, was Dora.
Smiling, I approached and greeted the teacher, asking, in a quiet voice, to speak with her alone. She told the kids to leave, and I waited until they’d gone to speak. “Did Dora admit to harassing Janie?” I asked
“Have any other kids in your class had trouble with Dora?”
Looking suspicious, she hedged, and I realized that she couldn’t share that information without breaching confidentiality.
“It’s just that,” I said, my nervousness growing, “they’ve threatened to take legal action against me for reporting Janie’s accusations of Dora’s bullying to the school, and I’m so frightened.” She looked at me as if I was the one to be frightened of instead, and I realized that Dora’s parents had probably told her they believed that I’d made everything up too. “I’d appreciate it if you could keep our conversation confidential,” I said. Thanking her, I left.
That afternoon the principal called me, upset. The teacher had blabbed. Dora’s parents had threatened me for protecting my daughter, and the school was mad at me? Bruce and Suzy showed up at our door, also angry. Someone had blabbed to them too. Later the doorbell rang again.
It was the police.
The officer told me, as my family gathered nearby and my mouth went dry with fear, that I wasn’t to talk to Dora’s teacher again, nor was I to approach Dora anymore and make intimidating gestures. “They can get a restraining order,” he said.
“But officer,” I said, “I haven’t been trying to approach Dora and intimidate her. What’s that about?”
“They said you have.”
“Once when I walked my dog while she was playing on the street, I smiled and waved to her, and she hid behind a car. Is that what they meant?”
The officer looked away to the side and then down, as if I’d taken all the oomph out of his momentum. “It’s obviously been a misunderstanding,” he said.
The next morning Scott received from Dora’s parents a multiple page vindictive of things they claimed I’d done to “harass” them, imploring him to make me stop. He pointed out Bruce and Suzy’s description of my “intimidating gestures” from when I’d sat alone in a chair thinking no one was watching me at a block party, six months before: eye rolling, head shaking, intentionally dramatic frowning, and mouthing words. “These are your tics,” he said. I looked down at the printed page.
“Hey, you’re right. They are. They know I have Tourette syndrome, and they’re trying to use it against me.” Other accusations included:

*That all my complaints of Dora harassing Janie were only figments of my paranoid imagination, a result, they claimed, of my having been bullied as a child and my resulting identity as a victim
*That the principal had investigated everything and claimed Janie said that Dora hadn’t harassed her
*That I’d told Bruce that Dora hadn’t harassed Janie
*That I’d loudly complained about Dora to her teacher in front of Dora and other kids
*That I seemed psychotic and was stalking and harassing Dora
*That I had an odd fixation on Dora and they were all afraid of me

