Debbie Glade's Blog

Travel, Parenting and Lifestyle

Check out Debbie's award-winning book: Travel on a literary and musical journey to the fertile rainforests of Costa Rica with a friendly family of millipedes. "The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica" is a children’s book with accompanying audio CD. Go the the Book's website to find out more.

Today I conducted a simple writing workshop at Fairway Park in Miramar, FL. This was my fifth visit to the park’s after care program as a teaching artist. With the first group of 30 kids, ages 5-8, the children wrote 1-3 sentence stories entitled, “My Best Day Ever” and drew pictures to go along with their stories. Then they read them out loud to their peers. There were lots of spelling questions, and one impressive six-year-old boy seemed to know how to spell just about every word. Stories included themes about Disney trips, Christmas day presents, birthdays, family outings and getting good grades at school.

Kindergarten through second graders

This adorable five-year-old’s handwriting was perfect, as was his grammar and spelling for his birthday party Best Day Ever story.

 Sharing his artwork of a bus with superpowers with the group

Time to show off their hard work!

With the older group of 35 children, ages 9-13, the assignment was to write a letter to someone they know who has had a positive influence on them. First I read to the group a personal letter of thanks I wrote to my late grandfather as an example and so they were not the only ones pouring their hearts out.

I am happy to report that overwhelmingly the children wrote thank you letters to their parents and a few to teachers,- a few with impressive detail. Some were so incredibly thoughtful, I’m sure it will bring tears to the recipients’ eyes. It takes courage to stand up and read a personal letter to a large group of peers – especially at this age – and I’m proud of all who did!

Concentration!

Some lucky people will be receiving this kind, thoughtful letters!

A letter from a nine-year-old boy to his dad

What I learned today is that children want to be good writers. Some decided not to read their work out loud, and some others wanted me to read for them. All the children listened to the stories being read by their peers with respect. What surprised me most is that the children were excited to write by hand, although all printed and none used cursive.

The message I left with the children is, “Reading is the number one factor in determining your financial success in the future. The only way to become a good writer is to read a lot and practice writing a lot. Any worthwhile writing requires numerous revisions. No matter what career you choose down the road you’ll be a lot more successful if you are a good writer. Read what others have written and decide what you like – or don’t like – about it Then get inspired to write something amazing yourself.”

What a rewarding and fun day we all had. A big thank to Site Supervisor Randy Kaiser for inviting me back to visit today and to the dedicated teachers there who keep the children focused and learning. I look forward to another visit with Fairway kids!

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I’m excited to start a new year of school author visits, returning to some I’ve visited before and many new schools and aftercare programs. In anticipation of this season, I’ve spent a great deal of time updating my author visit materials and presentation. I’ve got a pile of new posters I’ve hand-painted too. Check them out!

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

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I was invited to visit three separate After School Programs this week for United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida. This generous organization serves over 1,800 children and adults in South Florida with Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, autism, spina bifida, prematurity, hearing, intellectual disabilities and speech delays with a variety of programs such as occupational, speech and music therapy, skills courses, respite care, counseling, after care and much more.

I discovered that most authors decline invitations to visit organizations that serve those with special needs. I suppose it is because they feel their books are not geared toward that type of audience. I was happy to visit these children knowing  they would simply enjoy listening to my cartoon voices, looking at the colorful pictures and dancing to the music. Some may not understand the story I am telling, but that’s not what enrichment is all about.

All the participants enjoy my world map and were proud to use the pointer to show others where their favorite places are in the world.

We learn about the animals of the Costa Rican rainforest.

The kids cheer when I tell them the book is recorded on CD with music and sound effects, and of course they want to know all about the story.

What I realized this week while spending time with the program participants is that they teach us how to live in the moment and be truly happy from the inside out. Dancing is the best!!!

And they sure like to give great hugs!

Teacher, Mr. Albert wanted to get in on the hug action too! LOL!

Ah, learning about the magic of watercolor pencils!

The teachers and assistants who work in the UCP After School Programs are equally as inspiring as the children. Their energy, dedication and love for what they do are truly remarkable. I wish to thank Allyson Nanny for inviting me and Site Directors Pat McGee and Lakeya Hariott as well as all the other wonderful staff members.

For more information about UCP programs, be sure to visit the United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida website.

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Celebrating a Milestone

This weekend I’m celebrating a milestone. Two years ago I began running on the steps in front of my local courthouse. In these two years I’ve run up and down about 2,000,000 steps – between 3,400 and 5,600 steps per day, depending on how I feel and what the weather is like. On my 53rd birthday in October I challenged myself to run 10,000 steps. I did it in one hour and 38 minutes!

