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What We Learn from Love

Today is #FathersDay. As part of celebrating these #relationships and the ongoing discussion of #socialemotionallearning, today’s blog features a guest post from author Nelly Buchet and a cover reveal for our forthcoming book Abuelito.

Abuelito, a story I co-wrote with my friend David Corredor Benavides, is about the power of friendships—those we share with loved ones who are no longer with us, as much as those just beginning with newcomers in our lives. Based on David’s real-life relationship with his grandfather in Colombia, Abuelito tells the story of a child and his beloved grandfather. But it’s a little different than a classic grandparent story. There’s a third character—a very cute third wheel—who wants to be part of this extraordinary friendship. And who wouldn’t? She’s younger than Alejo, in complete awe of the “big kids,” and clearly doesn’t know how to approach them. Instead of asking to join, she stays on her side of the fence and mimics the boys’ activities as though she were with them.

All of us relate to the feeling of wanting to be part of something special. Younger siblings certainly can! And so can adults. I know I felt it when David told me about his abuelo. This desire to be included, and what to do about it, is one of the social emotional tenets in Abuelito. Readers see that Alejo and his grandfather aren’t purposely ignoring their little neighbor. She is hiding, in a sense. It becomes clear to the reader that if we want something, we must be brave, take action and, in this instance, ask if we can play.

Our little girl finds this courage when Alejo needs her the most. Interestingly, she finally makes her presence known out of empathy for Alejo, rather than wanting to gain something for herself. She’s now the one who has something to offer. Comfort. Compassion. This is another moment of social emotional learning in Abuelito. Not only does the little girl take a proactive role, she actively rescues her hero, Alejo—or “Abuelito,” as she calls him. Friendships are fluid: there will be seasons when one person needs more attention and TLC than the other, and yet both parties benefit from the relationship. Friendships are investments.

Additionally, readers can surmise that Alejo himself learns something: he understands that his neighbor was there all along. Inviting her over would’ve been a kind gesture, if only he’d known. In the future, he’ll be more aware of people in his peripheral vision. Both characters grow from this new friendship.

When life gives you lemons, someone new may be out there to make lemonade with you. For me, this person was David. Together, we made this book to honor both the friendship with his grandfather and our own. And yes, David’s nickname really was “Abuelito.”

Nelly Buchet is the author of ALA Notable Book and Irma Black Award winner Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family (PRH, with art by Andrea Zuill, 2020), the four-board book Can’t Do series (Bonnier UK, with art by Pau Morgan, 2021), and How to Train Your Pet Brain (Beaming Books, with art by Amy Jindra, 2022). She has taught nonviolent conflict resolution in schools and created a nonprofit project that brings picture books to refugee children through orphanages and libraries. She splits her time between Berlin, Germany, and the US. @nellybuchetbooks.

Abuelito, written by David Corredor Benvides and Nelly Buchet and illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo, will release in March 2023.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth. As part of this important ongoing discussion, today’s blog features a guest post from licensed social worker, trauma therapist, and author Bethany Walker.

The Struggle Bus. We’ve all been there. It’s a tough day, none of our choices seem to be right, we’re tired and frustrated and feel like we’re banging our heads against the wall. As adults, we have the capacity to express these emotions. Our children, however, have to learn this skill.

So how do we do this? How do we empower our children when they’re on the struggle bus? Social Emotional Learning.

Social Emotional Learning is a key part of childhood, just as much as learning reading or math or how to tie a shoe. SEL is described as “process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2022). By providing children with a variety of tools in Social Emotional Learning we can help make this process more engaging and fun!

Books are an excellent tool for Social Emotional Learning. This can start as early as toddlerhood with picture books! An extra bonus to picture books is the visual representation of emotions, interactions, and experiences. Books can be jumping off points for all kinds of conversations with your little ones. Not only that, but it removes your little one from having to be the one with the heavy feelings or thoughts. Instead, by focusing on the stories of the character, you can discuss these feelings and thoughts without your child feeling put on the spot.

The Struggle Bus by Julie Koon is a great resource for teaching children how to understand and regulate the tough emotions that come from hard days and persevere until they finally reach their goals. In addition to the book, Kind World Publishing has a great selection of resources that parents and educators could use to take the story even further in helping their children through SEL.