They, afraid of me, I thought. But we were the victims, not them.
If they didn’t receive a signed letter from me agreeing not to complain about Dora again by the next morning, they said, they’d file a restraining order against me.
I was aghast. That’s blackmail, I thought. Ron, a lawyer who took my case, said it was obvious they had twisted the facts around, exaggerated them, and taken them out of context. He advised me not to write them such a note.
Two weeks later, after I’d decided they were just bluffing, a process server served me at my door with a subpoena/restraining order. A sharp pain stabbed my gut. “They did it,” said Scott. “They actually did it.”
At the court date, Bruce, Ron, and I approached the judge. Bruce clutched declarations that he’d collected from others to use against me. There wasn’t enough time for the judge to hear our case, so we had to reschedule. The judge refused to accept the declarations. “I’ll take those,” said Ron, snatching them right out of Bruce’s hands.
They were damning.
Four of them were from neighbors who, at one time or another, had confided in me about messy neighbors or difficult husbands, and my feelings of betrayal were overwhelming. Two neighbors didn’t say anything about me, but their descriptions of Dora’s superficial charm made her sound like the second coming of Christ. It was obvious from their wording that every neighbor believed the McDermott’s twisted version of events was true because they’d known them for decades. Maddy said that Dora seemed like a “normal” kid, an exact contradiction to what she’d told me before. A friend of the McDermott’s said that Dora had been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, a condition that explained all of Dora’s behavior problems.
I felt attacked, and my dream of a happy childhood for Janie came crashing down around me in tiny fragments. It felt like a conspiracy; a Witch-hunt.
The next court date was a month away. I was supposed to stay thirty feet away from the McDermotts, their vehicles, and their pets at all times. It was impossible. Dora played in front of our house, their cat came into our yard, and they parked their vehicles in front of our house. When I picked up Janie from school, I had to walk around the playground and then circle back to get to her classroom.
One day I came face to face with Dora.
After staring at her for a second in horror, I hurried away. Would the police be there to meet me when we got home? They weren’t, but the stress was unbearable. Everyday I cried. I could barely eat, and sleep was almost impossible.
Ron asked if there were any neighbors I could ask to testify for me in court. All the ones I knew best had sided with the McDermott’s. Any others, I feared, might also do the same. “Uh—no,” I said. I gathered my family and friends to come to court and testify.
The next court date finally came. “What a big crowd of people,” the judge said when my group, 11 in all, entered the courtroom. The McDermott’s group, including Maddy, numbered five. Again the judge didn’t have enough time to hear our case. Bruce and I approached the judge again. My heart hammered in my chest. Bruce yelled on and on, complaining about all the alleged hardship I’d caused their family. When he said I’d made up all the bullying complaints, I spoke up.
“Excuse me your honor, but my daughter told me that Dora had been bullying her.”
“Oh come on,” Bruce said. “We both know nothing happened.” He continued his rant, saying, “I don’t want Liz mouthing words at Dora.”
Again, I cut in. “Excuse me your honor, but he’s referring to my palilalia, one of the symptoms of my Tourette syndrome.”
“I can’t give anyone an order saying they can’t look at someone,” said the judge. “When you live next door at the end of a cul-de-sac, sometimes a restraining order isn’t the best solution.”
That took all the wind out of Bruce, who, smiling apologetically, requested mediation.
The mediators explained to the McDermotts that it was unlikely the judge would grant them a restraining order, and they dropped the case.
We’d spent thousands of dollars defending me against their discrimination, and my neighborhood reputation was ruined. We moved out of the toxic environment, sold our home and switched Janie to another school. Word of what had happened to us spread, and two parents told me about their own experiences of dealing with the difficult principal when their children had also been bullied. Two teachers told me my confiding in Dora’s teacher had been the right thing to do. Surely, said one, the principal had been reprimanded for violating our confidentiality. He was later transferred to a different school and then resigned and left town.
Many parents and kids confided in me about Dora’s bullying, saying that she’d been reported to the principal again and later expelled for drug possession. Janie had a difficult few years adjusting and making new friends, but she is now an active, happy girl again.
I studied bullying, narcissism, sociopathy, and psychopathy; anything I could find that helped me better understand the McDermotts. Seeing their behavior described in those disorders was the only thing that brought me peace.
I knew that sooner or later the McDermotts would target someone else. A former neighbor told me that four families from the cul-de-sac had problems with them after we left. Their kids no longer played with Dora. “That’s what the McDermotts do,” she said, “is look for people to go after with their power, or the power they think they have. We witnessed Bruce and Suzy, for five to ten minutes, repeatedly kicking Dora around their driveway.”
They had targeted their own daughter.
I called the police and reported the McDermotts to Child Protective Services. Their karma had finally caught up with them. At last.

