After 9 years of author visits, 5,000 children now have copies of The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica!
WE ARE SOLD OUT!!!!!! And I am officially retired from author visits.
Thanks for all your support!
Literacy, Education and Parenting
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.
WE ARE SOLD OUT!!!!!! And I am officially retired from author visits.
Thanks for all your support!
This morning’s run
Four years ago today I started running the courthouse steps. I had been doing aerobics for many years, and one day while walking my dog past the courthouse, I thought I’d just see what it was like to run the steps; I was instantly hooked.
What I love about running steps goes way beyond the rigorous workout I get. I wake up just before the sun rises, get dressed in an early morning daze and head out the door with my water and sweat rag on my bike when it’s just light enough outside to see where I’m going. The air is always fresh at this time of day and my senses are on high alert. My neighbor’s sprinkler overflow is scurrying down the street like a river along the edge of the grass, and I pedal faster to pass it up. Sloppily thrown newspapers sit patiently on driveways awaiting to be retrieved. Yellow parakeets chatter loudly as they fly over the rustling palm fronds, and through the slats of the metal fence around the water treatment plant, I see the sunrise glow as it pushes away the pink clouds. The workers at the plant know me now. I wave and speed down the street.
At the corner of the busy intersection where I must cross, I observe the blank looks on drivers’ faces as they head to work in the congestion of Metropolitan Miami. Some are looking down at their cell phones, unaware the light has turned green. The courthouse pigeons have moved their perch to the telephone wires on this corner after the courthouse officials installed sharp anti bird spikes along the roof’s edge. I look up at the pigeons for a quick second, but make sure to keep my mouth closed.
I park and lock my bike in front of the courthouse and head to the top of the steps where I remove my sandals and start my stretching routine. The security guard on the second floor nods at me and smiles. Invariably the pigeons on the corner take off and circle over my head, putting on a show as if to welcome me to their former perch. Overhead I can see planes from Miami International Airport ascending, and I daydream about the exciting places where they may be going. The cloud formations are ever-changing.
As I start to run up and down the steps I instantly go into a zone of sorts, whereby I no longer think about what I’m doing; it’s as if a force beyond my control is moving me. Out loud I count the “innings” or rather laps up and down as I listen to Mick Jagger singing in my ear. Negative thoughts are not allowed here. Courthouse employees arrive to work early, shuffling their feet, looking defeated to have to walk through the doors. I smile and make eye contact with them.
I see another familiar face. It’s Alaina, an avid walker, a 65-year-old breast cancer survivor, and she chats with me, telling me her dreams about getting rich with her cell phone invention. One day three years ago, a thin woman in a clean, long, white night gown sat in the middle of the courthouse steps and started belting out American songs. “Marines’ Hymn, You’re a Grand Old Flag, God Bless America” and so on. I never realized how many patriotic songs there were until this day. She was protesting something, but I don’t know what. There was no one there to listen except for me. Her off-key singing frustrated me for 30 long minutes before she marched off with her poster that just read “Justice” and her collection of flat tunes.
As the run progresses and I ascend the steps, I manage to keep up my pace and continue to not think about the challenge of what I am doing and that gravity is not my friend. I am competing with no one. I don’t dare acknowledge the heat and humidity of South Florida. Passersby ask me where the entrance is to the courthouse and a whole host of other questions. “Passports – room 160, Parking and Traffic Violations, well that’s room 200. No, there’s no entrance at the top of the stairs – it’s down there behind that wall, but you’ve got a long wait until the courthouse opens.”
People stare at my bare feet. Some men yell comments out their car windows as they whiz by. Thinking I couldn’t hear her, one day a young woman walking past the steps whispered to the young man next to her, “That running bitch is not wearing shoes. What must that bitch be thinking?!”
“That bitch is thinking she can hear every word you just said,” I blurted out as I ran past her.
Sometimes young men, who are on their way inside the courthouse to fight traffic tickets ask me about my workout and my shoeless feet and are looking for motivation to start a fitness routine of their own. I give them words of encouragement and explain that I run without shoes because this is how I keep injuries at bay – especially plantar fascitis, shin splints, hip and knee pain. Read the science of barefoot workouts from Harvard University.
Across the street is the Walgreens shopping center where I wave to Alberto, the hardworking groundskeeper there, whom I met many times when I used to cut through the shopping center to get home. On occasion I see my dry cleaner peek out the door of his shop to wave at me and the Coke and Lays trucks making their daily deliveries to Walgreens. Just how much Coke and how many chips can one Walgreens sell? I love it when the doormat cleaning truck pulls in from of the courthouse once a month, bringing fresh mats inside and dragging out the filthy ones.
