By Kathy Joy
There it sat.
Large. Impossible. Taunting me with its arrogant presence—that thing I had to overcome. A project I’d been putting off, putting off, trying so hard to avoid.
The beastly thing had a large tag attached that hollered, “DEADLINE”.
My project had become an ugly frog.
I had to eat it right away.
It has been said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing it’s probably the worst thing that’s going to happen to you all day.
Eating the frog: this is a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of the day — the one you are most likely to put off, but usually the one that might have the greatest positive impact on your progress.
Eat the ugly frog first. Down the hatch. Be a brave soldier, staring down that deadline, that cleaning project, whatever it is—and go for it. Just pinch your nose, grab that wiggly critter, and swallow it whole. After this, you can move on to the other frogs, the smaller ones that aren’t quite so daunting.
I know you think I’m talking about actual frogs here, but really, I’m talking about time management and doing the hard thing first; it’s just more playful to use the frog analogy.
Do I ever remember meals as a child! Remember yours? Many of them had frogs on the plate. I had to learn to eat the frogs first before the rest of my meal could be enjoyed.
Eating the frog means to ‘just do it, otherwise, the frog will eat you,’ meaning that you’ll end up procrastinating the whole day. Once that one task is done, the rest of the day feels like a freebie. Besides, you will feel proud of your accomplishment.
As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
At the end of each day, whether you’re at the office or at home, make a list of all the things you need to do the next day. Then, select your most important task (the ugliest frog). Clear the workspace around it so you have this one thing, sort of a big warty frog, sitting on your desk.
It will be waiting for you in the morning.
Staring you in the face, you realize Twain was correct. Either it eats you or you eat it.
Do this every day until it becomes a habit. In due time you will find you are more productive through the entire day, having spent the early surge of your energy eating the wartiest frog.
If absolutely necessary, make Frog Jell-O. This is the art of mixing in enough humor, coffee, and perspective to make the frog taste better.
When a co-worker or family member offers you a donut or a sweet roll, tell them you’ve already had the breakfast of champions. Haven’t you, though? Then politely excuse yourself and go on to the next item, um—frog, on your list.
I HAVE NEWS!
The book launch is this week for the children’s picture book,
Will You Hold My Story?
Tired of carrying her heavy story all by herself, Meggie Beth finds a step upon which to sit.
As she rests, the street carries a variety of people to her, all of them lost in their own thoughts. Everyone seems too laden with his or her own stories to stop and hear hers.
When a lovely, lonely dog becomes friendly with little Meggie Beth, we are reminded that youngsters need pets, and that pets are excellent listening buddies.
After the work is accepted, then edited and published, any author can tell you that it is a great reward for a new book to be accompanied by early endorsements and reviews.
The first is by a second grade teacher who says, “Richly celebrating the trait of perseverance in finding the support of other people, or a gentle dog, as the case may be.”– T. Palmer, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
The second was a genuine surprise to me, coming from one of Christendom’s best widow bloggers who pitched it to her fans on social media and alerted me that she believes the story is “Wonderful and meaningful for all ages.” Laura Warfel, More Than a Widow blogger
The third is from a fellow author, Charmayne Hafen, a writer of children’s books (middle age) who wrote one of my first Amazon reviews. She said,
Reviewed in the United States on January 21, 2021
It seems, in this murky year of unknowns, that we have all become bridge builders. By this, I mean we are learning to construct organic passageways between problems and solutions; we are building new platforms to help each other succeed.
A co-worker said it this way: “We are discovering new ways to do old things.”
She’s not wrong. If the word “innovative” carries any weight on a resume, then we need to add that to our portfolios.
Influencers are bridges between ideas and implementation. Let the intangible beget the tangible.
- Friends are bridges between opportunity and reality.
- Co-workers are bridges between dull days and brighter ones.
- Connections are bridges between prayers and answers.
Recently, I was a recipient of one of these bridges between opportunity and reality and between prayers and answers. My publisher announced a connection to make my children’s book sing. “Will You Hold My Story?” is the recipient of some 32 illustrations of Brianna Osaseri, an winning artist who has agreed to produce poignant and imaginative works for the 32- page picture book.
I happened to be going through a particularly difficult time, and I can’t tell you how seeing these fascinating images elevated my sense of wonder about the story and added even more purpose.
When there’s a problem, there is a wonderful collaboration available to each of us with just an earnest request. Unseen reinforcements rush in like healthy blood to a wound. Bridges are built for walking into the future.
Virtual meetings, emails, phone calls, whatever it takes – the work is getting done and readers, or our customers, or clients are being helped.
More than a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude, it’s a large-scale scaffolding that materializes right under our feet, wherever we need reinforcements. Some people call this scaffolding “answers to prayer.” Others call it “favor,” “blessing,” “feeling the love.” No matter what you call it, we each know when we are in desperate need of it. And, we each know when we receive it.
