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Congrats to Joy Kirr, winner of the signed copy of The Unwanteds.
Truthfully, I had no expectations walking into the room where Lisa greeted people. I certainly wasn’t thinking about inspiration. As a matter of fact, it was more like a process of osmosis, absorbing the experience with people who were excited to hear Lisa. I listened to how the idea for The Unwanteds started. Her children’s school was cutting its arts programs and Lisa was upset because he children participated in theater and art classes. The cut seemed like punishment for creative kids. That led to her thinking about a world where people were punished for being creative. Her son Kilian expanded on the idea, imagining a world where creative people would be put to death. Can you imagine? Lisa McMann did. The Unwanteds was born. And isn’t it ironic that squelching creativity can inspire! But Lisa has a love for the ironic. One of the cities in The Unwanteds is Quill, a place where writing is forbidden.Inspiration can hit at any time. Wasn’t looking for it, but nevertheless on September 22nd “she” was there! The “she” was Lisa McMann, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Wake Trilogy, Cryer’s Cross, and her latest middle grade novel, The Unwanteds. Fourteen hours later I still feel a high from her presentation and book signing. No doubt Lisa has had much larger crowds than the one at the West Allis Library where I heard her speak. But that didn’t stop her from sharing her energy and enthusiasm with those in attendance.
A few hours after I heard Lisa speak, I saw this license plate in a parking lot. How perfect!
Lisa inspired me long before this talk. Wake was among one of the first dozen YA novels I read when I began thinking about writing YA myself. And I was hooked! Hearing Lisa speak brought those memories back to me. The giddy excitement I felt from reading her novels, how I couldn’t put them down, how I couldn’t wait for Gone, the third one in the series, to come out.
As I said my good-byes and thank yous, I realized that I was smiling. I also realized that a fuel for life is inspiration. A person doesn’t always have to consciously seek it to find it, but nevertheless, I think inspiration is a key ingredient to living a joyous and fulfilled life.
So, if you’re feeling down, if you’re not sure what you want out of life, or if you just want to grow more with the talents you’re already nurturing, seek inspiration. Hear an author speak, visit an art museum, put on some music, take a walk, talk to a neighbor, read a great book. Then utilize the positives from the experience and to do something productive with it. Write a poem, paint a picture, reorganize your closet, take steps to find a new job that will make you happy, or make what you’re working on even better. Whatever it is, just do it! In Lisa’s acknowledgments in The Unwanteds, she ends with “And finally, to all you artists out there: keep creating. Don’t give up.”
Thanks Lisa, for being my inspiration!
Chelsea Rae Swiggett
CHELSEA RAE SWIGGETT
AN INTERVIEW ABOUT HER NON-FICTION YA BOOK
Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia
Brave, strong, gutsy –– I repeated these words over and over again as I read Chelsea Rae Swiggett’s non-fiction work for young adults (every parent and teacher should read it too), Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. This candid, beautifully written personal history takes a hard look at the impact on how paralyzed a person can be when consumed by fears and absorbed into the hell created by the social interactions in middle school and high school.
Brave, strong, gutsy were words Chelsea would never have used to describe herself in high school. I definitely didn’t see them in her book. But the steps she took to CHANGE are no less than extraordinary. She continues to conquer her fears, live in the moment, and challenge herself to experience life to its fullest.
In the past, speaking in class could bring on an anxiety attack.
Now, Chelsea approaches strangers, even welcomes new interactions.
In the past, traveling anywhere brought horrific fears of death.
Now, she gets on airplanes and relishes in seeing new things.
In the past, going to school was a living hell. She eventually chose to be home-schooled to survive.
Now, she mixes it up with online classes and on campus classes at college.
In the past, Chelsea escaped real life by delving into books, writing reviews for her website – http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/
Now, she still loves to read and review books, but she utilizes this passion to meet others with the same interests. She has a social life, too.
In the past, Chelsea was obsessed with her weight – depriving herself of food. Her self-image was dismal. She was consumed by how she thought others people perceived her.
Now, food is no longer her enemy. More often than not her self-esteem comes from within and not based on how others perceive her.
So how did Chelsea do it? Without a doubt it has been a process, most importantly CHELSEA WANTED TO CHANGE! She faces her fears one at a time. She lives in the moment.
I had the privilege of speaking with Chelsea about her transformation. Here’s what she had to say:
I have had to remind myself to breathe, not to be overwhelmed. The world is not ending right now. I tell myself I can deal with a situation I’m in and can get past it.