The next time your child is having an emotionally hard day, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can help them learn to drive their Struggle Bus.

Bio:

Bethany Walker is an author, licensed social worker, and trauma therapist. She currently resides in Longview, TX, with her husband, daughter, and pets. Bethany focuses her practice on children and families experiencing mental health crises and trauma. She is a member of SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @bookshelfofbeth.

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Blank Slates

This morning, I found myself with an unexpected Sunday home alone. No kids, no adults, no meetings, no travel. My day was a blank slate, a gift of time.

As I looked into the opportunity of the day, I found myself consciously resisting the urge to fill the space, in spite of litanies of work and domestic duties and even reaching out to others that I could have done.

It has been restorative, and it also has me considering all of the blank slates in our lives. We have the ability to realize these canvases for rest, reflection, and creation. But we have become conditioned to fill each gap, to turn to our phone screens in moments of silence, to start the next thing.

It has taken a lot of self-work to get to this place, where I can make a conscious choice to hit the pause button when I see it. That said, I am also using part of today’s canvas to create.

Humans are creators by our very nature. Our need to express ourselves, to explore ideas, to find ways to unite and understand and listen and learn: these need tending. They need a canvas.

However, blank canvases can also be overwhelming. (This overwhelm is often part of why art directors supply storyboards to artists, along with a means to jumpstart a conversation around finding a shared vision.) Facing a silent moment, a blank page, an empty score, an unscheduled day: these all have the power to help us turn inward.

If you aren’t in a place of comfort or familiarity with that source—your inner self—then a blank slate can be unnerving. But it can also be the perfect and same space to start to know yourself a little better. And that is an excellent creative space to explore.

Whatever your means of expression and rest look like, and wherever you are along your journey of personal evolution, I encourage you to seek out these moments. We don’t need entire days as a canvas—but we do need to start breaking the habit of reflexively filling free moments with things that aren’t our true mediums. It’s in those moments that we can reconnect with our own humanity. And in doing that, we can better connect with others.

P.S. I would love to know: Are you actively resisting the urge to escape into distraction rather than reflection or creation? Where are you finding or protecting moments that feed your creativity? Do you recognize blank slates?

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We Are All Struggling

Bottom view of winter snowy trees in the blue sky. Frosty branches with hoarfrost twigs in a sunny day.

At least, that is what Twitter tells me. Instagram tells me that we are in this together and with enough inspirational quotes, we’ll get by. And Pinterest offers a multitude of ways in which to craft, project, pinboard, or otherwise organize our way through these times. (I don’t know what Facebook would tell me to do, as I avoid it like the… oh.)

Social media is a dangerous place to get a sense of the collective conscious. Of course, this has always been true, even before mass messages were sent through satellite connections.

But. People are struggling. It is winter in half the world, after all. And it is January everywhere, which comes with expectations to do better. On top of a medical pandemic, we are also awash in a pandemic of attempted authoritarianism driven by greed and fear. Societies are divided. People have died, have become disabled, have lost loved ones, or have lost touch with each other. Many feel as if they have lost touch with themselves. And kids sense and see all of this.

I haven’t written much about our collective struggle; it has been covered ad nauseum. I have not found much useful solace among the shrill pieces of complaint or reflection or advice or finger pointing. The cynicism becomes tiring. The advice feels hollow.

Increasingly, as I seek ways to motivate our family through a space that has seemingly lost all points of reference, I find myself turning to things untouched by our self-inflicted state of messy human existence. Yesterday morning, the nearly full moon was still up and brilliantly shining across a subzero walk. The moon carries on.

On Monday, a Cooper’s hawk silently watched us as we cross-country skied our way around the small lakes.

Last week, I spied a red fox slipping cautiously and gracefully through the woods behind our home. Nature carries on.

The days are slowly getting brighter again.

It is nearly February.

Time carries on. Even when we feel we’ve lost touch with it.

I do not have advice for you, reader. Only empathy and patience, and the sharing of what I’m doing right now. I ask myself on the long days: Have you hugged the kids? Are you hungry? Tired? Cold? What is one small thing you can do right now that brings a sense of comfort or accomplishment or rest?