I run up and down the 28 steps 20-25 times and then take a 90 second walking break on the top landing. In between sets I often do 10 pushups. I run between 3,360 and 4,200 steps each visit. When I finish, I text before and after running selfies to my daughter, who is in grad school in Colorado.
On the ride back I’m treated to an endorphin rush; it should be illegal to be this happy and energetic – not to mention sweaty. I’m 4 ft. 11″, middle-aged and strong. It’s only 7:30 am and my workout is done. Soon I’ll experience a calmness that only devoted yogis speak of.
Other than, “Why are you not wearing shoes?’ the most common question I am asked is, “How do you motivate yourself to keep running?” Running for me is a habit – like brushing my teeth every morning – and if I don’t workout at least 5 days a week, I don’t feel good. There’s always a long list of excuses not to run, but I won’t entertain them. I have never been athletically inclined – actually more accident prone and was the last girl picked for teams in gym class in school. It’s uncomfortably hot and humid most of the year. I have chronic asthma and debilitating allergies; luckily the only time my nose and lungs are truly clear is when I’m running.
So today on my four year anniversary, I am grateful to be able to continue to run the steps. I’m 55 years old, and as long as I can walk, I can run. And run. And run.
I was thrilled to be invited back to the SOREF JCC Morrow Elementary After Care Program for the third time and to North Lauderdale Elementary for the 2nd time! What a pleasure it was to see some of the same smiling faces and respectful students again.
This visit was extra special because I brought with me one empty chrysalis, from which a monarch hatched in my own garden and another that died naturally and was still in full form. Along with a magnifying glass, the students could see up close what they looked like. The life cycle of the butterfly is so fascinating, there is so much to learn.
How does one get from Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica? Big maps are always a big hit with children.
I’ll never grow weary of all the oohs and ahhs I get from showing the students my watercolor pencils and the detailed questions I get about how a book is made and bound
With my new poster the children can see my daughter, Rachel, who composed music for the story and my huge standard poodle, Darwin
The adult Morpho Butterfly lives for only about three weeks!
It’s important for children to learn about how writers find heir inspiration
I shared my own photo of the monarch butterfly in my garden right after it emerged from the chrysalis
It’s so exciting to see what the chrysalises look like through a magnifying glass
The students could barely wait their turns to take a look at the chrysalises up close themselves
The best question of the day by a sophisticated 2nd grader: “What is it that made you want to be an author and what is it about being an author that you most enjoy?”
A big thank you to all the curious students who love Lilly Badilly. I hope you start writing your own stories! Thank you Sharon Schwartz, SOREF JCC Elementary Services Director, Site Directors, Ms. Angel, Ms. Nancy and all to Mark, Travis and Jordan, the friendly, helpful 4th grade students who helped me carry my props to and from the car on a very windy day.
Recently, I have visited two wonderful elementary After School Programs (ASP) in Dania Beach, with my Reading, Writing and Geography Program. If you’re not familiar with ASP, this Florida grant-based, non-profit organization provides excellent on-site After School Programs in Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier and Orange Counties to more than 10,000 children.
Rainforest beetles are so colorful and fascinating!
Leafcutter ants are among the world’s most fascinating creatures!
The magic of watercolor pencils always inspires the children.
Learning about the many ways real life experiences inspire fiction writing
No one can resist the rainbow of colors in my watercolor pencil collection.
All children love giant maps, and geography learning is so important!
I wish to thank Janeka Fleurejuste for inviting me to visit these schools and site Directors Renee Lewis and Betty Pierre as well as the staff members who so graciously welcomed me and assisted me with setting up.
Being an author and teaching artist has in turn taught me so much. Most enlightening has been learning about the many outstanding grant-based and donor-funded programs available to South Florida parents and their children. Because of these programs, many parents have affordable and often free before and after care options, so they can work to support their families financially. And there’s so much more to these wonderful programs, including dedicated staff members.
Kids in Distress was created to for “the prevention of child abuse, preservation of the family, and the treatment of abused and neglected children.” Since 1979, the Broward chapter has been educating children through their preschools, aftercare program and day camps. They support families with numerous programs such as adoption, foster care, recovery services, and health and counseling services. The Children’s Services Council of Broward is at the forefront of this agency’s funding.