 

Why I Love Running Steps

Running steps more than anything is meditative.  I walk about a half mile from my house to the courthouse, through my alley and down a semi-busy street. I watch the sun rise every morning, listen to the birds chirping, often flying overhead. I pass by morning glories opening and alley cats that scamper as I approach. I arrive at the courthouse while no one else is there, except for the security guards. I count the number of laps I do up and down, which I like to call “innings.” I don’t really focus on counting, it just happens naturally and keeps my mind light and free.

I live in Miami, so it’s hot here – really, really hot and humid. That adds to the challenge of keeping up my energy. But it also allows for a really good sweat, providing that feeling that I’ve sweat out the toxins and have accomplished something worthwhile.  It may sound crazy, but the hard work is worth the euphoric feeling you get when you’re finished. I leave with happy, positive thoughts. Running the steps is free. No club membership! Plus it doesn’t take much time – about 45-minutes of time from start to finish.

I run barefoot because shoes cause injury to my feet and knees. Here I am running the Rocky Steps in Philly.

 

 What Motivates Me to Run

When I was a child I was always the last one chosen for sports teams whether at school or at play. I wasn’t an athlete; in fact I couldn’t hit a volleyball over a net, hit a baseball or golf well. But as I got older I realized that not being athletically inclined didn’t mean I had to be unfit. My father passed away when he was 40 from a heart attack and my mother had two forms of cancer suffering for 9 years before passing away at age 70.  I can’t change my genetics, but I realized I could get and stay fit, eat right and do what I can to stay healthy. Thinking about my parents’ health challenges motivates me every day. I live by my motto, “Shut your pie hole and move your ass!”

It’s Not Discipline

In the beginning, running steps was really challenging. I was already doing aerobics for years at home, but running up and down steps is really a strenuous workout. It took a lot of self-talking to get up and out of the house early every morning. But then after a few months, gradually I began to look forward to going. Now I can best describe running as a habit. It’s sort of like getting up and brushing your teeth. You just do it. I do have sluggish days when I just don’t feel like running, but I go anyway. My husband calls those “bonus days,” because although your time may be slower or your step numbers may be lower, you went out there and did something on a day when you just didn’t feel like doing it.

A white layer cake I made to celebrate.

What Running Has Taught Me

It’s wrong to label yourself in any negative way. “I’m not athletic,” “I’m too old,” “I’m uncoordinated” or “I don’t think I can or should do this or that.” Running has taught me that I can have as much energy as a 25-year-old, and that if I can stick to something athletic and challenging, then I can transfer that success to other areas of my life. The only boundaries are the ones we put on ourselves.

 

 

 

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Today I had a fantastic author visit at the Overtown Youth Center in Miami, FL. Last year some very caring people donated funds so my books could go to children who could most benefit from them. So I was thrilled to be able to deliver 100 books to this outstanding organization.

Since 2003, the Overtown Youth Center has provided a variety of youth enrichment programs to foster learning and empowerment in inner-city children who may not otherwise have these resources available to them. Among their programs, they offer academic support, after school services, summer camps, creative arts, physical fitness and nutrition programs, family activities and more in a beautiful facility in Overtown.

Elementary Program

The elementary school kids learned about the process of making a book, what inspires an author and about the plants, animals and climate of the rain forest.

Introductions by TK Pratt, Overtown Youth Center Community Relations Coordinator

Learning about how we recorded the book on CD

How my grandparents inspired me to create the characters Grandma Nellie and Grandpa Willie in the book

Learning why stick bugs are at risk in the rainforest

It may be gross, but we learn that birds are responsible for planting trees because they poop out seeds they eat!

A group celebration with just some of the many elementary students who each get a free book

Group hug!

Middle School Program

These kids, who are all interested in writing learned about the difference between traditional and self-publishing, writing inspiration, the importance of reading, geography literacy and how to stay fit and have energy if you want to be a visiting author.

Discussing countries I wrote about, including Madagascar, as a travel writer for cruise lines

Answering questions about what it takes to be an author

Showing off some of the benefits of my hard work as a stair runner

Challenged to do some men’s push ups

Middle school students who love to read and write pose with their Lilly Badilly books

I want to thank TK Pratt for inviting me to visit and welcoming me with open arms. The elementary students helped me drag big maps and five big boxes of books out of may car, and they did all the heavy lifting for me! All the children were so kind and respectful, it was a total pleasure. Also a big thank you to teacher Diana Gibson, who was so supportive of my program with the middle school students. There are some amazing programs available for children in my South Florida community, and Overtown Youth Center is at the top of the list. I look forward to another visit soon!

