Today's guest is women's fiction author Marshanne Mishoe, whose debut novel - The Mind of a Child - highlights the changes in our society's knowledge of and attitude towards children with special needs. It's an awesome debut novel; I enjoyed it and learned so much from it. So please welcome Marshanne as she talks about how her own experience in a Special Education classroom. ~Heather
When I started my three-year stint as a paraprofessional (assistant teacher) in a Special Education classroom I came to the job with absolutely no experience. I don’t just mean I didn’t have classroom experience, I mean I actually had no life experience with a person with special needs. No relatives, no children, no neighbors no nobody. I just had not encountered a person with special needs in any meaningful way.
This made for a fun, funny learning curve that took me down the alleys of autism, cerebral palsy, undiagnosed disorders and more. But 7 out of the 10 children I regularly worked with had Down Syndrome. This disorder is genetic and irreversible. The kids are generally cheerful, happy fellas (Down Syndrome, as with most learning and mental disorders, inexplicably affects many more boys than girls) so they are easy to love. But they each have their own personalities and bents. The one thing they have in common is a tendency to be stubborn.
So, combine my inexperience and the children’s penchant for mischief and there was bound to be some, shall we say, “episodes.” For instance, we had a child with Downs who also had some autistic tendencies. We will call him “Caleb.” For some reason, no one could figure out why, this kid was afraid of trees and bark and leaves… all things trees. His parent had taken him on a camping trip in hopes of desensitizing him to his irrational fear, but they ended up coming back in the middle of the night after he sobbed the word, “trees” for several hours.
Anyway, on nice days at school, we liked to go through the lunch line and take our boys (and two girls) out to the courtyard for lunch. Caleb, was a big eater, and one of his educational goals was to get him to slow down and eat with manners. You can imagine how much this boy enjoyed his food. But when we ate in the courtyard, we had to bring him outdoors kicking and screaming! He would just have a meltdown if a leaf skittered across the pavement! So, my wonderful lead teacher would instruct me to slowly bring leaves and bark and such over to Caleb and gently let them touch him on the leg or arm.
Needless to say, he screamed and cried and screamed some more. I was at the point of wondering what I was doing there and all of a sudden, he stops his fuss. I wouldn’t say he was cured, and he never loved eating in the courtyard, but he learned that he would not be harmed by the trees there!
During my time in Special Ed, I learned to get over being easily embarrassed. I had children run away from me, sneeze on me, climb up my body in fear and so on. I learned to have no embarrassment or fear when entering the boys bathroom. I also learned to laugh when our guys made me look foolish. Like the times I had to bend down, trying not to touch the bathroom floors but still assisting a child that had managed to get stuck in a stall. When I inevitably fell over on the floor, with boy and all, I would screech in disgust and run to the sink to wash my hands up to the shoulders with soap. I guess I’m a bit of a germaphobe. Not a good mix when working with young children!
I also learned to give credit where credit is due. In other words, if one of my students could say his ABC’s up to the letter M, then that was a big deal for that particular kid. We learned the importance of our students learning to say their phone numbers when one of our kids had a scary episode at home.
He was with his father before school one day getting ready, and it came time for the father to go to work. The mother was busy with two younger children, so our student tagged along, following his beloved daddy out to the garage. The father didn’t know he was there. He managed to back out of the driveway and lower the garage door without seeing that his son was following him! This was a February morning and the boy was still wearing the tee shirt and underwear he’d worn to sleep in the night before. A neighbor finally noticed the barefoot and shivering child a full 20-minutes later! He’d wandered way up the street. The neighbor managed to get the boy into his warm car and notified police. They in turned called the mother, who had yet to notice her oldest son was missing. Our student repeatedly tried to say his phone number, but the authorities had a hard time understanding him. I never got exasperated over teaching the phone number lesson for the 100th time again!
There are so many stories and times I could tell you about and in fact, I have used some of my favorite stories in my new book, The Mind of a Child, currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other favorite online retailers. One of the dual story lines in the book is loosely based on my years as a parapro. The other story line takes us back in time to the 1940’s and shows us how a person with Down Syndrome was treated back then.
Thanks so much for letting me join you guys here at Heather’s site. I appreciate her generosity so much!
About the author:
The Mind of a Child is Marshanne Mishoe’s first novel. She started her writing career back in the mid 1980’s as a television news reporter and anchor. She worked at WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina for the better part of a decade, and before that she had a two-year stint as a writer and producer for SC-ETV’s satellite branch in Beaufort, SC.
Marshanne now makes her home just north of Atlanta. She lives with her husband, Steve, and their three kids, Jake, Spencer and Marishay. Their dog Millie would be highly incensed if she were left out, so she lives there too.
Visit Marshanne online at www.marshannemishoe.com.
Connect with Marshanne online
Don't get me wrong, there are moments when I enjoy being a girly-girl, but they are few. I'm the kind of girl who loves sinking her fingers in the soil and doesn't mind sitting in a goat pen to let the babies use me as a jungle gym. Most days, my hair is in a ponytail and I'm lucky to keep my fingernails clean and filed. (And I have been known to rectify the aforementioned with my pocketknife if I get to town and realize they have dirt under them.)