- It’s a coming-together of talent, experience, and care.
- It’s the filling of a cup.
- It’s the measures taken to keep us safe.
These are the bridges to each other’s stories, and to hope.
I, for one, am looking more closely at life for any random blessings that can provide walkways to better days for me and maybe for you:
- an encouraging message on your voice mail, “Don’t think that for one moment, you are forgotten, Deary!”
- that cup of coffee on a cold morning, and reading the review someone left on your last book.
- a holiday card, whether it’s full of giggles or full of pathos,
- help from a co-worker on a difficult issue
- passing along someone’s story explaining a surprising twist of events when their own need was answered, miraculously
- savoring the unique texture of a loved-one’s voice;
all of these, and more, are carrying us and moving us forward.
One of my favorite ways to help someone else along is to congratulate them with words or cards for an accomplishment.
It would be so easy for me to ignore their big win and to think, “Why isn’t it my day to reach the summit?”
My guess is, we will emerge from this wilderness seasoned hikers.
Do you recall doing something like this? As a child, I’d grin showing an adult my palms up, the inside of my cathedral made of my interwoven fingers, and I’d sing, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it up and here’s all the people!” Then, hiding all my fingers, I’d ask the patient adult, “Where are all the people?”
We adults still need other patient adults to make us some two-way bridges, don’t we? I need to show up for you on the bridge. You need to show up for yourself and also for someone else on your bridge. Let’s look for one new way to receive a good step forward. Let’s offer a bridge to someone else today in kindness or compassion.
At the summit, we will look down to see we have built networks, catwalks and swinging bridges we’d never before imagined. Intricate networks.
When you’ve built a bridge, you’ve constructed a cathedral of strength and beauty.
Even if it is intangible.
Kathy Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Messiah College (Grantham, Pennsylvania) having majored in Journalism and Communication. Her career focused on radio journalism and later on government social work for family members with children in the Pennsylvania system of health and welfare. She is the author of four previous books, the series called Breath of Joy.
Her personal philosophy is that “by telling our stories, we give others permission to unload their own weights and worries.”
Most recently, Kathy Joy’s children’s book is scheduled to be published early in 2021, entitled, “Will You Hold My Story?” It features a stray little pooch and a stray, tired Meggi Beth (depicted by artist, Brianna Osaseri).
Kathy is an enthusiastic supporter of therapy dogs and dogs-in-general – they are loyal friends and excellent listeners.
As the author of four seasonal books, a social media influencer and inspirational speaker, Kathy Joy has found her voice in the world of children’s literature.
Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication and says her favorite semester at Messiah College included the study of children’s books.
Listen to a Creative podcast for creatives: https://pencilsandlipstick.libsyn.com/seeking-a-truce
So many of life’s decisions are money-driven: which college is most affordable for my graduate? … will the family be okay if something happens to me? … should I retire now, or wait a few years? … are those investments growing or will they be in the tank soon? Curbside, or in-store shopping?
It’s a luxury, really, to be able to ask these questions. Many of the families we affect through our writings are wondering how to heat the house, never mind investments or 401-K’s.
They are scrambling to keep the kids in school and deciding which creditors can be paid this month. Sure, some regrettable choices have landed them in a world of hurt, but aren’t we all one emotion shy of making the wrong choice?
Our resilient hearts are possibly the most valuable currency we have. One thing we can all bank on, for sure: we have the currency of caring.
These intangibles — these treasures of survival — are the currency that can never be stolen, lost or wrongly invested.
Let’s take a look at our impressive portfolio:
We have …
- The bankroll of unexpected blessings.
- The treasury of compassion.
- The cache of childlike wonder.
- The treasure chest of non-judgment.
- The abundance of laughter.
- The nest egg of Resilience.
- The wealth of watchfulness; of caring for ourselves and each other.
- The riches of simple joys, shared.
We have the coinage of humility; something we all should carry like extra quarters in our pockets if only to feed the meter of kindness.
Tending to life.
A brief little phrase that packs a wallop.
Can we all just take a moment for:
- An elbow-bump, maybe even an air hug?
- How about making soup for a shut in neighbor?
- Taking a few minutes to shovel the sidewalk for someone else?
It just feels like Hope x 1,000 when I look around and see us tending to life.
As we continue being tossed and jostled by the turbulent waters of Covid-19 and a contentious election year, may we emerge smoothed and beautiful – like polished beach glass.
Kathy Joy is the author of the Breath of Joy Series and Will You Hold My Story, a child’s picture book, to be released in early 2021.
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Would adults change their behaviors in the jokes they tell or in their scare tactics with children if they knew how little children absorbed horrific events? Would it make any difference to you?
The professionals and parents are divided. Some say horror can permanently scar a child’s conscience. Others say for a child to experience a series of frightening events at a young age can strengthen a child in a variety of ways.
