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I know it has been a very long while since I have shared my thoughts with you, but I promise you that what I share today is – or will be – well worth the wait.
I often think about where I am in my career and often wonder about society’s standards and people’s perception of me. Then, I stop and think to myself, “The only person who can truly define who I am is ME and the only judgment that matters is my own (and God’s, of course).”
We obsess so much in life about success and money and the American Dream. We strive so hard for perfection and the desperate need to overcome past mistakes and bad decisions. We get completely caught up in this web of proving ourselves to all those around us with an underlying fear of history repeating itself, and in doing so, we lose touch with our faith, our spirit, and our heart…the three most vital components of happiness for the soul.
I am not saying that working hard to provide for our children and families isn’t a necessary evil, or that making better decisions and forgetting the past isn’t crucial in life moving forward, but I am suddenly cognizant of the time I devote to these obsessions. My son opened my eyes in a moment of spontaneity. We were walking to the field for a soccer game and he picked two flowers for me (as he usually does), but this time, they had no stems. I said, “Thank you, sweetie, but what happened to their stems?” And his reply has been embedded in my heart ever since….
“Mommy, it doesn’t matter that they don’t have stems. It doesn’t matter that they’re not perfect; what matters is that they were picked with love for you.” How incredibly true are these words that were spoken out of a seven-year-old boy’s mouth?
As grown-ups, we think we have everything under control. We think that life is all about how we handle the cards we are dealt, but more so about how we control ourselves in challenging situations – and unfortunately – each other. We focus on the power we have over our careers, our children, our partners, our families and friends, and life becomes a heartless cluster of competition and all things that won’t matter a month from now…or even tomorrow. We blindly obsess over all things – big and small – because we are determined to succeed, not fail, personally and professionally, but at what cost?
I learned from a little boy – wiser than me – that sometimes, even good situations are uncontrollable and far from perfect. More importantly, I learned that it’s okay.
Rich in Spirit. Rich at Heart. I stop today and thank God for all of my blessings…my family, my friends, my son, my love of my life, my career (as unpredictable and frustrating as it may be, at times) – and, above all else, my flowers without stems.
Be Rich in Spirit and at Heart. You don’t have to be perfect; just be perfectly YOU. Remember to have Faith, I promise, …. It will be well worth the wait.
In the midst of a challenging moment with my 7-year-old son, I said, “You do it just to aggravate me.” And his candid response was, “No, I don’t. I do it ‘cause I want to.”
Rule Number 3 of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements is, “Never Make Assumptions.” I break this rule – without fail – all the time. It’s one of the hardest rules for me to follow. I automatically distrust, and more often than not, wonder about another’s “ulterior motive.” As an author and educator (and anti-bullying advocate), it became clear to me that my mission had to include reminding you that allowing adversities to get the best of you eventually becomes your choice. You constantly live with your guard up, your eyes wide open, and think twice before ever pouring your heart out. Then it gets better with time – and eventually, you let go and spill a little – without an assumption. And you realize, good people- big and small – are counting on you to be a positive influence, a role model of strength, perseverance, and justice. And suddenly, Rule Number 4 kicks in and you, “Do Your Best.”
Think about it. Why do we say and do the things we do? The answer is quite simple. We do what we do because we want to. My son is right (just like his mother). Good, bad, or indifferent, we make a choice every second of every day. Should I eat that granola bar or that piece of chocolate cake? Should I say how I really feel risking my pride or should I keep it inside until it’s too late? Should I marry him or not? (That was a joke 🙂 )
Seriously, our actions and reactions are the results of the choices we make. We answer to no one but ourselves. We rest our sleepless heads on pillows at night wondering if we did the right thing, said the right thing. Why? Because we want to. And then there are some who never think twice. Never care or worry enough to assume the worst, and enjoy every moment because they liberate themselves spiritually, mentally, and physically. Why? Because they want to. And they are truly happy. Why? Because they want to be. It’s a choice for all of us – a golden opportunity with each new dawn.
Why do I worry about everyone and everything? Because I want to. Why do I love you? Because I want to. Why do I hold onto the past even though I know I shouldn’t? Because it makes me who I am. Wrong! Today makes me who I am. I hold onto the past because I want to. You let it go because I tell you to…why? Because I know what’s best for you. And I know what’s best for me. Helping others makes me happy.