So, it was with a certain amount of amusement I agreed to co-host a Jamberry nail wrap party to raise money for Project Liberty and our current fundraiser, Liberty for Anna. (We're at 34% of our goal so far!)
How did this Jamberry party come to be? The incomparable Galit Breen (who is now a Bootkrope author!) messaged me and her friend Rachel Frost saying "You're both women of faith and you both fight human trafficking... I feel with every fiber of my being that maybe something great can happen from threading the two of you together. So. Here we are! Discuss."
That eventually led to a collaboration and this weekend's fundraiser. So, I'm going to take these nails:
... and I'll turn them into something pretty. Something, I daresay, feminine, for a good cause. I'll document my progress as I go. That's the plan, anyway!
How can you help? I'm glad you asked!
And be sure to check in throughout the weekend for chances to win more books!
Today's post is part "Person of the Week" and part "Leave Your Mark." I asked Becki Brannen to be a guest after reading her latest release, Stronger. It was a quick, engaging read that felt surprisingly light despite the dark topics it tackles head on. Becki and I have known each other via social media for a few years now. After finally sitting down to read one of her books, I was kicking myself for taking so long to do so. I was also even more impressed with her than I had been before. (And she was already one of my favorite online friends. The woman embodies sunshine.) Read her blog post, you'll see what I mean. She's such a cool person, and I'm lucky to call her friend. ~Heather
Stronger is, in part, my story, but in an entirely fictional way. That probably makes no sense, but it’s true. When I was a sophomore in college, I was sexually assaulted by a friend of mine. I was newly engaged and a virgin. Stronger is my fight back, albeit several years too late.
I wrote Hayley’s character to be someone you see every day in your life, someone who felt like the quiet girl you meet in the library, the woman who walks the hallways at work, never looking up, the girl you’d never guess is terrified of the world around her. You see, that was me, the timid girl who never made eye contact, long before I was ever assaulted. When it happened, I stood up for myself. I made eye contact; I confronted my attacker; I told the powers that be what happened. I took ownership of my life, determined not to be a victim, but a survivor. Hayley needed the same metamorphosis. She needed to be a survivor. After she is assaulted by her boyfriend, the man who degraded her, beat her and sexually assaulted her, she needed to fight back.
Most of my research for my books has occurred online. For Stronger, I reached out to a friend from high school. Rather than give me the education I requested, he instead told me I had to show up at the gym he’s a trainer at and learn to fight for myself. Wes’ character is not based on this friend, and the beginning of my story was written long before I reached out to him (despite the rumors at the gym, ha). I needed a character who believed in Hayley, and found her desirable without being a victim. Wes loved Hayley because she’s strong and his empowerment of her shows how a real man treats a woman.
At the gym, I threw myself into training headfirst, not looking back. I went to kickboxing classes two days a week, dragging myself home each time with cramps and aches – and a desire to return. I felt stronger, more powerful, and in control of my life. I had the edge that Hayley needed, something that Google could never provide. I had experience.
As I wrote Stronger, I realized Hayley needed support, not just from Wes and the others at the gym, but from a safe house. I realize how important these places are as they provide shelter, support, even basic toiletries to women in Hayley’s position – or worse. They help women reclaim their lives, something I know to be so important after a traumatic event or relationship.
Because of this, I decided to give 25% of all profits from the sale of Stronger to The Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia. It was important to me, after writing Stronger, to give back to the Crisis Line so that they can help women in the real world whose stories are like mine or Hayley’s. To date, I’ve given over $30.00 in royalties to the Crisis Line. It’s not much but I hope that it provides one woman in need with a few basic necessities as she reclaims her life. I hope that with something as simple as a toothbrush donated with love, she will feel STRONGER.
For more information about The Crisis Line & Safe House of Central Georgia, please visit www.cl-sh.org.
For more information about Stronger, and other books I’ve written, please visit my website. Twenty-five percent of all profits are donated to The Crisis Line to help women feel less like victims and allow them to realize their inner strength.
About the author:
Becki Brannen was born and raised in the South. She married her high school sweetheart and they have two daughters and a poodle, Sophie. Becki enjoys writing 'chick lit' with a Christian twist.
Connect with Becki online:
Twitter | @BeckiBrannen
Facebook | beckibrannen.author
Website | beckibrannen.weebly.com
I met Mary Graziano Scro when she reached out to me on my Facebook author page to share an article she'd read. After discovering we shared a passion to end human trafficking, I invited her to be a guest on the blog. She's a great example of a person who saw a problem and jumped right in to fix it. I'm delighted that she took the time to share with us today! Welcome to my blog, Mary, and thank you for your kinds words about Devil in Disguise! ~Heather
We wanted to do something, not just read about it. That’s why we became involved with JMM because they are active both in this country and around the world. In addition to Hand of Hope, they have inner city ministries to meet people where they are and give them a hand up out of their situation. They work in prisons, conduct medical mission trips, and operate feeding programs and children’s homes. Much of the work they are doing helps keep children safe and off the streets so that they don’t end up as human trafficking victims. JMM also partners with many other ministries because they recognize that when we join forces, we can accomplish more than we can on our own.