Elizabeth Johnson Lee is the author of the realistic fantasy The House at 844 1/2
Feng Shui and the Chinese Pantheon


Elizabeth Johnson Lee
Copyright 2008

Feng Shui is the art of living in harmony with time and space where you live and work for more harmonious relationships and increased health, wealth and happiness. By arranging one’s surroundings in ways to maximize the lucky sectors of one’s space and minimize the unlucky one’s, the chi, or energy is allowed to flow in a free and balanced way.
There are two parts to this report. The first is a basic description of feng shui and the Chinese pantheon. The second is a personal story of how I’ve applied feng shui to my life.
The three main forms of feng shui are traditional, the Black Hat Sect and intuitive/modern. Traditional feng shui is based on either form or compass directions and includes the bagua, flying star and eight mansions formulas. The Black Hat Sect is a combination of Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism and traditional feng shui. Intuitive/modern feng shui is an adaptation of traditional feng shui to modern Western decorative styles.
Some of those philosophies contradict each other and not all practitioners agree on everything. Some believe that the flying star method is more effective than the bagua and eight mansions methods for its power to cure problematic areas and activate lucky ones. The Chinese have goddesses, gods, and enlightened and/or wise ones whose images can be used to cure and enhance.
According to feng shui, there are five elements from which everything in the universe is made. Those elements and everything that corresponds with them in turn are considered either yin or yang, and yin and yang forces must always be kept in balance. Yin and yang each contain a part of each other and neither can exist without the other. The five elements each correspond to their own direction/s and colors. The elements and their correspondences are:

Fire—south—yang—red, purple, dark orange, pink

Earth—northeast, southwest, center—yin—brown, yellow

Metal—west, northwest—yin—white, silver, gold

Water—north—yin—black, blue

Wood—east, southeast—yang-–green

There are three cycles in which those elements interact, called the productive, the controlling and the weakening, or exhaustive cycles. The order they’re listed above shows them in their productive cycle, where the one before it produces each element in a continuous circle. The controlling cycle is fire, metal, wood, earth, and water as if drawing it in the shape of a five-pointed star. The weakening cycle is the productive cycle going backward in a counter-clockwise circle, where fire exhausts wood and so forth.
In the flying star formula, the power of the stars’ positions affects the energy of buildings and land. Depending on the direction of your front door, which direction your house faces the street or which side has the best view (here’s some of the ways people disagree) the stars affect nine sectors. One must use a compass and consult a flying star chart in order to figure out which stars are in the nine grids of their home or office. Since the stars positions change from month to month, year to year, and in twenty-year periods one must be vigilant of where certain stars fly in and out and arrange their homes and businesses accordingly. Lucky stars are one, four, six, eight (the best) and nine. Unlucky numbers are two, three, five and seven. By using appropriate remodeling, furniture placement, elements and their corresponding colors and images one can create a more energetically balanced space.
In the bagua method there are eight sectors of every house or apartment and within every room in the house. Starting in the South they correspond to fame, romance and women or matriarch, children, men or patriarch, career, education, health and wealth. As in the flying star method luck can be enhanced by the use of remodeling, furniture arrangement, elements, colors and images in the right areas, both inside and out.
In the eight mansions formula there are eight sectors of a building that correspond with romance, success, bad luck, total loss, five ghosts (troublesome people), health, six killings (danger) and personal growth. As in the other two methods the lucky and unlucky sectors can be enhanced or diminished by the use of remodeling, furniture placement, elements, colors and images.
Fuk, Luk and Sau are the gods of health, wealth, and prosperity, respectively and Sau is also the god of longevity. He is an old man with a large forehead and is often shown holding a staff with a wu luo, or bitter gourd hanging from it. Sometimes there is a deer or a pine tree in the background and Sau is often holding a peach. The wu luo and peach are also symbols of longevity. Sau is the most popular Taoist deity and symbolizes a smooth life and a happy old age surrounded by children and grandchildren. Other wealth gods are Tsai Shen Yeh and Kuan Kung.
Zhong Kuei is red-robed and protects the home from harmful spirits and people. He carries a sword in his right hand and a flask of wine in his left. He has a fierce countenance.
Mo Li Ching is the guardian of the East. He has a white face and carries a spear and a metal sword to control the wood element of the East.
Mo Li Hai is the guardian of the West. He has a blue face and carries a mandolin spewing balls of fire to control the metal element of the West.
Mo Li Hung is the guardian of the South. He has a red face and holds an umbrella which, when opened causes total darkness and when closed causes earthquakes and tidal waves. The waves control the fire element of the South.
Mo Li Shou is the guardian of the North. He has a black face and carries a pearl and a snake. Sometimes he’s shown with a white rat and an elephant. He is also the guardian of wealth and the king of the wealth gods.
The eight immortals are Taoist deities who ate the fruit of immortality at the Queen of the West’s Paradise Realm. Each corresponds to an aspect of life’s aspirations. Their names are Lan Tsai Hok, Ho Hsien Ku, Lo Tien Kuai, Tsao Kuo Chin, Chang Kuo Lao, Xhong Li Chuan, Han Hsiang Tzu, and Xiu Tung Pin. Their images in the home bring the eight types of luck mentioned in the bagua, including long life.
Kuan Yin is the goddess of Mercy and a Buddhist bodhisattva. It is she who came up with the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.
Last, of course is the Buddha who is shown either in meditation, or in the form of a fat, bald “laughing Buddha”.
Some other auspicious images for the home are the dragon, white tiger, tortoise, phoenix, rooster, horse, all the other animals of the Chinese horoscope, wind chimes, Chinese coins and countless others.
Through the use of the flying star, bagua and eight mansions formulas of feng shui one can help balance and harmonize the energy flow with appropriate remodeling, furniture placement and use of elements and colors. Also by displaying the images of powerful goddesses, gods, animals and other images in their home or business.

