Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dear Person

It was not by accident that I found you. And in a way, you really found me. After all, it is you who chose to read this. I am writing to you because you're about to make probably one of the biggest mistakes of your life.

I don't know what lead you to this place whether it be a bully, a divorce/breakup, a death, a mean comment, a drug . . . But I do know that life has its ups and downs. It has its moments that may seem to hard to bear. And you 're living it right now. But this is not the end. Life doesn't have to end on a bad note. Remember when you used to talk about how you wanted your life to end? You were picturing it as a peaceful or exciting or emotional or fulfilling moment? Why have you chosen to give up on that now?

Don't think that I don't know what you're going through. Because I do. My life has DEFINITELY had its high and low moments. But I am still here and I have made it through. I believe that it is because of God. I don't know if you believe in him or not but he is the real reason that I am still here. I am living proof. I am living proof that life really does get better.

You are not alone. You were made with purpose. God made you with purpose and for a purpose. He is writing your story and he sees how it will truly end. We are humans - we have a limited view of our lives. We can look into the past, live in the present and simply dream about the future. In reality, we have no control. But God, who loves us (even you!) sees it all and is writing it all out. Please don't give up on what he is writing.

I know it seems hard right now. You're struggling. You're numb. You're defeated. Depressed. Lonely. But you are not alone. And you need to stop believing the lies. You really are special and important and purposeful and wonderful. Let THAT sink it.

Life is tough but giving up on it will get you nowhere. The peace, joy and happiness will only come through embracing your life and seeing that hope and love exists.

Sometimes you are blinded from it because you can only focus on the bad and awful right in front of you. But PLEASE don't give up.

Suicide is permanent and will not make it all better. Where is the proof of that? No one who has ever done it is around to tell you that. But the ones who are still here, especially those who have made it through the tough moments, can tell you that life is worth living. There is more to life than the pain that you are feeling right now.

Remember the moments when you smiled and laughed and cried tears of joy? Don't lose those moments. They are still there and there are still more to come.

I am praying for you because you are special to me. And I love you. I love you enough to write this message to you, cry tears for you and to lift you up to God.

You have not been forgotten.

So . . .

Don't give up.

Don't lose hope.

Don't end your life.

Because . . .

God is still near.

You are still loved.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. 

Before you make a decision that will permanently affect you, think on what I've said for a week. And find someone to talk to. Get help. Rethink your life. PRAY! I mean, if the end result is still what you've been planning, then what have you got to lose by looking up for a bit? And if you ever need to talk to someone, there is always me. Send me an email or a tweet or a message. I will listen and I will pray for you. And I will respond.

There is hope.

Trust me.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How To Save A Life

Step one, you say, "We need to talk."
He walks, you say, "Sit down. It's just a talk."
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
'Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence

Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And I pray to God he hears you

And where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to safe a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed

He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all ight
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

How to Save a Life by The Fray

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

3 Things About 'Contest' That Caught My Attention

Last Saturday, I posted an interview with CONTEST director Anthony Giunta about his movie and how it has prevented bullying. Schools have been using the movie in their anti-bullying programs, students have changed their ways and now, I'd like to talk about why the movie has done such a great job at preventing bullying.

1. The "Ultimatum"  As said by the director himself, CONTEST shows how "a bullied teen chef must save his grandmother's failing business, only to discover that his one means of doing so, is to team up with the athlete who has bullied him all throughout high school." After a terrible incident involving Tommy (the bullied teen) being thrown into the pool by Matt (the bully who is also on the swim team), the principal asks the bully to befriend Tommy OR lose all of his extracurricular activities. This is a big deal because Matt needs to stick to his swimming if he wants to get into college:

“People look up to you. Stop all the bullying. . .If you become an anti-bullying role model within 30 days, I will restore all your extracurricular activities. . . for the next month, go out of your way to be kind to the kids who were bullied at this school.”

So he agrees and much to Tommy's horror, begins to defend Tommy and also help him win on a cooking show.

I think that if more schools gave bullies the choice – you know, either befriend the kid that you’re bullying or lose your extracurricular activities – the amount of bullying would decrease significantly. We need to treat the issue realizing that it is having  a profound impact on a person’s life. Bullying causes kids to commit suicide or even become a bully themselves. This issue affects kids emotionally, socially and even physically. It is not something that can just be dealt with lightly.