 

 

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I set up my dining room 10 days before the holiday, because I have a lot of people and a lot to do before Thanksgiving in between working. Some years, I set a very formal table, and this year I was in the mood for a more rustic look. I make all the food from scratch and choose to shop at many different markets so I can get the highest quality foods possible.

I’m having 12 guests so I need 2 tables. This is the main table.

Chocolate turkey pops are the place cards, set on top of my granny’s English china from 1945.

Second table pushed against a wall leaves plenty of walking room and seating for 4 more.

Gotta have a horn of plenty!

Buffet table right in the dining room so it’s easy to get up and get 2nds or 3rds! I use boxes under the table cloth to raise the back row of food. You can get a lot more on the table that way, plus it’s easier to reach the back food and it looks nicer. I put notes inside each plate/bowl so I know what goes where.

 

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My family loves the great outdoors, and we are so fortunate to live in South Florida near The Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Yesterday, my banker husband had the day off for Veteran’s Day, so we ventured out to Big Cypress for an off road hike, which proved to be quite interesting!

We hiked a 5-mile loop

My husband signed us in as hikers at the entrance to the trail

A construction worker at the entrance to the trail was feeding a baby gator some bread. Not supposed to feed the gators!

Open wide!

Some critter ate this snake for lunch – all except the bones and the head

This vulture had his eyes on me as he did not like the sound of my Nikon’s shutter

Gorgeous White Peacock Butterfly (Anartia jatrophae) posed for me

Feeling adventurous, we took the Red Trail, the one less traveled.

Pine cones at their fall peak

Bobcat tracks perhaps?

Bear scat! Oh no! Is he watching me?

Woodpeckers thrive here with all the dried wood!

Yours truly, after sliding through a muddy trail with many signs of wildlife – bear, deer, bobcat and more

All photos © copyright Debbie Glade. You may not use them without permission.

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This morning started the best way it could possibly start – with an author visit to Kingdom Academy in Miami. When I got out of my car, one of the parents (from Costa Rica!) recognized me from the photo in my book and had many kind things to say about Lilly Badilly. I walked through the front door and was greeted by one friendly staff member after another. And they’re not being nice, just for the sake of politeness – they are truly happy, caring people, and so are the students I met. You know you are at an excellent school when the teachers all have smiles on their faces, are gentle and kind to the students, have a creative and competitive curriculum and the students are incredibly well behaved. Kingdom Academy is one awesome place to be!

Kingdom Academy is housed in a bright, clean, new building and the classrooms are big in size – but the number of students per class is not. I was extremely impressed by all the beautiful posters in the halls with terrific messages the children made!

 

My presentations were in the cafeteria and it was so refreshing to see all the nutrition posters and healthy eating tips on the walls! It’s so important to educate our children about what they are eating- just as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic!

 

Let the presentations begin!

My first presentation was to the younger students PreK-1st grade, and they sure had fun dancing with me and laughing at my Lilly Badilly voice. Everyone was wearing a costume of their favorite character from a book, and boy were they cute!

Incredibly polite behavior makes for a perfect author visit. Everyone gets to listen and learn!

Ultra smart 3rd grade class had really creative costumes and questions.

Nothing like a spider to get everyone’s attention!

You can just tell this is a group with perfect behavior! No whisperers or squirmers among the crowd!

What an honor it is to have the children take home Lilly P. Badilly!

Lilly with Curriculum Specialist Elena Navarro

Thank you Elena Navarro for inviting me to your school and for being so well organized, friendly and accommodating! It truly was a special day. Also, thank you to all the welcoming staff, teachers and students. I hope to visit Kingdom Academy again soon just to say hello.

 

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I visited the administrative office at Martin Luther king Jr. Elementary when I arrived to check in as a visitor and was greeted by Roz, a very friendly receptionist. I told her it was my birthday today, and she and a parent in the office were so kind, wishing me a very Happy Birthday. Roz even sat in on part of my presentation! Thank you, Roz!

Imagine 60 ultra energetic kids singing Happy Birthday (as loud as possible) in a an echo-filled theater. Wow! Pure joy is what I felt as the After School Program students of Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Lauderhill, FL did just that for me today. And to top it off, the little ones were wearing Halloween costumes. So cute!

The new cafeteria/theater building at MLK Jr. Elementary is gorgeous – the nicest one I’ve seen at any school.

Learning about the word “inspiration” and how authors come up with ideas for their stories.