I no longer obsess over different things. For example, if I coughed I would worry. Did I cough too loud? Or if fell down and others saw me, I worried about it for weeks. Do they think I’m a klutz? This constant worry was killing me. Finally, I realized no one else was worrying about these things. I saw that everyone messes up and it’s useless to obsess over what other people may or may not be thinking of me.
I realized I needed to just live. I realized there are only so many years to fully understand myself, so I decided to take the opportunity and do it now. What I learned was it’s important to do what you’re passionate about and don’t allow fear to stop you. If you want to travel, you need to travel. If you want to go to concerts, do it. It is important to find a way to live comfortably and follow your dreams. Don’t stop yourself from accomplishing something you want to do. Spend your time with your passion.
One needs to find balance. A person can hide behind their passion and use it as an excuse not to live. For example, I love to read so I used reading to stay away from others, hide from the world. I was comfortable, but wasn’t putting myself out there. I wasn’t living. But I turned my love for reading into a positive. Instead of letting my passion cripple me, I now use it to connect with people. Working on Coffee and Cliffhangers I‘ve been able to connect with the literary community. I’ve met so many amazing people including other passionate readers, book reviewers, and authors. At first the connections were through social networking, and then in person at different book events.
Through authors’ books, I gain insight into their perceptions. Authors put themselves in their work. It’s personal. I appreciate their vulnerability. I love getting into their heads and seeing what makes them click, how they view things. Books have helped me see that I am not the only one who has issues and problems and goals in this world. There have been so many times I’ve got caught up in my own problems. Reading has helped me see I’m not alone.
One of my goals? I would love to be a successful author, to be able to help and connect with authors and readers. It is the most amazing feeling in the world.
I first connected with Chelsea through Twitter where I learned about her website http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/ and about Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. It’s been a privilege to get to know her better through this interview. She’s an extraordinary young woman, someone I look forward to meeting in person, hang out with at a book event, or talk with over coffee. She is brave, strong, gutsy – amazing. There will still be challenges – we all have them. But I have no doubt she will face them and turn any fear or weakness or anxiety into a strength. It takes work. It takes courage. It takes action. Chelsea epitomizes these qualities and so much more. She is a role model!
To learn more about Chelsea go to her website:http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/
For more information about or to purchase Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia go to: Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/4f4prgd
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
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.
CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – WINNER HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED AND AM WAITING FOR RESPONSE. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO SENT IN COMMENTS AND POSTED THE LINKS!
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
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.
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.
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!
Oh no, Mr. Bill! Who's intimidating you?
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.
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.
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.
NO VALUE TO YOUR LIFE?
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
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?
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
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!
Kelly, 28, “Spend time with the people you love because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”
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.”
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
Thank you so much, Kanye West. We can learn a lot from you. You’ve been vilified, humiliated, and humbled in the media for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Awards! Even President Barak Obama called you a jackass. OUCH! But I would like to express my deepest gratitude for teaching us a valuable lesson. I mean it, sincerely. And I hope that in the end, great things come from your painful experience.
We have two eyes to see, two ears to hear, two hands to clap, two feet to walk – but one mouth with two lips to close it shut. What defines us most profoundly to others? It isn’t what we see or hear or touch or even where we walk, but what we have the most control over – WHAT WE SAY.
Most of us, baring a medical disorder, have complete control over what comes out of our mouths, what we post on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace. Those things define us in ways we may never know. What happened at the MTV Video Awards can make a profound difference and can be an opportunity for growth. We all say hurtful things, perhaps not publicly or so blatantly. Does it matter? A hurt is a hurt.
Think about it. How do you want to be defined, identified, perceived? Say something kind, and it will come back to you. (Take a challenge – sincerely compliment others and see what happens.) Say something mean, and it can have an impact too. Words can leave scars; we just might not see them.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been hurt by gossip, true or false. And it seems to be an epidemic in middle schools and high schools. Everyone’s in each other’s business: who is having sex with who (or not), who cheated, who said this or that. It’s a nightmare!
Stop. Think about what you’re saying, who you’re saying it to, and most important WHY? Say to others what you would want said about you.
So thank you, Kanye West, for reminding all of us that what we say is extremely important to how others perceive us, how we perceive others, and how we perceive ourselves. Lesson learned.
Oh, and P.S., Beyonce you’re one incredible class act!
2009 MTV Video Music Awards: http://tiny.cc/0zZcr
Another thing to cherish - photograph beautiful things, capture memories.
Where have the last eighteen years gone? At 5:07 A.M. this morning I sat at our kitchen table going through iphone apps when my son asked me if I had any last minute Words of Wisdom before he left for Boston University. At that moment, I had none.