I am so grateful to be doing this work, to be publishing books like The Struggle Bus (a timely read for us all), and simply to be here. Every day, I remind myself: this is enough.

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Irony and Rest

A couple weeks ago, I started writing a post themed “do less, encourage rest,” in the spirit of our collectively self-inflicted holiday chaos.

Ironically, I was writing the post on a Monday evening, laptop perched literally on my lap, in the lobby of my children’s piano lesson academy, while also answering the endless question “what will we have for dinner after this?” and thinking over a seemingly infinite litany of errands and work.

The hypocrisy was not lost on me. I stopped writing, closed the laptop, and paused. In such a state, who am I to tell others to slow down?

A number of influencers today (including Glennon Doyle) noted we’re addicted to Productivity: we feel uncomfortable when we stop moving. Busyness is a means to distract ourselves. But from what? The answer varies by person, but it’s worth reflection. What are you afraid to sit with if you slow down enough to face it?

In late November I promised my kids that I would close Kind World Publishing’s shop during their winter break. It seemed such a lovely idea—until said break arrived. I struggled for nearly a week to allow myself to do nothing, to sleep in, to unplug. (I worried about what wasn’t getting done; am I enough if I’m not working?)

My original notion was to shorten my to-do list. But in recent days, I’ve realized what I really needed was (temporarily) to ditch the to-do list altogether. I needed to be fully present.

When I discussed this post with Reese, she (wisely, always so wisely) pointed out that by not doing everything else the past week, I was doing the most important thing—spending time with her and Axel. And when that “to do” is done, it still should be done over and over again. Love doesn’t belong on a list. The most important things are ubiquitous.

I have a parade of hopes and goals for the new year, both personally and professionally. Some will be on my fresh to-do list; others will be bigger than that. The privilege of having time to reflect means I also have the responsibility to use these insights to the best of my abilities. For me, this means staying aware of our critical human need to pause and reconnect—with ourselves and with each other. To actively resist being active every moment of our life. To create and protect space for all of the thoughts and feelings and fears and dreams.

Humans—all humans—deserve the right to rest without guilt or worry, and to create without pressure to produce.

I hope your 2022 is healthy. I hope you find an important nontangible you are seeking. I wish us all peace and rest and wellness and space. I wish you a to-do list worth doing, and a life worthy of pause that exceeds a list. Happy (almost) 2022 to you and yours.

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A Small Business

Today I approved final files to go on press for our very first book. Then, I sat here alone in my home office, and I let the tears come.

Tears of joy, relief, pride, nerves, gratitude, all of it. Because, as a small business owner, I feel all of it.

It’s fitting that our first book is The Struggle Bus, as we have taken a few rides on it through this process. But, as Julie Koon wrote in that lovely text: “Faster now, the way is clear. You can do it, persevere!”

Launching a publishing company has long been a dream. I still can’t believe it’s becoming a reality. Bootstrapping my way through this effort, in the midst of a pandemic, among the bluster and blur of parenting small children, has been a lot. There are days where it’s been hard and scary and lonely.

And yet. I have never been alone. Instead, I have been reminded over and over again how many wonderful people we have in our lives, people who have cheered on this effort, who have picked me up and dusted me off, who’ve sent me flowers and notes and warm cookies and support beyond what I could have even imagined.

I don’t always feel like I deserve the kindness that’s shown to me. But I do always, always feel overwhelmed by the gratitude I have for everyone who has been in my corner.

My family and I have so many people to thank for helping Kind World Publishing reach this milestone. And we have so many wonderful milestones ahead. For today, I want to pause to both “feel these feelings for a bit,” and to express sincere thanks: to each of you who have read this blog, rallied for our business, and championed our work, I am so excited—and grateful—to have each of you along for this ride.

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Big Feelings

Today is the last day of First Grade for Reese. We’re having lots of big feelings, as a tumultuous school year comes to a close. We are so fortunate to have had wonderful teachers and a district that has managed an unprecedented-in-our-lifetimes event in an effective way.

Reese is excited for summer but very sad to say goodbye to school and her friends and teachers. It speaks volumes about an environment and its adults when a kid feels that way. Yes, she loves learning. But underneath that, I have to appreciate and look at the “why.” And it isn’t just our home environment; that love has come from a spectrum of adults who have genuinely leaned into making this situation work for kids.

