Monday, October 28, 2013

Beware: Jack-o-lanterns bite...

I have never enjoyed being frightened. Sure, I have watched a few scary movies in my day but my extremely vivid imagination has often punished me for viewing them. So I have ceased watching things that cause my imagination to go bump in the night.

My reactions to being scared mirror a much beloved Forrest Gump saying; they are "like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get". One Halloween, in particular, is a excellent example of my disdain for being frightened and the resulting reaction to being scared witless.  It was the day of my elementary schools PTO Halloween Carnival. I was in the first grade at the time and had waited giddily all week for this day. All the students were dressed in festive costumes - I had decided to be a jack o lantern for the season.  There was food, fun, and much frolicking until it was suggested that we visit the haunted house.

Now each booth or area at the school carnival was designed by a specific grade level. Most of the activities were age appropriate; except for the fifth grade Haunted House. Yes, those sadistic fifth graders just couldn't resist terrorizing us lil ones. The dark foreboding sheets hung down from the outdoor corridor. Eerie sounds and smoke wisped across the school courtyard. The sounds of terrified children stabbed the cool autumn air. That was no place for a little jack-o-lantern like me.

One of my friends desperately wanted to enter into this Fifth grade House of Terror, and of course she didn’t want to go alone. So, she convinced me and one other girl to come with her - I remember thinking that this was probably not the wisest choice I had ever made in my young life. But there we stood, a Jack-o-lantern, a ladybug, and a cowgirl, at the precipice of elementary school hell. We had decided earlier that if we held hands it would make things less scary - oh, the innocence of youth, eh? Hand in hand we shuffled in. Within minutes my two other compatriots melted into crying, gnashing of teeth, and I was forced to take the lead. The only way out was to go through the darn thing, and I was forced to drag them out of this nightmare.

At one point we had to crawl through a tunnel. Inside this tunnel was a hand that would grab you. Now I can go on and on about how this takes groping to a whole new level, but I would be digressing.  As I crawled through the tunnel, I met the hairy hand, and it grabbed me. I don't think the poor child connected to the hand expected what happened next.  Needless to say, I went berserk, insane really, to be fair. I began to kangaroo kick at the wall, punch at the hand, and finally, I bit down - HARD . This struggle continued for about 2 minutes. As my mania receded I began to hear a wailing that was not my own. From behind the curtained wall shouts rang out. "Ah! OW! Hey KID! Somebody help! Stop Biting! HEEELLLLLPPPPP!"  Sensing that I had wounded my attacker, I jerked the shaking bodies of my friends out of the tunnel, and began to run towards the only daylight I could see. We reached the blessed light of day and collapsed on the grass. Pale and shaking I glanced up and beheld a roughed up fifth grader emerge from behind the black curtains. In his back pocket was a hairy hand. Sniffling he was escorted over to the nurse, who gave him ice for his severely bruised hand and chest. The nurse asked "What happened?" To which he replied, "some kid punched and bit me in the haunted house when I grabbed them." Stifling a chuckle, the nurse's response was, "well you learned something didn't you?"

Yes, yes he did and so did I. I walked away that day with the knowledge that I don't do scary. And apparently, for the health and safety of others I shouldn't do scary.
You see even the sweetest of pumpkins have a little bite to them…especially if the pulp is scared outta of them.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Radio Interview on "Living Large Radio"

I had the pleasure yesterday of being interviewed about my book "Red is the Color of..." and the message it contains - re-building self worth after being bullied.

I was a little nervous, but for my virgin interview I think I did just fine.
Some of the topics we covered were:
  1. My past experiences with bullying.
  2. How adults can have a immediate impact of a child's sense of worth after being bullied.
  3. How we often become the bully - either to ourselves ( repeating the lies in our mind) or bullying others out of fear.
  4. The communication gap between adults and children
  5.  How being honest is always the way to open the doors of communication with a child
These are just a few of the topics we discussed.
If my words make the difference in one person's life then that is enough for me!

Please listen in at

Also go and like Living Large on Facebook...

Friday, October 18, 2013

School Presentation - The crumpled piece of paper...