My Story

When I was single I lived in an apartment with my young son, Dale. My fondest dream was always to marry and raise a family as a full-time mother, but the exciting kinds of men to whom I was attracted made abysmal partners while I found the successful, stable marriageable types boring. I bought a book about the bagua formula of feng shui and arranged my home accordingly. Soon I met and eventually married an exciting and stable first generation Chinese man named Elgin. When Dale and I moved in to Elgin’s condo I felt feng shui had done its job; I let my interest in it fall by the way side.
Elgin and I now have a daughter, Rowan. We moved into a house in a cul-de-sac and, for the first year and a half my life felt like a dream come true. My neighbors were friendly and Rowan had friends to play with right across the street. Dale’s best friend also lived nearby. No more having to arrange play dates. No more hearing neighbors moving around on our ceiling or through shared walls. I could plant whatever I wanted in the yard, and we got a dog.
That dream came to a halt when another girl, “Dora” and her family moved in next door. Rowan and Dora were friends at first but Rowan complained more and more of Dora being mean to her. Dora was mean to the other kids, too. When they cried she laughed at them, and I once watched as she tripped her brother on his skateboard and laughed when he screamed and crashed on the pavement. Dora’s parents insisted that that’s just the way kids are and that parents should stay out of their conflicts and let them figure things out themselves. Rowan decided not to play with Dora anymore, and for months she was afraid to play outside.
Dora’s family ostracized us. The other kids’ family did too because the two families were close friends and sided with each other. Even though Dora’s family’s actions hurt, the ostracism of the other family especially stung; I had trusted them to stay out of it and remain friendly toward us, but they didn’t.
The bullying continued at school and we asked the teachers and principal to intervene. They did and I thought that we could finally put the whole mess behind us.
I thought wrong. Dora’s parents filed a restraining order against me, claiming that I had made the whole thing up and that my complaining to the school was “harassment”. I have Tourette syndrome, and they claimed that my tics were attempts on my part to intimidate Dora. They also claimed I put a Buddha in my front yard to intimidate them. They listed other allegations that were exaggerated, taken out of context or false. I couldn’t believe it was happening.
I asked Higher Power, call it God, Goddess or whatever for help but it didn’t seem to make any difference. When I’d had trouble with people in the past, such as neighbors or my in-laws I wrote their names on pieces of paper, put them in bags of water and put them in the freezer. All those neighbors moved away and my in-laws died, but day after agonizing day my current neighbors remained. I felt forsaken and powerless.
What am I supposed to learn from this, I asked the goddess? I’d practiced a form of Japanese Buddhism years ago, and I’ve never forgotten one teaching in particular; hendoku iyaku, or change poison into medicine. How could I turn this around to my benefit, I wondered?
Weeks went past and at two court dates the hearing was postponed. I wanted my neighbors to be brought to justice and I struggled to restrain myself from cursing them. Seeking solace, I pulled out my old copy of the Tao De Ching deciding that I would open the book to random pages and read a chapter a day. When nothing is done, all will be well, one chapter read. I determined to be non-reactive.
I called a friend, Lynn who I’d avoided telling my problem to because I feared she wouldn’t want to get involved. My fear turned out to be wrong. “There’s the flying star feng shui formula,” she explained, telling me about how it worked.
“That all sounds too complex and complicated for me to understand,” I said. “I think it’s beyond me.”