Let’s take a vote.
DO YOU BELIEVE AT AGES FIVE, SIX, AND SEVEN:
- children should be protected from all frights because fright might scar them spiritually, emotionally or psychologically;
- children should be scared (occasionally) for the fun of a joke with them or for rites of passage such as in Halloween, sitting on Santa’s knee, taught about the police or the courts or jail, or riding a bike or a motorized skateboard;
- children should learn that fright exists to teach us important lessons which can be learned about together;
- children should learn about the sometimes frightful powers of God and the differences between evil frights and wickedness in human nature as appropriate.
- children can learn courage and problem-solving creativity at young ages if they can learn to analyze a frightful situation the best of which was seen in the Home Alone movies.
(Please post your answer in the comment section below)
The cat is out of the bag. I’ve authored a scary story for children. It was recently published by Capture Books. So, I have a dog in the fight, or a hedgehog, rather.
In the first draft, Darling Hedgehog was not able to save all of the other animals due to the time crunch of escaping the danger. Several beta readers, however, suggested that this fact would not go unnoticed by their first graders. Honestly? I wrestled with the question of whether it was important to be realistic in a fantasy picture book. Silly me.
Children develop empathy when they read about another’s problems.
Not too many know this about a girl, Auralee Arkinsly, who’s been called sweet for many years, but when she was in fifth and sixth grade, she’d sit on her neighbor’s porch with a gaggle of children from their house, and the rest of the neighborhood who had all come by to hear the scary stories that she’d happily created for them. The problem was, she frightened herself. She gave herself a fear of going along to bed alone in my room way down in the dark basement.
This is the simple reason my scary story times ended.
For years afterward my laudable storytelling experience, I stayed completely strawberry and vanilla in my taste for stories, jokes, movies, and literature. It was due to an introduction to two classical authors in my 30s that I was inspired to rethink my vanilla beans ideals.
This 1962 dark fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury is about two 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern home, Green Town, Illinois, on October 24th. Since it was eventually made into a movie, I sent it to my niece and nephew one October when they were preteens.
Particularly, the clever, atmospheric writing Bradbury used when he painted late summer windstorms and dawdling days with falling leaves and evil intent made me feel like All Hallows Eve inside. All of this desire to fast and pray for protection is happily explained when… well, I won’t give away the fabulously moralistic tale in case you haven’t yet read Bradbury.
The Short Stories of Flannery O’Conner
The other ingenious author, Flannery O’Conner, introduced to me at a writers group, typed her twisted tales from the south. Due to her subject matter, i.e.: fraud, criminal minds, and human ignorance, her stories could almost be transported to any place. Perhaps it was the nature of things she read in her local newspaper. Perhaps she was only highlighting a sinful lack of imagination when she invoked the perfect storm for a family traveling on an isolated road, or a Bible salesman in a barn, or a nuclear bomb at our front door.
Of course, great themes of any adult or children’s book have intrepid and surprising settings that morph with the characters. These are the stories that teach readers and viewers about life and personal values.
It seems that night terrors can be developed at any age given a 3 a.m. pounding on the door and intrusion to a person’s bedroom, or due to war experiences. Night terrors are not limited to the fears of little children.
But is it right to purposely frighten kids?
It’s easy to see that Halloween and Trick-or-treat are right around the bend.
This year, a house in my community has skeletons crawling all over the house, mixing a zombie like activity with the bones of the picturesque dead. Another house on the same street has a half dozen wild-haired witches flying from the low hanging branches of their trees. The wind helps them stir up fright.
Several other houses have graveyards with chained skeletons, and voice boxed startling movement detectors. Apparently, most people think that given the right season, yes, it is just fine to frighten children.
Babies and toddlers in the arms of their fathers
Young children, who visit Santa Claus for the first time in a shopping mall, who are told to sit on his knee and tell him their secrets, well – parents think this is funny. Just fine. A rite of passage, they say.
Given it’s Halloween, babies and toddlers in the arms of their fathers come knocking on our door.
The saying, “That’ll put the fear of God in ya!” is ancient. You’ve heard it. The fear of God can be conjured in trying to stand in a forest of redwoods in the midst of a monstrous wind storm. Suddenly, one feels like Jack and the bean stock, having climbed up to the house of giants and seeing them thunder after you. Where does one hide?
There may be a kind of healthy fear that comes as a sense of awe or as a warning such as a careful look over the edge of a precipice in the Grand Canyon, or in diving out of an airplane with a parachute on for the first time.
“In ancient days,
There dwelt a sage called Discipline,
His eye was meek, and a smile
Played on his lips, and in his speech was heard
Paternal sweetness, dignity, and love.
The occupation dearest to his heart
Was to encourage goodness.