2. The Truth and Vulnerability  Bullies are still people too. CONTEST does an excellent job at showing the vulnerability of both Tommy and Matt. We can see Tommy's struggle as he tries to go through life on his own while also caring for his grandmother, their restaurant and the rent. His parents had died when he was little and in a way, he is still dealing with it. On the other side, Matt lives with his older brother who bullies and manipulates him for his own gain. When Matt and Tommy realize that they are more similar than different, their friendship starts to become genuine.

Believe me, I realize that not all bullies are bullied themselves or deal with tough things at home but something happened to make them the way that they are.

I am fortunate to know that God created all of us and loves us all equally. He does not favor the bullied kid over the bully. We need to see it the same way. We cannot fix the problem by ignoring the bully and his needs. You’ve heard it said before: the kids that need the most love are those that are the hardest to the love. It’s the same with the bullies.

One of the most powerful lines in the movie was delivered by Matt. He said:

“People expect you to be a certain way. They laugh if you are. They laugh at you if you’re not.”

Remember - Matt is the bully. Not only does he bully because his knows it first hand but he also does it because he would be picked on if he didn't.

Another truth statement in the movie is delivered by Tommy's grandmother:

“You have to stop acting like you’re on your own because you’re not.”

Sometimes, the bullied kids feel like no one really knows what they're going through. And sometimes they feel that everyone knows but no one cares. But they are not alone and they do matter. There is so much power when you realize that you do not have to go through life on your own. You do not have to deal with your problems on your own. There is always someone on this Earth and inside of us (God) that cares.

3. The Bystanders  While the bystanders don't really stand out in the movie, it is obviously that no one, not even the teachers, wants to act because they have a preconceived idea of what will happen if they stand up. The teachers are thinking that they won't be listened to. The students are afraid that the bullying will happen to them. 

As Mr. Giunta said in the interview, “The kids who have all the power are not the bullies, or the bullied ones… the kids who have all the power are the bystanders.” The bystanders are the ones that see it all happen and see both sides of the issue. And honestly, in this world, there are more bystanders than bullies and kids being bullied. So, when they stand together to help the bullied and stop the bully, it will be stopped.

Tommy's last words in the movie sum up this post perfectly as they did to the movie. Every person needs to realize this:

“I think that when you put aside your first impressions of people, take the time to get to know who they really are, you might end up being happily surprised with the new friends that you discover. They’re the keepers. You know, the ones that will always be on your team no matter what. It also helps to stay strong no matter what. Always remember the people in your life who care about you and move on from the ones who never will. Be cool with taking the help and the friendship of those keepers.”

So, what happens now? Well . . . here's your challenge from this week:
Find a copy of CONTEST and watch it for yourself. Let the movie challenge you to stand up to bullying and stand up for those are seriously suffering. It's the time to take your stand. Also, please share the movie and this post with others so that they can do their part too! 

If you know me personally, you can borrow the movie from me. I'd be more than happy to let you watch it! 

Click below to read last week's post for Bullying Prevention Month:
** All pictures and quotes belonging to the CONTEST movie

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Contest Movie Interview

It's been one year since the release of CONTEST and because the movie centers around bullying and how we can stand up to it, I decided to include a special interview this month.
The movie stars Kenton Duty (Disney Channel's Shake It Up), Danny Flaherty (Skins), Katherine McNamera (MTV's Happyland), Mary Beth Peil and Kyle Dean Massey. The film deals with bullying, prevention and is filled with twists! With this all-star cast, you have to expect an awesome movie! 
Anthony Giunta is director of CONTEST and he was kind enough to let me interview him about his first movie and its impact. Check it out!