We all danced to “Granny Wears a Wig.”

Lots of oos and ahhs about how beautiful watercolor pencils are and how magical it is when you brush water on them.

So many terrific questions! Are insects the most colorful animals? Are there any lions in the rain forest? What gave you the idea for the story? Is an author a real person?

I want to thank Jane O’Connell from After School Programs for inviting me to MLK Jr. Elementary School , and ASP Site Director Ms. Keshia Halls for welcoming me, helping me with my equipment and taking photos. The entire After Care staff were all very welcoming and did a great job ensuring the students were paying attention. There’s nothing better than speaking to a group of curious kids, who are interesting in learning, and the kids here at MLK Elementary are truly awesome. I loved seeing all those smiling faces on my birthday, and the sound of them singing to me will stay with me for years to come. I hope to visit the school again some time in the near future.

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It’s October 24, 2013, my 53rd birthday. How did I get to be 53 already?

I won’t let the fact that I wasn’t all that cute of a baby or the fact that the shape of my head has significantly changed in my old age get me in a bad mood, because today is my birthday! Oh gosh! Look at the little purse I was holding!

Well, I started my day with a hug from my best friend, Darwin, an 84 lb. pure bred standard poodle. He knew it is my birthday!

I checked my emails and the first one I read was from my daughter (who is away in college), who wrote me the best letter wishing me a Happy Birthday. Then I logged into Facebook and saw a bunch of birthday wishes from other friends and family, which is really the best thing about Facebook – getting birthday messages from people who would never bother to wish you a happy birthday if it were not for Facebook telling them to do that. Don’t you agree? At about that same time, my husband of 25 years woke up and got up to give me a big hug and told me what a “young 53 year old” I am and he is well aware that I am strong enough to kick his ass if need be. What older-than-middle-aged-woman wouldn’t love hearing that on her birthday?

Then I put my workout clothes on and walked to the courthouse steps. On my way down my alley, the pigeons that usually sit on the roof at the courthouse flew overhead, circling. It was as if they knew it is my birthday!  I saw Johnny, a man I see walking most mornings on my way to the courthouse. He always wears a clean, white, short sleeve t-shirt and navy blue shorts and a captain’s hat. I told him to put out his cigarette (he had recently told me he started smoking again after quitting five years ago).  I told him it is my 53rd birthday today and I was on my way to the steps to workout, and he told me his best friend used to run five miles every day, and when I asked him what that friend is doing now, he replied, “Nothing. He is dead. He died at age 54 from a brain hemorhage!!” Well, I guess I deserved that since I told him to put out his cig, but I certainly didn’t let that bother me or the fact that he blew smoke in my face. It’s my birthday!

At the courthouse, I ran 53 innings (get it? 53rd birthday!), which equates to 2968 steps. (On Sunday I ran 10,000 steps in celebration of my birthday, so today I could take it a bit easier today.)  The pigeons arrived in the middle of my workout and positioned themselves in some interesting flying formations overhead. I was sure they knew it is my birthday too. I decided to tell every employee and courthouse goer who walked by as I was running that today is my 53rd birthday. This resulted in 50% of the people looking at me like I am a crazy woman and not responding and the other 50% reluctantly saying, “Happy Birthday” and also looking at me like I am a crazy woman. I was wearing purple leggings and a hot pink shirt, and I run barefoot. I also had my kitchen broom leaning up against the steps because I needed to sweep rainwater off the steps before I could run. This may explain the strange looks I got from strangers. But I did not let this bother me, as it is my birthday! I didn’t even care when a truck drove by me and a man yelled out some obscenities about body parts.

Then I came home and made myself a delicious coffee drink with melted chocolate in it and walked my dog. I rarely drink coffee because I don’t like it unless it is loaded with cream and sugar. Plus it makes me crawl out of my skin. I didn’t get upset when it started raining, even though there was no sign of rain clouds up above, because it’s my birthday. When I got to the bottom of my coffee drink, I pleasantly discovered that the chocolate I melted resolidified and sunk to the bottom. Eating that was pure heaven.

By the time I got home, it was raining pretty hard. I chose a book to review that was totally awesome called Ike’s Incredible Ink. It inspired me to be creative today, my birthday!

Now I am going to soak in a hot tub, followed by a lunch consisting of chocolate, because it’s my birthday. Then I will put on my millipede costume, load up my car with books and props, and drive to Lauderhill, FL where I have a 1:30 p.m. author visit with my book, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly, for 60 elementary age children. You better believe I am going to tell them it’s my birthday!

 

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