So, learn from me. Don’t look at life from a cynic’s point of view. Embrace every moment. Pull out the good in every bad – even in those you meet – and see the glass half full. There is no room for emptiness. I have learned that I can change who I am if I want to. And you can, too. Another choice. So, do the right thing. Say the right thing. Rest easy. Why? Because you can. Just ”believe in the possible…” believe in YOU. Be True to Yourself and Be Happy. And I will be happy being ME…Why? Because I want to…
LIVE IN FAITH, HAVE HOPE I was silent for a while, but I am back and have something wonderful to share with you! I had the honor of teaching English as a Second Language to the Prior General of Rome – first man under The Pope! The past month was amazing for me. I lost my spirit somewhere in the shuffle of life – difficult not to given what I have endured throughout the years, but I think this experience enlightened me, and I may just get it back. While I was teaching, I learned how important it is to live in faith and have hope. What better time than now to share these thoughts with you? It is a general truth – universal, if you will, but I never think about these things when I am in turmoil, do you? It is true. Think about your life and all you have sacrificed and survived. Focus on the fact that you are here, right now, in this moment. I know it sounds so cliché, especially when you’re not in a good place and friends and family say the same things: “There are people who have it worse,” “It can always be worse; there are people who have no water in the world,” “Appreciate what you have,” “Have faith and things will get better,” and “Count your blessings.” But heed what I say today, and trust me because I have been there, too, and I am sure I will be there, again. The difference is that next time, I’ll have a new attitude. I actually agree with all of the above, but it’s not easy to believe those words of encouragement when you feel the way you do. I understand, and this is what I will tell you…. Our lives are very different. Each of us and our situations, unique. We are immersed in all kinds of trials and tribulations, together and apart. All that aside, though, we have the same choices to make. We can either drown ourselves in worry and dismay and lose the spirit, the fire inside of us that everyone loved, or we can accept our adversities and confront them with a strong, positive mental attitude that lets it be known that they cannot – and will not – break us. The key is believing it. Say it with conviction. Know it. Feel it. You know yourself best and you know when you’re faking it. Be true to yourself. From my experience, it takes time. And more time after that. I didn’t wake up on April 1st (after exchanging lessons with one of the most important men in the Vatican and the closest to God I’ve ever been) as a whole person again – completely transformed into this spiritual, fantastic human being who is ever so positive in her darkest moments (that would be incredibly ironic for April Fool’s Day). I do, however, remember the times in my life when I really tested faith – and hope – and the greatest of these was the birth of my son. I never prayed so much in my life. I never held onto hope so much in my life. He is here. And God has heard. And I have faith, and I have hope that He will hear me again. During this time, remember that crucial circumstance in your life when a prayer was answered. Let it restore your faith whenever you’re in doubt. Whether it be the forces of the Universe or God or some Supreme Being out there, Faith is faith. Hope is hope and Believing is believing. The important thing is that we will get through this day and we will rise with tomorrow and see the sun. We will Live in Faith and Have Hope because we can – and we will – overcome. And our spirits will be back, again.
I came across a quote this morning from American journalist Susan L. Taylor that said, “Thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break your world by your thinking.” How true! I don’t think anyone would disagree. The great challenge, however, is reminding ourselves of this truth EVERY day.
It is so easy to get caught up in the daily stresses of life – from parenting and our careers to keeping our partners happy and all those around us fulfilled. Our positive energies are so quickly consumed by everything and everyone around us that we forget that, at the end of the day, we stand alone in all that we think, in all that we do, and in all that we feel – for ourselves and for everyone else. “Alone” in the sense that we forget that we need to be there for ourselves, too.
To make your world…to be happy. To break your world…to be miserable. No one says, “Life will bring you pain and heartache, disappointments and failures. Have fun.” And unfortunately, we are not born with a rulebook or manual that tells us what decisions to make at what point in our lives, what to do when Plan B fails, or how to truly mend a broken heart. But people do say, “Life is what you make of it.” They do say, “Focus on the positive” and my all- time favorite – one that I use in my own lectures – “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”
Think about it. We are all travelers on this journey. We are all here to work hard, make sacrifices for our children, and be outstanding people for ourselves and each other. We come in and out of each other’s lives to fulfill a purpose – be it for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The fact of the matter is we were made to be in this world together, to endure hardships, overcome obstacles, fail in order to succeed, and yes, to get our hearts broken so that we truly understand the meaning and power of love. Together, we stand strong as our friendships become rocks, but apart, we must learn to stand on our own two feet to make our individual worlds a happy place to be. To see for ourselves – and BELIEVE- there is sunshine after the rain.