1) Without giving too much away, what is CONTEST about?
Director Anthony Giunta
A bullied teen chef must save his Grandmother’s failing business, only to discover that his one means of doing so, is to team up with the athlete who has bullied him all throughout high school.
2) How did you come up with the idea for the movie?
I wanted to do something to help combat teen bullying, and I’m a huge fan of cooking reality TV shows, so I just put the two things together – and the rest of the story just flowed out.
3) What was your favorite scene to film?
The next-to-last scene in the movie, where everything comes to a head during the live broadcast of the cooking contest outside the TV studio; the entire cast was involved in that scene, so everyone was on set that day… it was so much fun to shoot!
4) How is CONTEST different from other films about bullying?
I approached the story on two levels, from the viewpoints of both the bullied teen and the teen bully – and showed the vulnerability of both guys, and the need for mindset/behavioral changes in both characters as well.
5) Which character do you relate to the most?
Earlier in my life, Tommy – today, I’m much closer to being in step with his Gran.
6) Were you ever bullied as a child?
Yes, from kindergarten all through senior year of high school – it was pretty bad then, but I’m happy if my experiences can help kids today.
7) What are some different ways that kids can stand up to bullies and prevent incidents from happening?
The kids who have all the power are not the bullies, or the bullied ones… the kids who have all the power are the bystanders.
The temptation for bystanders is to stand by and do nothing (hoping that the bullies won’t redirect their negative energies onto them); the best way forward however, is for the bystanders to become upstanders.
You can be an upstander by telling bullies to knock it off when they’re harassing someone, by taking the bullied kid under your wing and letting her/him hang out with you – and/or by letting adults know when bullying is taking place.
If an upstander takes a step forward to help nip bullying in the bud, then other bystanders will also morph into upstanders – and the bullies, having lost their “audience,” will be defeated.
A power dynamic shift must occur… and the real power belongs to the upstanders; once they claim it, there will be a new leadership force in town!
8) It’s been a year since CONTEST first aired on TV. How has it made an impact?
After from its run on Cartoon Network last October, the movie was distributed domestically, and is now beginning to get International distribution. Additionally, there will be another great announcement soon, regarding the educational arm of the film.
From the correspondence we’ve received from kids, parents, and teachers, seeing it has made a tremendous difference in a lot of people’s lives already… and those numbers grow every day.
The communiqu├ęs that took me happily by surprise, however, are the ones we’ve received from teens who tell us they recognized bullying behavior in themselves from watching the movie - and a result of seeing the film, they have stopped bullying others.
Life just doesn’t get better than that!
9) Since CONTEST, have you worked on any other projects?
Yes, I have a new play, entitled SKIN IN THE GAME, that played in the New York, Philadelphia
and Pittsburgh Fringe Festivals over these past few months, and was very well received by both audiences and critics – and I’ll soon be creating the screenplay version of the play for the feature-film of the story I plan to make.
I’ve also been asked to collaborate on a screenplay adaptation of Ross Schriftman’s novel, MY MILLION DOLLAR MOM, the film version of which I’m slated to direct in August 2015.
In the meantime, I’ll be directing a trilogy of short films I’ve written under the umbrella title of IN DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES that stars @ChrisRobertson who won rave reviews for playing the lead in my play this summer.
In the trilogy, the amazing Chris will portray four very different lead characters… the film will debut in 2015. Watch for it!

Click below to hear more about CONTEST and how it has prevented bullying:

Check the blog this coming Wednesday (the 15th of October) for a second special post about CONTEST and how it can challenge you to take your stand against bullying! 

Click below to read last week's post for Bullying Prevention Month:

** All pictures belonging to the CONTEST movie and Anthony Giunta

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stand Up for Change

Here it is! My first official post for my Bully Prevention series.

A few of you may remember me doing this last year and have decided to do it again. It's very important to me to strive to be the best person that I can be and that includes treating others with respect.

In this world, bullies come in many different shapes and forms. You aren't only bullied in school. It can happen in college, at a job or even in your own family. While this might make it seem normal and something that every kid just has to deal with, it really is a big issue. No person should ever feel like they are unwanted or worthless. We really need to strive to better our world by making sure that we all feel safe wherever we are.

I've been bullied a little bit but it never really got to the point where I became depressed or scared to go to school. I was mostly bullied because of my race and skin color. But it still hurt and caused me to look at myself in a negative light. I thought that if someone else saw those things in me, maybe they were true. .

This month, I'm not really sure how these posts will help those of you who have been bullied. I am writing because I want to raise awareness and give a voice to those who are hurting. I also want to empower all of you to stand up for change. Bullying hurts and it can even take lives. And that's not ok.