“The legal problems with your neighbors seemed to just come out of the blue, didn’t they?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “they did. That’s what’s so weird about the whole thing.”
“That’s how problems with our homes can affect us. It’s not that hard to figure out. Let me take you out to lunch, I’ll bring my book and we’ll fix it.” She was very persuasive and so we agreed to meet.
The numbers that corresponded to the sectors of my house, we discovered over tacos and enchiladas were startling. The number three corresponds to quarrels, legal problems and litigation. I had a three in three rooms of my house, including the front entryway, the worst place for one as well as my back door, another bad place. “Kids running back and forth through them can activate them worse,” Lynn said. My front door also had a nine, which activates all the stars in its sector. The number seven star causes accidents, and my house had three of them. Several months previously Rowan was hit by a car and broke her leg. Not long before she’d also recovered from a broken arm. My house had three twos, which cause sickness. Dale had trouble with frequent colds, flues, and sinus infections due to having had Epstein Bar virus, as well as asthma and sleep apnea. In addition, according to the eight mansions formula the five ghosts sector corresponded to five different types of troublesome people. At my last court date, five people in all, the couple and three friends of theirs had come to testify against me.
It all seemed like too much to be a coincidence. Even more coincidental was that I discovered, after using a compass and looking up my houses’ chart that my house had the exact same chart as Lynn’s apartment. I bought three books on feng shui and dedicated myself to reading them instead of anything else until I’d cured as many areas of my home that I could.
Mean while, my husband and I decided to move. We’d decided to move months before, actually but the latest problems got us motivated to get his parent’s house on the market and sold so that we could buy another house and move in before selling ours.
Elgin’s parents’ house was filled with three generations of junk. Since Elgin was busy working the only way to get it cleaned out was for me to do it alone. For hours I sorted through countless boxes and bags of stuff. Lots of it was old bills and junk mail dated as far back as the sixties, as well as old letters, empty bags and gift boxes, gifts they received and never opened and bag after bag with nothing more than a few buttons or paper clips.
Buried among the useless junk and scattered throughout their house, however were Buddhas, red scrolls of Chinese calligraphy, beautiful red silk brocade fabrics, antique Chinese vases, decorative roosters, other auspicious animals and other items I now recognized from Chinese philosophy as being useful for feng shui. On a dresser in the master bedroom was a large, glass-encased figure of Sau, the god of prosperity and longevity. In a glass cabinet in the dining room was a collection of ceramic figures that I had never taken the time to notice before. When I opened the cabinet to pack them, there, arranged in a half circle were the eight Taoist deities. Everything, even my decision to write this report on feng shui and the Chinese pantheon seemed like too much to be a coincidence.
The cure for the number three star is the color red, which symbolizes fire. I went through my home looking for all the red things I could find and tacked, taped, hung and otherwise festooned the afflicted parts of my house with red. I lined red shoes in front of a bookshelf, put red toys Rowan no longer played with and red squeaky toys our dog had chewed in front of the books. I covered a plant container with a red Christmas letter my uncle had sent and hung a red apron on the back doorknob. I hung red scrolls over the front and back doors. They clashed with the pink and green Victorian floral decorating scheme I so loved, but I no longer cared. I just wanted to be happy and keep my family safe. I wanted to make my problems go away.