“Are you going to keep looking at that iphone?” he asked.
“It’s a distraction,” I said. “Plus you’ve taken care of everything with my phone.”
“That’s just one thing you’re going to miss about having me around,” he said. And he’s right. He also wanted to know where my tears were. They were there, I just didn’t want to show them because inside I was a mess and I’m not big on teary good-byes.
So since he asked, I’m going to try and deliver those Words of Wisdom.
1. Dream HUGE. We have always said you can change the world and we meant it and mean it still. But dreams cannot come true without ACTION. You need to make them happen by setting clear goals, staying focused, working hard, and staying determined until you accomplish it. Once you do, find new dreams and make them happen.
2. Success and Failure: Life is full of both, so learn from them – they’re a part of the journey. Be excited for your successes, but keep moving forward. It’s okay to be disappointed by failures, but don’t let them hold you back for a second. Continue to put one foot in front of the other. As long as you do, you’ll be just fine – no, great. Remember the world is big enough for lots of people to be successful. Rejoice with them, admire them, and then do your own thing!
3. Promises: Your word means everything. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, then do it. If you can’t, have the courage to be honest, even if you’ve given your word. Your credibility is at stake. We all know people whose word means nothing. Don’t be like them.
4. Enjoy and Value Life (Family, Friends, and Humankind) NOT Things: There is nothing wrong with enjoying nice things, but ultimately relationships are the most important. Grandpa Jack taught us that. He had very little materially. His greatest treasures were his family and friends. Our successes were his successes, our pains – his pains. So, be tremendously successful and enjoy the rewards – but don’t put the material rewards above people. True friends are those who listen, support you, are honest but kind, and want to see you succeed too. Be a true friend.
5. Give: Give of your time and when you start earning a living give financially too. (Even when you don’t have money, set aside at least a penny a day so that you’re thinking of those who are less fortunate than you and acting on it in a small, simple way.) Do some work for a non-profit organization or volunteer, even if it’s an hour a month.
6. Receive: Let others give to you and be gracious about it.
7. Laugh: Dick Chudnow, our cousin and the founder of ComedySportz, once brought a giant leaf to cheer me up when I was in the hospital. He said something like, “The rest of the plant was too much to carry.” It was the best present I could have received. If life’s getting too serious, find things to laugh about.
8. There is a Mind, Body, Spirit Connection: Your outlook on life has a huge impact. You are what you think… Think negative thoughts and hold on to them, then you will become them. Attitude may not be everything, but it extremely important.
9. Surround Yourself with Mentors: Learn from others who know more than you, respect them, don’t be afraid to challenge them and ask questions – but always – always with the respect they deserve. Then you can make your own decisions. Mentors are not just academic. They can be individuals you admire. I have always admired Aunt Barbara and Uncle Don – and modeled who I wanted to be as a parent after them. Choose great role models.
10. Learning is a Lifetime Quest: You’re off to college, a new beginning in your life journey. Never stop learning and never stop asking questions or seeking answers. Keep your mind fresh and seeking new challenges. Only stop learning when you’re dead.
11. Love: A soul-mate is someone who brings out the very best in the other. Someone to grow with, learn from, trust, share the same values, hope, support, give to and receive from. Someone who has the power to hurt you because she knows where you are most vulnerable, but doesn’t do it. The same goes for you. Be flexible, be respectful. You may not always be IN love, but with respect, love will be there for you.
12. Be Forgiving: Forgive us for not always being the best parents (we’ve done our very best), and ask forgiveness when you need to. Whether you are forgiven isn’t up to you. Those people who have hurt you, forgive them. They may not ask for forgiveness first or ever, but that’s okay. Forgiveness is something that comes from within.
13. Small Things in Life are Important: Holding the door open for someone, smiling at a stranger, changing a diaper, calling a friend to say hello, saying “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you,” are all very important. These things can alter someone else’s life for the better, so value them. Making a blockbuster movie will be absolutely incredible, but no more valuable than some of the small things in life.
14. Remember Who You Are: We have a strong heritage and faith. Be proud of it, maintain it, nurture it, and respect it. Let it be your guide. Celebrate and continue to grow and have a true mentor.
15. Take Care of Your Teeth: I think Grandma Lena once said that!
Recycle, Enjoy Down Time, Meet New People, Be Kind, Be Flexible, Do Things You Love, Have Fun, Have Fun, Have Fun, Have Fun… Study, Study, Study, Study… This is the best that I can do for you right now. I reserve the right to revise this list and add to it!