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of returning to the first school I taught at. My second graders are now in the 5th grade and seeing them made me smile. I smiled because I wrote "Red is the Color of..." for students just like them.This class were the first ones to ever hear my story. One of my students came up to me afterward and reminded me that I had read them this story, but as she put it "it was in your little notebook then, with all your other stories."  I enjoyed seeing them all, I enjoyed being reminded of the impact that one teacher can have, and the impact a particular group of students can have on the teacher. I loved this class.

How is a book made? It all starts out as an Idea...

I returned at the request of a librarian friend of mine, and I am grateful to her for allowing me the pleasure of connecting to my primary audience - children. I had two things that I wanted to teach them yesterday - how a book is made and how special they, our future generation, are to us.

My book was the main attraction of the day, but I also used art to communicate the continued message of the book. It was my "crumpled piece of paper" message. I think the message of both devices was clearly heard that day. Why do I know this? Because more than one child came up and told me their story - a story that is so sadly similar to mine. I received one note from a child after I finished my presentation, the inscription simply said "To the bravest person I have ever met. Thank you." Those words touched me, because in those 55 minutes something spoke to this young girl; I may never know exactly what, but I am humbled that it did. That's the power of the written word, it is ageless, creates magic in the minds of the readers, and whispers to the quiet corners of our hearts. Words are so powerful, make sure you use them with respect and caution.

The crumpled piece of paper...that is us after being bullied. Someone needs to come along
and remind us that we are valued, strong, kind, hopeful, special, and LOVED.
 Love is powerful because it has all these attributes to it


 It was truly a wonderful day - a day of remembering the past, the present, and the hope of a changed future. I greatly enjoyed my time and I hope to be able to hold readings like this in the future. Remember that what makes you different makes you Special!

*Pictures contributed by Georgena Ellison.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Scars don't have to last a lifetime...

I can still feel their arms pulling my half clothed 11 year old body up on the locker bench. I can still hear the taunting voices of the two girls who began to describe the apparent ugliness of my body for all to hear and see. I can still hear the giggles as I ripped myself away to hide in the bathroom. I can still feel the deep anger and pain that trickled down my face as I heard the echo of their words in my head. A moment forever ingrained on my memory, one moment that could have destroyed me, but here I stand unbroken.

I was in the 6th grade when I first encountered cruel bullying. I had always dealt with the grade school taunting, but that day was the first time I was faced with sadistically and intentionally mean bullying. The days that followed were not much better, it seemed that I now had a target on my back, and I began to wonder if this is what Hell felt like. My reaction was to crumple inwardly at ever snicker in the hall and take every whispered word to heart - I began to believe the lies. My mother and father saw a once vibrant, cheerful girl wane. Thankfully my parents didn't leave me alone in my thoughts; through the darkness of untruth came loving hands to embrace my broken heart. Healing came from their loving intervention.

Bullying is becoming an epidemic in our schools, in our homes, and in our daily lives. Why?
 I believe that bullying has continued to grow because we have forgotten to teach children the value or worth of another person and themselves. They have lost their moral compass and it is frighteningly apparent. Bullying attempts to tear down the essence of person; it is an attempt to shred the soul. Bullying is often a direct response to negative experiences or environments. Many children grow up in environments that would be the stuff of nightmares - they are left scared, angry, feeling worthless, and unloved. So they act out the only way they know how. Bullying can also be learned behavior; the result of mirroring what they see or hear their parents say, off hand, at home. Ultimately, we all at one time or another have been bullied or been the bully. How can this be? Well it is all in how we react to being bullied.
We become the bully.

After bullying has occurred two things or natural instincts happen - 1) We carry on the assault of the bully inwardly which inflicts tremendous damage to our self esteem;  or 2) We begin to fight back in fear of being bullied. Either way we become the bully, either to ourselves or to others. Someone has to step up and stop the cycle. It cannot be ignored because it is ruining our children. It is an adults time to be the hero.