The big feelings today of sadness about change, bittersweet feelings of good-bye to this chapter but excitement about the next, gratitude for the work the teachers have done, aren’t just being felt among the kiddos. I’m feeling them too, and I was caught off-guard by it.

A surprising effect of the pandemic and leaving a big company executive position to start Kind World is that it’s given me space to process emotions that I previously didn’t have bandwidth for. I have capacity to notice my feelings and to sit with them. To reflect on where they’re coming from and to put them in perspective. To slow down and cherish—yes, cherish—some sadness for a closing chapter, especially a good one.

I wonder how many of us are in similar situations? Finding space to feel things we didn’t or couldn’t previously process? Conversely, how many of us are in spaces now where that bandwidth is gone? Where there’s no room to process and so those big feelings keep piling up?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has been a buzzword among education for some time now, and with good reason. But it’s also a real thing for us adults. We can’t help the kids in our lives with SEL if we’re not also doing some of that work. If you have the gift of time right now, are you using it to recognize some of your own big feelings? And if you know someone who could use that gift of time for some emotional breathing room, how might you create that space for them?

Happy, optimistic, sad, nervous, excited, wondering, curious, scared, relieved—experiencing these emotions means we’re alive. When we don’t have or take time to feel them, we’re missing an essential element of our existence. As I told Reese last night: being sad is a gift. It means we had a chance to experience something that’s worth missing.

Finding gratitude for change, after all, is a pretty big feeling.

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Soundtracks and Gratitude

When I was in big roles with bigger companies and sometimes (in the before times) working from home, the sound of my family playing together in the background would frustrate me. The ruckus, the yelling, even the loud outbursts of laughter. I was so immersed in the job, I would yell across the house for everyone to be quiet because I was trying to focus on something that “was really important!”

Except, it wasn’t that important. Not nearly as important as that gorgeous soundtrack of happiness, which, because of my own askew priorities, I couldn’t always hear clearly.

As I sit here this morning, listening to that same sound, it fills my heart. I’m so grateful to have my family here, safe and healthy, together. I am keenly aware many people are missing this, who perhaps cannot hear or see the gifts surrounding them in their own lives, or who have tragically or unjustly lost loved ones, soundtracks broken in untimely and unfair ways.

I have a big role now in a little company, (albeit a little company with big goals). We have challenges here and challenges ahead, but there are also so many gifts: the gift of being the decision-maker in how we can help others, the gift of time together—the gift of this soundtrack.

What are you listening to today? And, more importantly, how are you going to respond to what you’re hearing in your heart?

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The Relativity of Time and Play

Where does a month go? A day? A year?

Many conversations I’ve had in the past weeks included a discussion of time, and how, in our current state, it seems to have both sped up and slowed down. How the time-space continuum seems to have shifted in pandemic life. How our days blur together, but a single day disappears in a blink.

One of the things I love about children’s play is the suspension of time. They are completely absorbed in the action and their imaginations. Children’s play is often used as the ultimate example of “being in a state of flow.” Reading can create a similar lovely escape.

As adults, how often are we finding anything close to flow? What are we choosing to put into our days (perhaps even passively)? Whom are we permitting to spend our most precious and unquantifiable resource—our minutes here—for us?

As adults, we need to play, and perhaps now more than ever. Not just with the children in our lives, but with our own state of being. Put on your favorite song and dance. Build a tower of some sort, whether with blocks or Legos or playing cards. See if you can still somersault.

Giving yourself permission to play might seem like the absolute most unnecessary thing to do while in survival mode. But play can serve as the pause button so many of us are seeking right now.

(You’ll thank yourself for using that pause button, and the kids in your life will likely notice as well.)

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These are the early days…

Painted Kind World Publishing coaster with a blue and green world Starting a company, it seems, parallels becoming a parent. The excitement, the unknowns, the creation of something that is both yours and not yours, the building and working and waiting and wanting to share your news with the world. Sleepless nights. Unfinished laundry. A thousand dreams and hopes. That’s where we are at Kind World Publishing. As we set forth, I am cognizant in the most wonderful and wistful way that these are the early days. Some day, we’ll look back to now and say “remember when?” But for now, it’s beautiful to be here. Thanks for visiting us.