Put yourself in another person shoes. How would you feel being ridiculed and laughed at for your gender, sexuality, skin color or religion? It's absolutely terrible. While we may have some issues with that person, it is NEVER ok to downplay their existence. You all have heard the golden rule. Now, obey it. If you wouldn't want to be bullied, don't bully someone else.

Bullying comes in many different forms. Someone could be teasing you in hurtful ways. Or beating you up. Or sending you hurtful messages online. Or turning your friends against you. But in any case, it attacks the person's heart.

As a Christian, I know that every life matters and everyone is important. Therefore, I have no right to make someone else feel less than what they are. So, here's this week's challenge for you:

Take the time to invest in the life of every person that you meet or talk to. Realize that God is using all of us and didn't create us to be cruel to one another. Need some ideas on what to do?

- the next time you see someone sitting alone during lunch or class, take the time to say hi to them
- give a compliment
- write them a note
- PRAY for them
- give a gift
- let someone know how much you appreciate them
- when you're angry at someone, instead of lashing out, turn an insult into a compliment. It'll shock them more than an insult would

No matter who you are and what you're going through, you are special, important and loved. Share those truths with someone else who may not realize that about themselves.

It is time for the individual to stand up and take a stand against bullying. So join me!

Take Your Stand

** Check the blog each week for a new post about Bullying. Check my Facebook Page for updates and some special postings!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wild About Kindergarten: Week Seven

Well, this is going to be a short post because the little Kindergarten class really zapped the energy out of me today.

~ Highlights ~
1. Reading books to the kids

2. Recess with the older kids

3. Hearing our French speaker and Italian speaker use English when they talk to us

4. Getting hugs and waves from the kids when they leave at the end of the day

~ Tough Moments ~
1. When the kids struggle with listening and obeying

2. When I lack patience (and sleep)

~ Prayer Requests ~
1. I still have quite a few scholarships to complete for college

2. Almost everyone in the class has a cold and I pray that Mrs. S and I won't get sick. Please also pray that the kids would stay healthy this month.

Seeing that today is the 1st of October, I would like to introduce a series of posts that I'll be doing this month. As many of you may remember from last year, October is Bullying Prevention month so I'll be doing my part to help out. Check my blog every week for new postings and interviews all having to do with taking a stand and speaking out for what is right.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wild About Kindergarten: Week Six

Well . . . I am quite the procrastinator. Last week on Wednesday, I was thinking about posting something but then the internet stopped working and I decided to hold off.

So, here I am! Week 6!

Things are pretty great with the Kindergarten. They are all cuties and all very creative and unique. I love my work this year!!

~ Highlights ~
1. Greeting the kids when they come into class in the mornings. They're all so cheerful and ready for the day!

2. Working with our two non-English speakers. While it's frustrating trying to get the point across to them while using as much English as I can (gotta help them learn the language, right?), it's rewarding when they finally catch on. And I love seeing them smile when they finally understand

3. All the different personalities. Not only is our class unique on the outside (the different genders and ethnicity) but they're all so different on the inside and I love being around them and all the personality.

4. Hearing them read words for the first time.

5. When they listen to me and obey

6. The little boy who called me "Grandma" a few weeks ago told me last week that he was going to beat up one of my friends because he didn't want him breaking my heart. LOL!

7. When our Swiss-French student prayed for us and for the lunch

~ Tough Moments ~
1. Feeling lost when it comes to teaching the kids to read and write

2. Wishing that I could spend more time with my friends during school hours

3. Realizing once again that I am the youngest on staff and feeling inadequate and a bit alone

4. Going home physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted because of lack of sleep and too many energetic Kindergarteners

5. Wishing that I could communicate with our little Italian boy. He talks to me so much and I have no idea what he's saying . . . most of the time.

~ Prayer Requests ~
1. I need to start filling out scholarships for next year but am having a hard time finding the motivation

2. I'm starting to think that I could actually make a pretty good teacher. Please pray that God would continue to guide me and help me make a decision

3. My heart is with my two sponsored kids in Honduras and I want to visit them. There is a trip to Honduras next June but it's the same days as the early registration at JBU. But if I was to go, I also lack the funds

4. I need more sleep

5. Please pray for our little Italian speaker. I hope that he'll begin to feel comfortable using the few English words that he has

Check the blog each week for a new update. Some will be short and some will be long! 

Click HERE for my last "Wild About Kindergarten" post!