Live life fearlessly. Explore all possibilities. Never stop learning. LIVE. My sister told me this about 10 years ago when I was 30 and single after going through a divorce. Here I am, single again – this time, a mom – and ready to do it all over again. Why? Because it’s Up to Me. I make my world a happy place to be – for myself and for my son. As easy as my thoughts can run wild every day with negative energies about what I could have had or could have done, should have…, or would have…, I immediately stop and THINK.
I can make it or break it TODAY for myself – and for my son. He deserves better, and so do I. Keeping a positive mental attitude is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is vital. When you are good to yourself and love yourself first, you really do have so much more genuine love to give everyone else…and the best part is BELIEVING it because YOU are the only one who has the power to make all the difference in YOUR world.
Though I’ve held various successful careers, I must be honest in saying that teaching has always been my passion – the one true profession that has completely fulfilled and inspired me to be here for today’s youth in any and every way possible.
Like you, life has weathered me with several sunburns and many rainstorms, but regardless of the bittersweet past I hold, I look at the present and remind myself to focus on my blessings and joys. I actually believe each sunrise brings us a new beginning – another chance to start over and be who we want to be – for ourselves first – and then for our children. When we are truly happy, our children are, too, BUT only if we truly BELIEVE it!
When I became an author 3 years ago, I decided that it would be a new opportunity for me to fulfill my dream of being a positive role model for children, adolescence, and teens everywhere. I am teaching through my literature, but I want more for myself – and for the kids – all of them, including my own son. Teaching in the classroom empowered me to rise above and my students gave me the strength to endure and survive every pang of the human heart. My students gave me a reason to be. They gave me a reason to believe in myself and needed me academically, psychologically, maternally, and sometimes, they just needed a smile…and I was always there.
Today, I want to ensure that I am still here. This time, for their children. I believe that my Child Empowerment Program will enforce all the lessons I taught in the past and will make the new ones even more rewarding. In the words of Napoleon Hill, “I will cause others to believe in me, because I will believe in them, and in myself.”
So, believe and make it happen with me! I plan to launch this Program successfully on Saturday, May 2nd, 2015, and truly appreciate all your support.
I spent the last five days at the Staten Island Mall trying to sell my new books and promote my writing and illustrating workshop to the parents and youth in our community. I cannot tell you how many people stopped and stared, asked questions they had no interest in me answering, and grabbed handfuls of candy as if lollipops and chocolate kisses are made of gold.
Discouraging as this may seem – and despite the fact that I was working 12 hours straight each day without pay – it afforded me the opportunity to realize who I really am and what I am about. Seeing new faces and reconnecting with old ones gave me this opportunity.
I taught for a span of 15 years on the high school and elementary levels. I cannot tell you how many students – now adults – shouted, “Ms. P!” I never forgot a face or a name – and one student even cried because I remembered her. The hugs were just as strong as they were back then and the smiles ever bright.
As a teacher, I was determined to be a positive role model, a mom, a protector, a counselor, and a friend. My lessons in English always included a comparison or analysis to life and made the classroom experience academic and personal. I tuned in to who my kids were on the inside. And all these years later, they remember me.
Life has changed so much and so have the responsibilities that tag along. I am not in the classroom today, but am still teaching on my own through my Child Empowerment Program. All these years later, my passion and drive are the same.
The old cliché holds true: “Little kids, little problems; Big kids, big problems” and my mission will always be to inspire all of you – big and small – to believe in yourselves so much so that you gain the personal strength to overcome whatever adversity you face.
In my first published book, “Tomey and the Caterpillar,” Tomey helps the lonely caterpillar grow wings by teaching him to have faith and believe in himself despite the hurtful actions and words of others. He says, “You belong to you, so wiggle your way out of those murky waters clouded by mush, of lousy, not-so-nice people who refuse to hush.”
As parents and educators, we often forget the things that matter most. Success has nothing to do with money. It has nothing to do with fame. It’s about knowing who you are. It’s about looking in the mirror with each new dawn and making a difference in the world just by being in it.