If e’er it chanced, as sometimes chance it must,
That one, among so many, overleaped
The limits of control, his gentle eye
Grew stern, and darted a severe rebuke,
His frown was full of terror, and his voice
Shook the delinquent with such fits of awe
As left him not, till penitence had won
Lost favor back again, and closed the breach.”
An artist who paints the potential of Venetian floods does so with both goodwill and warning. I realize there are warnings, opportunities, to learn introspection and courage at every age.
Any season is a good season to be goaded towards stronger mental analysis.
So, I went ahead and wrote my picture book about what happens between a fox and a hedgehog family living in geographical proximity. This story does have a sincere model of courage, quick thinking, and Darling-to-the-rescue in it. But, how much mental analysis can a child conjure at ages five, six or seven?
In a climate of it never being okay to confront a child with possibilities of an existing dark side in life, my first review, always to be Darling’s first review, pasted a one-star nasty put down for scaring little children. Yet, it never has been a child who’s been frightened by Darling Hedgehog.
It’s funny that fear of a book’s content is often combated by a snarky deed, a single evil star. So it was that I learned how Book trolls can play overly-concerned, conscientious adults snuffing out a book before it sees the light of day. That’s a little twisted, though. Book trolls playing overly-concerned, censoring adults – why they are considered book trolls? Here’s what I believe about that.
I believe that book trolls are begotten accidentally from genetically normal, avid readers who skip meals. Then, around midnight, when they become voraciously hungry, they hastily eat spider sandwiches in the dark under dim reading lamps.
These are the foxes who run through the fields of Amazon books ready for harvest with firebrands tied to their tails.
Maybe it is just Gremlins passing as sweet, innocent influencers begging for a new deal. But we must remember that Gremlins have rules.
The grandson secretly sells the mogwai to Randall, warning him to remember three important rules that must never be broken: do not expose the mogwai to light, especially sunlight, which will kill it, do not let it come in contact with water, and above all, never feed it after midnight.”Gremlins rules
Hey, I don’t mind that the reviewers liking my picture book may include a caveat for an adult to be available to answer some questions. Not at all.
I agree. Picture books are best when a child sits down with an adult who preferably reads to them and talks them through the story with questions. Aren’t they?
The question still makes me queazy.
Is it a good idea to scare little children at all?
When I was very young, I came across the story of Scuffy the Tugboat at a doctor’s office. Scuffy thought he was made for more important things than swimming in a bathtub. When his little boy took him to swim in the river, the current carried him far into a gushing flood zone and then in the sea. I remember feeling so frightened to see the huge tugboats and ships and to hear their horns through the eyes and ears of poor Scuffy.
Thankfully, Scuffy was saved by the little boy who had come to the sea just that day.
The Brothers Grimm believed it was not only okay, but good to frighten children about the wolf in Red Riding Hood. Was he the woodsman? Who was he? But, that’s the point, isn’t it – to beware of strangers?
Chris Roberts, the author of Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, tells Debbie Elliott in an NPR interview, “Childhood is a relatively recent phenomena, certainly over the last couple of hundred years, that children are seen as very separate from adults. So there would be no reason in the past not to have what would now be considered adult themes in rhymes that children could hear and sing.” (All Things Considered, October 2, 2005)
Apparently the publishers of Grimm’s Fairy Tales also believed the books would sell because wise parents and avid readers of well-written entertainment would buy.
“Plants raised with tenderness are seldom strong;
Man’s coltish disposition asks the thong;
And without discipline, the favorite child,
Like a neglected forester, runs wild.”
From first grade on, my teachers joined my mother in warning me not to talk to strangers. Even if they offered candy. Even if they offered to give you a ride home from school. My teacher had us memorize the phone number of the local police station. I hope it was helpful to someone.
Nearing the end of a favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, on the night before an expected trip to the sea, the rabbit is thrown into the trash heap and overhears that he is destined for destruction by fire in the morning, making a tear roll down his face.
I’d forgotten how frightening that story became!
Parents should probably never allow the fear of God to come near their children. Neither should children be told that God’s Son died on a cross for their sins because they would not understand the gruesomeness of the good news – sins being separated from their beings – nor the idea of their own misbehaviors at age five, six, or seven being layered for punishment. Though love and fear do not go along hand in hand easily, I personally, had parents who embodied deep love and also a much feared anger.
As Walt Disney understood, isn’t it the point of a good scare to remind us that evil and opposites exist in the same geography? That there can be good news in the land of the living and in the land of the dead? Yes, a bit of sweet salvation goes a long way when we are frightened.
Enjoy the fall holidays, everybody. Enjoy the election season terrors. Enjoy reading and discussing great children’s literature with your own littles. May you reach for a tassel of wisdom, and may you keep your hand.
©Capture Books, 2020
Contributing author, Auralee Arkinsly, speaks to parents and little children about writing stories, the value of stories, and specifically the value of good humor in storytelling. Book her now here.