After decorating my front entryway, I wondered if I had put up enough red and what other red stuff I could find. According to the bagua, the South side of the house or any room in it where my doorway was corresponds to one’s reputation. My next-door neighbors had collected letters from six of our other neighbors to use against me in court and so my reputation needed a wee bit of a boost. The enhancer for one’s reputation, or fame sector is also fire and the color red.
The number four star, corresponding to happy marriage and romance was also in our living room where our front doorway was. Good images to put in that sector are the dragon and the phoenix, which symbolize happy marriage. Where could I find a picture of a dragon and a phoenix?
Then it came to me. On our wedding day, my in-laws brought an embroidered red silk square of fabric and had all the wedding guests sign it. I ran to the drawer where I’d left it and rummaged around. There it was, folded again and again so that, when I opened it and held it up it was creased and rumpled. There, embroidered above the signatures were the dragon and the phoenix!
I ran and tacked it on my front door. It was perfect. Another red, embroidered skirt had yet another embroidered dragon and phoenix, I tacked it on the South wall next to the door below a William Waterhouse print called Casting the magic circle, of a witch casting a circle around a cauldron of fire. Over the print I hung another red embroidered square of fabric. Outside I planted flowers and set up a fountain beside my front door. I hung wind chimes as cures in the sectors with twos and put metal containers filled with dirt from my garden in the sectors with fives (five of those) that correspond to death.
My front doorway also had a lucky eight, which I activated with my favorite Chinese vases, crystal items including two cups, a candlestick, a rat (my birth animal), a metal Buddha and a freestanding, battery operated wind chime. I sometimes turned it on when I left my house so that it’s delicate tinkling could be heard over the bubbling water of the fountain on my porch.
It’s giving me hope, I told myself. If nothing else, it made my place look nice, distracted me from my problems and helped me feel better.
One afternoon I arrived home from school with Rowan. Across the street was “Carol,” one of the girls who wouldn’t play with Rowan anymore after our problems had mushroomed over Dora. “Hi Carol,” Rowan called, waving to her. Carol responded, and Rowan walked over to talk to her.
Wow, I thought. It had been months since they had spoken or played together, and Carol’s mother had arrived with my next-door neighbors to testify against me in court. It was a surprise to see them speaking again.
I carried my things into the house, and a minute later Rowan came in and asked if she could go play at Carol’s house. I told her she could. A little later they both came in and asked me to make Top Romen for them, something they had always done before. Whenever I grocery shopped I always made sure to stock up on it. I found the last package in the back of the cabinet, and they sat down at the table as I served them. They talked and laughed as if nothing had happened. Carol’s sister came over later and, at their father’s request, I even babysat them for a while. Later their father came for them and thanked me, also as if nothing had happened.
Miracles, whether due to feng shui or other means, do happen.
As luck had it, we sold our house when the housing market was at it’s highest for a great profit and then moved into a larger house we bought, six months later when the market was at on all time low.
Two of the neighbors who had ganged up against me with Dora’s family apologized. They told me that Dora’s family had targeted five other families in the cul-de-sac since our move, including them. Dora was expelled from two schools and then put in juvenile hall.
The use of feng shui not only gave me hope and helped me benefit in the face of adversity, it also helped me create the wonderful family and happiness I enjoy today.