How can an adult stop the inner bullying? How can we halt the self inflicted wounds of believing that the untrue is true?
 Simply by talking. Talk to your children…not at them, but talk with them. As a society we have lost the art of loving and friendly communication. Too many times we let the distractions of radio, TV, phone, or Internet interrupt opportunities to just talk - to get to know our children's thoughts and let them in on ours. I had a very open, loving, and communicative relationship with my parents. This was instrumental in my overcoming the bullying I had experienced, and any future encounters. Talking with them gave me the avenue to vent my fears and frustrations in a safe way. In a way that I didn't take it out on others - so that I didn't become the very thing that I feared. As adults and parents we cannot ignore bullying, we cannot expect our children to get over it, or to stand up to it. We cannot shift that burden onto their young shoulders because they are not equipped to handle it. Think back - were you mature enough to handle bullying at their age?
Undeniable Truths

My parents began to break down the lies flying through my head by giving me tangible truths - Undeniable truths. They took the words or actions of the bullies and began to chip away by telling me simple things. "Look at your eyes, have you ever seen anybody with similar color or shape. Look at your hands and legs, they allow you to draw and run. Look at your sister and brother, look at Dad and I - have you ever seen anyone who looks just like us?" This may seem so elementary, but it made me realize that the things that made me look different were not alien, I was just like everybody else, because EVERYBODY is different. They filled me up with the positive and changed my perspective, so that the next time my response to a negative situation would be different. They taught me that bullying stems from fear, jealousy, anger, and hate. I learned that bullying had absolutely nothing to do with me, instead it had everything to do with what was in the heart of the person doing the bullying. We need to cultivate kindness, respect, hope, integrity, and love in the hearts of our children, because the absence of these emotions allows cruelty to invade and run rampant.
We are our children's first responders.

Does this mean that our children will never be bullied? No. Will it prevent emotional wounds inflicted by the bully? No. But just like a doctor treats his patients with medicine, we ,as parents, must be willing to prescribe the treatment that our children need to begin to heal. We have to be the first responders, or we will lose them. Investing in a child will be the greatest return we will ever get, and teaching them how to navigate the murky waters of life are paramount for them to become well adjusted and confident. Being bullied is a prime teachable moment. A moment that will help them define who they are and what they are worth. I am living proof of that.

Time does heal many things, hearts can be mended, and the tarnished can be made new again. I let go of the fear and anger I felt after being cruelly mocked that day so many years ago. What is left is the knowledge that I am bigger than the bully. I am stronger than the bully. My scars are vanishing, but theirs are still gaping. I am unbroken, and I weep for the broken hearts that tried to crush my soul.  I was treated immediately by my first responders, and engraved upon my heart is the truth that God loves me and I am wonderfully made.
**Check out my book "Red is the Color of..." and use it as a tool to start talking with your children about their worth.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Project Holiday - Getting the house ready...

I love when October finally means I am no longer hiding my addiction to holiday decor. I love making the house look festive, and my son for days has been toddling around the house squealing at all the lights and other things that are coming out for the season. This year I decided that I would bring out the old fake Christmas tree early and make it work for three months instead of just one. I also LOVE the fake tea lights...with a little one they are a blessing..and are used liberally throughout my house. Most of my decorations have been collected from over the years, but the dollar store, and sale items from my favorite craft store helped tie my theme together. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have great looking decorations! Here is a peek into my October deco...

I wanted to use my fall decorations differently, therefore I decided that putting the tree up and using it as a backdrop for my autumn decorations was the best bet for me this year. I just used some dried corn cobs, fake tea lights, wrapped some burlap around it, stuck some fake pumpkins in, drizzled some leaves here and there, and then used some "old" family decorations for added charm ( a turkey and a cornucopia). I also brought out my Christmas lamp post and just wrapped it with leaves...
At night the tea lights look so lovely. My son sits and looks at them and smiles.

I always decorate my table. This year I have opted for a more minimal decor, because I have a toddler that can reach anything that is near the sides of the table. I bought a white owl pitcher, found a tractor, used my old girl and boy farmer statues, a lantern from my wedding, some fake leaves and fruits, and then carved a jackolantern (from a fake pumpkin of course). I hung the jack o lantern from my chandelier ( to create the mood from the Harry Potter Halloween feast scene). I used fishing line to hang it and stuck a fake tea light inside. My son LOVES this!
Last but not least are the huge bookshelves in my family room. I adore books, especially old hardbacks. Most of the year these books are stacked neatly, but I decided to add some whimsy to them this year - again giving it the look of the bookstore from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. All I used were my own books, the fake tea lights, and some odds and ends from around the house. I think it looks fun...neat freaks might stroke out on this one :-)

I am still working on a few things in my house and outside for my door, but I have to say it feels like fall INSIDE my house even though outside it is still 80 degrees. Happy Fall!