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Thursday, 08 February 2018 23:21

Ginny Goes to School

I want to begin by apologizing for my absence. The last blog I wrote was at the end of October when I finished my tribute to cancer survivors during Cancer Awareness Month. That project drained me emotionally and mentally, and when it was over, I found myself spiraling down into a funk. My friend, Pam lost her nine-year battle with cancer at the beginning of December. Around that time, one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with lung cancer, and another is facing the pain of watching her two-year-old grandson undergo treatments for leukemia.

I was also floundering with where to go next with my writing. After promoting, pushing, blogging and 'face booking' (is that a word?) for over two years, my desire to write a second book was waning. I was hopeful that attending Bookbaby's Conference for Independent Writer's in Philadelphia in early November would invigorate me.  Although I met many great people, learned so much more about the writing and publishing industry, and finally met my former mentor, Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, it was not enough. I could not rekindle the fire.

At that time, I decided to put my writing on hold and enjoy the Christmas holidays with my family and friends.  Of course, everyone who has grown children and grandchildren knows that the memories of Christmases past cannot be recreated. The days of having Elliot, Sophie and Truman come to my house to make Christmas cookies and decorate the tree are over. However, my thirteen-year-old grandson, Truman actually asked me on Thanksgiving when we were going to decorate the tree. Thrilled that he had even considered it, I quickly answered, "How about Monday? You're off from school that day."  He readily agreed.

Monday, November 27th was an unusually warm and sunny day. I considered calling and changing the date, but feared our schedules would not coincide again, so I picked him up as planned. As soon as he got in the car, he began telling me the latest statistics about the Steelers and their rivals on the other teams. He sounded like a walking encyclopedia and backed it up with pictures on one of his electronic devices. I fed him lunch before we embarked on hanging the lights and decorations on the tree.  I put on some Christmas music, hoping it would put us both in the mood, but it didn't seem to help. After about 45 minutes, Truman looked at me and said, "You know, Nonny, it isn't the same is it?" Sadly, I agreed. We decided to call it quits for the day and I dropped him off at the school where he would join his friends in a game of basketball.

The rest of the Christmas season followed suit. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut-off trying to buy special presents for everyone in my family. Years ago, Jim solved this problem by giving them what they want most― money, but I still insisted on buying gifts that they could open when they came to our house. Gifts that are generally returned. I spent a good part of the month trying to co-ordinate with my daughter-in-law Shawna, a date that would work for our annual Christmas get-together. We ended up dividing it over three days. If it had not been for Nathan and his family spending a beautiful Christmas Eve at our house, I probably would have said, "Bah-humbug" to Christmas next year.

In retrospect, I believe I was desperately trying to recreate Christmases of the past to help pull me out of my 'funk'.  Instead, something else came along that did that for me. In late December, Stephanie White, a social worker with Intermediate Unit 6, sent me the following message-

I wanted to update you on the girls group I've been reading your book to. The girls LOVE IT! One student even went home and bought it after the first chapter. You asked me how I would use your book and the following is what we have covered so far:

We have been able to cover a multitude of topics with your book as a segue, such as prioritizing worry, powers of positive thinking, understanding those around us, postpartum depression, parentification, and the ripple effect. Most recently, your story was able to tie into the 'Me Too' movement that has been happening, and the girls were able to discuss standing up to sexual harassment!

I hope all is well. Still looking forward to you meeting the kids once we've completed your story!

While reading this message, my heart filled with joy as I realized that Stephanie wanted me to reach out and share with these students! I could almost feel the dark clouds that had surrounded me the last few months, slowly begin to lift. For the first time in a while, I was excited and couldn't wait to meet those young students. Stephanie contacted me a week or so later and we set the date for my visit in late January.

Of all of the steps in the writing and publishing process, the thing I have enjoyed the most is public speaking. There is nothing that brings me more peace and joy than to look out at my audience and openly share the pain, heartache, joys and successes I have experienced over the years. The reason I find this so rewarding is that I know that almost every person in the room has experienced some of these same feelings.  It is always my hope that some of them can take away at least one positive message that will help them deal with their own demons.

Before any speaking engagement, I always prepare my presentation to meet the needs and goals of my audience. In this particular case, I knew that I would be talking to a group of teenage girls who had experienced dysfunctional upbringings.  As I was pondering what to take to the school that they could all relate to, I spotted one of my Ginny dolls sitting on a shelf. "Perfect!" I said to myself. "Every girl loves dolls!"

 I vividly remember the day when I got my first Ginny doll. I was about five and my parents took me into a tiny, a toy store in Jamestown where the shelves were lined with Ginny dolls and Ginny outfits. After selecting the one I wanted and selecting the perfect outfit for her, we left the store and returned home. When I took that little eight-inch doll to bed with me that night, she became my best friend, my pretend sister and my confidant. Each night I whispered all of my secrets into her ear. Years later, while Jim and I were antiquing, we came across a copy of a book entitled "Ginny's First Secret" by Lee Kingman. I had never heard of the book and could not wait to get home and read it. Sharing Ginny's Secret with this group was a perfect ending for my presentation!  

When I arrived at Keystone High School on January 31st, Stephanie and teacher's aide, Kathy Wise, welcomed me into the classroom and introduced me to the students. I was a little surprised to see a few young boys there, but knew I could tailor my talk to meet their needs, too. After telling them a little bit about my life, why I wanted to write and reading them my epilogue, I opened it to questions from the students. Each of the girls was prepared with their own special question, but soon the boys became eagerly involved. I loved the interaction with these young adults, and I did my best to answer their questions and offer them positive steps that may help them change the courses of their lives. First and foremost, I encouraged each of them to write down their feelings in a journal, a spiral notebook or on scrap paper as often as possible. I explained the therapeutic benefits of releasing their anxieties through writing. The hour flew by quickly and it was time to wrap up my talk. I picked up Ginny and introduced her to the class, and asked what special doll or toy that had related to in life. The girls of course, had fond memories of their dolls, while the boys related to stuffed bears and action figures. Then I passed out typed papers with Ginny's Secret written on them and read them Ginny's Secret-

"Open your Heart- Open your Mind. Look for the Best, and that's what you'll Find"

We ended the day by enjoying a lovely lunch prepared by Stephanie and Kathy, talking about life and the promise that they would send me things they wrote from time to time. I hope they do!

While I am resuming my blogs, I am doing them bi-weekly rather than weekly. If there are any topics that would interest you personally, please send me a message. Again, thanks for your support! I hope this New Year fulfills some of your dreams and goals!