Elizabeth Lee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, award-winning writer and author of the realistic fantasy The House at 844 1/2 (order at She is on the Board of Contributors to the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper. Her articles have been published in both local and national publications. She lives in Palo Alto, CA with her husband, two children, two hyperactive dogs and a neurotic cat and can be reached at, or visit her at


Jun. 4th, 2013 12:24 pm
Parents and Educators Should Always Intervene When a Child is Bullied, and Here’s How

By Elizabeth Johnson Lee, LMFT

Bullying is defined as being intentional, being verbal or physical and involving an imbalance of power.
Boys are more likely than girls to use physical aggression. Girls, who are expected to be “nice”, resort to “relational aggression” including teasing, exclusion, spreading rumors, cyberbullying and all other nonphysical kinds of meanness. Aggressors choose victims who are smaller, less popular or otherwise less powerful than they are.
3.7 million kids bully every year, and over 3.2 million are bullied, resulting in running away from home, 160,000 class cuts, 10% of school dropouts and 30% of all child suicides every year. Bullying can cause life long psychological damage and lead to loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress and eating disorders.
Bullying is not necessarily “normal” childhood behavior. It is normal for toddlers to pee and poop their diapers, but they are potty trained. It is normal for kids to not know how to read and write, but they are taught. It is normal for kids to grab toys from other kids and cut in line, but they are taught to respect others and show common courtesy, or so we hope. When adults excuse bullying by saying things like “kids will be kids”, or “stick and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”, kids miss out on teachable moments. Moments to learn how to show empathy for other people, to stand up for themselves and understand that, in the long run, they are more likely to get what they want from people when they are nice to them.
Just as adults can complain to their supervisors if they are harassed at work, or call the police if they are mugged on the street, kids, who are more vulnerable, need and deserve protection too. Yet 30% of teachers report seeing nothing wrong with bullying and so only intervene 4% of the time.
Signs of being bullied include bruises and torn clothes, missing money or possessions, an absence of or loss of friendships, somatic complaints, depression, aggressiveness and a personality change from that of a happy, confident child to one who is withdrawn and moody.
If you notice those signs, ask your child if they are being bullied. Listen to and empathize with them. Don’t overreact or under react. Ask what happened, when it started, and the duration. Discuss why, in a non-blaming way, they think it is happening. Share stories of when you were bullied, keeping in mind that to your child, their experience feels like the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. If the bullying is nonphysical, explain about relational aggression and, if your child is willing, empower them to tell their aggressor, in a confident way to stop. Discuss what they’ll say and role model it. Encourage them to respond to the bully without acting emotionally, which may be interpreted by them as weakness and fuel their feelings of power. Agree on an alternate plan in case plan A backfires.
If the bully is a child you see regularly, Plan B can be to speak to the aggressor your self. Approach them in a nonjudgmental way, state the problem and define the bad behavior. Tell them how their behavior affects your child and that it must stop. Ask for their side of the story and offer your help. Bullies see adults as more powerful and so are more likely to stop.
If the bullying happens at school, have you or your child talk to their teacher. If the teacher doesn’t get it to stop, write a letter to the principle and request that action be taken. You can also call the police, especially if the bullying is physical or your child was threatened with violence.
Don’t tell your child to ignore the bully or hit them back; those things only spur the bully on and could cause the situation to escalate. Don’t tell them to deal with it on their own; kids need to know they can confide in their parents whenever they feel overwhelmed with something they don’t feel they can cope with on their own. Don’t accuse your child of being hypersensitive; kids can tell the difference between fun joking and mean teasing. Don’t blame them for being bullied, and never have your child confront a physically violent bully alone; they could be seriously hurt.
Only talk to the bully’s parents if you already have a friendly relationship with them. If you are not close friends, take into account what the parents are like and talk to them only if you feel they can be trusted. If you talk to the parents, they will be more willing to help if they’re approached in a calm, nonjudgmental way. If you don’t think they will be helpful, have a third party contact them for you, such as the school or police.
If the bully is a friend of your child’s, don’t minimize the bullying; that invalidates their pain. Don’t tell them you no longer like their friend either or they may rebel by clinging to a friendship that is abusive. Just as adults can have abusive spouses or partners, kids can have abusive friends, or “frenemies”. Encourage them to make new friends, and find activities that take them out of the bully’s sphere of influence and that raise their confidence.

Elizabeth Johnson Lee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, award-winning writer and author of the realistic fantasy The House at 844 1/2. She is available for interviews nationwide and can be emailed at, or visit her at



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