I learned that someone is always listening. I am living proof! And so, I leave you with another quote from Tomey: “Do not listen to the mocks and jeers, life will bring you many cheers, as long as you believe in who you are and love yourself from near and far.”
You belong to you, so wiggle yourself out of whatever is holding you back and keep moving. Life is too short to sit and wait for someone to validate your existence. You are here to do great things. Believe in YOU. I do.
Our Special Fish Dish Wish is a unique and heartwarming story about the special bond between a parent and child. The story develops into a delectable meal and makes allusions to the significance of rosemary and thyme. I do not want to give it all away, but the play on words serves as a reminder of the importance of holding onto special family memories and treasuring them for years to come.
While this book encourages children to rely on their families for strength and support, it expresses the notion that love is what makes every dish delicious – a most special wish come true!
While my son is, undoubtedly, the unconditional love in my life, I wrote this book for my mom. She has instilled in me the importance of table time – not only on Sundays with the special dinners she would cook up for our old-school, traditional, Italian family, but EVERY day. A working mom, she always took the extra time and care to prepare, not only the meal itself, but the attention to detail from the significance of certain spices she used to the flowers and candles she quietly placed on the table…and simultaneously managed to help my sister and I with homework!
For mom, every dinner was a celebration – a birthday, a holiday, or an ordinary Tuesday. Regardless of how late my father came home, we ate together. We all felt cared about, special, and loved…unconditionally. And we still do.
Today, I sit and think back to how something we often take for granted – meal time – could have so much power in the beat of a child’s heart. I feel it now with my own son. I don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to make a special meal or say, “I love you.” Love is a gift – one we share every day. It seems I waited a lifetime for Cupid to strike, but I realized that good things really do come to those who wait. My son is my most special wish come true!
“All that is simple and good live in the places you stood, the things that are pure and true paint a picture of you, and you are all I can think of… Whenever there is LOVE.”
In the wake of each new day, be sure to show the special people in your life how much they mean to you and tell them how greatly they are loved. Life is too short to keep it a secret embedded in your heart. Save the chocolates for Valentine’s Day!
As a children’s book author, the most common question I am asked is, “What inspires you to write your books?” For the people who know me as a teacher, writer, and mom, they would bet their lives that there is only one, standard, and obvious answer to this question and that would be, my one and only 6-year-old son. This is, undoubtedly, true if the question asked, “Who?” but the “what” is not so simple. It is the most challenging question in and of itself. Why?
As an educator, my role is not only to teach writing skills and literary interpretation, it is to have children of all ages expand their minds, explore their imaginations, and discover truths about and within themselves that are often triggered by the analysis of characters in stories we read and create.
The goal is to relate to the characters, make them come alive, and to learn valuable lessons about life that will help all of us be better individuals in society, better people who have a solid understanding of self- worth, self-respect, and respect for others. It is by far the most difficult yet rewarding mission of my time and career and I am forever dedicated to it. It is vital.
I create a literal world for children that emphasizes the importance of positive self-esteem and personal strength in order to overcome adversity. My children’s books are my own anti-bullying campaign, if you will. My voice is echoed through my characters who reinforce the greatness behind individuality and being unique, loving oneself and embracing those around us.
In this contemporary world of bullying and not-so-nice peers, we must come together as parents and educators to empower our children from an early age to believe in themselves and be good, moral, responsible people. We must reiterate to them that a positive mental attitude is essential in developing positive and healthy self-esteem and personal growth. And so, I founded a child empowerment program: UP TO ME! The Magazine Where Kids Are Free to Be.
My son is my source of inspiration, yes, and motherhood has instilled a powerful force within me to be strong for him, to teach him the most precious lessons in life – the ones grown-ups often forget, and to give him a life of love, encouragement, and support. I stand strong for him and for me – and for all the children, adolescence, and teens who are suffering internally or walk with their heads down. But I stand here – a survivor – bully free and proud to be – for all of us. No one is alone.
I know the journey is long and the road is quite bumpy at times. I admit to frowning upon the clouds, but they do keep us grounded. Without them, we wouldn’t enjoy the sun. Today, I encourage you to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud (Maya Angelou). DON’T TRY. JUST DO IT!
FOR KIDS AND TEENS / EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP / UP TO ME! THE MAGAZINE WHERE KIDS ARE FREE TO BE
Meet and Greet the Author / Book Signing, featuring THE BELLY BUG BULLY