I was thrilled to be invited to present my literacy program to 75 students who participate in the MOST Aftercare Program, under the direction of Kevin Bochenek. These kids were curious, eager to learn and asked me more questions than I’ve ever been asked before. By the end of the author visit, they had a new appreciation for the biodiversity of the rainforest and seemed excited about reading more about it on their own.
One five-year-old boy knew how birds are responsible for planting so many trees (Yes, they poop out the seeds!)
Any and every child who has the privilege of learning with MOST Director Kevin Bochenek is lucky indeed. Kevin has been a dedicated child advocate for more than 25 years, and he’s so kind and caring with the children.
I want to thank Kevin from Kids in Distress for inviting me to present Lilly Badilly and all the children for making my day so bright. Keep reading and learning!
I was invited to bring Lilly Badilly to Lake Stevens Elementary School in Miami Gardens as part of the school’s Literacy Week. What better way to talk about reading than in the school’s lovely Media Center?
The children were fascinated by how the physical book is illustrated, printed and bound and how a CD is recorded. They learned about the biodiversity of the rain forest and how imperative it is that we each do our part to preserve our planet. We talked about life as an author, the many ways reading opens doors to life’s opportunities and how much more interesting a person can be when he or she is an avid reader.
The children demonstrated absolutely perfect behavior and had so many clever questions, making this was one of the best author visits I’ve ever had. One of the second grade boys asked me, “Is it true that mosquitoes make chocolate?” I was unable to answer that question. But following the visit I did a little bit of research, only to discover that mosquitoes are one of several insects that do in fact pollinate the cocoa tree. Who knew? I love learning from the kids I meet.
I wish to thank Principal Daniels for inviting me to Lake Stevens Elementary and Reading Coach, Mrs. Dinah Gay-Dorvil for coordinating the event and for welcoming me and hosting this memorable visit. I’ve never felt more welcomed at a school than I did here!
I had the pleasure of visiting American Heritage Summer Camp in Delray Beach yesterday, where I was welcomed by many friendly staff members and hundreds of campers. The library there, which was built two years ago is the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen in any school, with it’s towering resin trees and skylights that change colors. There’s even a choral reef story time room! Who wouldn’t want to read in here?!?!?!?!
Thank you Sally Schleifer and Ally Stein for inviting me and making me feel very welcome at your wonderful school. And an additional thank you to the extra friendly Mr. Jim from the library for helping me carry my props out to the car.
I was invited to share The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly with visitors at the wonderful Miami Children’s Museum on Saturday May 9 in celebration of Children’s Book Week.
Miami Children’s Museum is located on Watson Island along the MacArthur Causeway, overlooking the port and downtown Miami. It’s one of the country’s largest children’s museums and includes 14 galleries, a wide variety of impressive educational outreach programs, an auditorium, a pre-school and a charter school. You can even have an awesome birthday party here. The building is so uniquely beautiful; check it out . . .
Parents and their kids stopped by to see what Lilly Badilly was all about. We had a great time dancing and learning about the animals of the rain forest. Children are never too young to love maps! Each child at the presentation received a free copy of the book, courtesy of the museum. Everyone is so nice and accommodating here, and I’d love to come back for another visit.
I want to thank Ashley Harrison, Public Programs Manager for inviting me to Miami Children’s Museu and Laura for helping me bring in all my props, setting up and taking photos.
If you’re in Miami and have children, you’ve got to visit Miami Children’s Museum:
980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami, FL 33132
305 -373 -5437
Last week I visited two after school programs in North Broward County run by the Soref JCC After Care Programs. I was overwhelmed by how welcomed I felt, by the dedication of the staff and the behavior of the students. Good leadership = good students! These were large crowds – about 80 students in each presentation, yet you could hear a pin drop in those cafeterias where I presented my program.
In addition to the attentiveness, I was treated to some of the best questions I’ve been asked. “Where did you get the information to write your book?” “How did you sew your costume?” “How can I learn to draw with watercolor pencils?”
Dancing to “Granny Wears a Wig.”
Big group photo!
A surprising number of students knew that it’s the wings of the hummingbird that make that buzzing sound.
The biggest ooos and ahhhs come when I show the children my watercolor pencils.
And then I show them how water magically turns these pencils into paints.
A Big crowd!
Some new Lilly Badilly fans!
I’d like to thank Sharon Schwartz from Soref JCC for inviting me to present and to the friendly, caring Site Directors, Ms. Angel, Ms. Nancy and all the assistants who help me carry books, maps and other stuff! Thank you also to the wonderful, curious students who made this such a special day! Remember to KEEP READING and WRITING! I hope to see you all again some time.
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!
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!