Over the ten years we’ve volunteered at JMM, we’ve heard amazing testimonies from people around the world who have been rescued, fed, healed, and saved. The numbers helped continue to grow as people at her conferences are made aware of the needs and become partners with the ministry.
Even so, the ongoing need is overwhelming.
I challenge you to read about JMM and some of the other organizations Heather mentions on her website, then take action. Through supporting front line ministries whose missions are to “go” and “do”, everyone can get involved – no excuses. Together we CAN make a difference!
Thank you, Heather, for the opportunity to share!
About the author:
Mary Graziano Scro, a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference, is an inspirational and entertaining writer and speaker who intuitively weaves analogies and personal testimony with practical biblical teaching.
Mary’s mission is to encourage others about the awesome life God has planned for us, IF we are willing to choose wisely in our everyday lives (John 8:31-32). And it’s not about us – the more we invest in our own unique relationship with Jesus, the more visible He is to a world that desperately needs Him. Her first book, Intentional Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation so Others Can See Jesus, is available on Amazon.com. She has a few other projects in the works, and regularly shares encouraging messages on her blog, lifeisnotaformula.blogspot.com.
It's been a while since I've talked about Project Liberty on my blog. When people ask me how to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, I always point them to Project Liberty first. They're a small group making a big difference in the stand against modern day slavery. They're also humble, so it's easy to miss just how much they do. Whenever I get an update from Saundra, their founder, I'm floored by all they're involved in. Here's just a glimpse of what they've been up to lately, taken from a message I received from Saundra. They've had some victories and cases that didn't turn out as they'd hoped, but on they fight.
A little update...
This past year we were contacted about a missing 19-year-old because law enforcement had pretty much exhausted all leads and information. The mom called us and it was evident to us this fit the profile of Human Trafficking. We searched for and located the girl, who was taken from Michigan to a large city in another state. It appeared she'd been lured into meeting these people who were going to get her into the music industry, writing and singing.... Of course when she got there they were waiting for her as soon as she got off the bus.
We worked with the law enforcement (NYPD) and found her with the info we gave them. But she was too scared to walk away and ran from help! We kept tracking her until she showed up in another large city, in another state (Portland, Maine). We contacted PPD and by this time we had Homeland Security working with us. PPD went from hotel to hotel and found her and she finally accepted help. PPD was wonderful! They put her in a hotel, which we paid for ($450) at a discount.
We helped her get into GEMS and a pimp found her (back in NYC) and started contacting her there and GEMS had to let her go. They recommended another place, but this girl was so upset she went back to the street! Now, she is on the streets of NYC in this weather! She stayed a Covenant House for a while. Her mother is in touch with her from time to time and we have sent messages to this girl about a church that would take her into their warming center. But we have not heard that she actually went there.
Both the NYPD and PPD were wonderful to work with. I got to know them very well and our investigator did fantastic work and has continued to assist NYPD on other cases. They have thanked us many time for our work, and we've remained in contact. And the PPD was just awesome. They had social workers meet and become friends with the victim and I spent many hours on the phone with them for the month she was there. I got an email a few months ago from PPD thanking us for our work because it help them to get 3 federal indictments and one of them was an underage prostitution ring!! Thank God!
Now, we are beginning to have victims who have escaped or been rescued contact us for assistance. I don't have the heart to turn them away and say that's not what we do. The Lord has put them in my path! They don't have a lot of resources or finances. We have taken on supporting some of the victims financially as donations come in. This is how we met the survivor I wrote about in the email. We have been working with her for a year and half and she has come so far!
So we've begun to develop teams to work one-on-one with victims to help them find resources and social services. They don't have computers, don't know who to call, don't have printers to print out all the forms requested, and many don't even have transportation to and from appointments.... and so much more. So we are creating VAST - Victims Assistance/Support Teams. Working one on one with some social workers and mentors. Please pray about that as we organize this new part of Project Liberty.
Right now, Project Liberty has an urgent need for a specific trafficking victim. If you can at all, please click below to donate and help her cause. Any amount is welcome. (I know I've hesitated to donate to these before because I had $5 to spare and it felt too small an amount - I want to assure potential donors that we truly do welcome any amount. It adds up!)
And if you want to become involved in the fight against trafficking, I urge you to contact Project Liberty. They are definitely the good guys. (And for all of you Vance Davis fans - these guys are the real deal that inspired the character.)
I can't believe it's been four years. But then, I also can't believe it's only been four years. It was January 2011 when I decided to release four ebooks for free to raise awareness for human trafficking. (If you want to read more about that journey, you can find it here.)
So much has happened since then. I've been threatened with bodily harm for raising my voice, and I've been called a joke for thinking it will do any good. I've had moments where I was sure we were making a difference, and I've had moments where I've felt like a complete and total failure for not doing enough. It's in those moments when I have to remember I wasn't personally called to eradicate slavery all by myself, only to add my voice to the growing shout that this is not okay.
I've met some amazing people on this journey - at the top of that list is Saundra Lawson of Project Liberty. If you haven't checked them out, you should. They are real people making a real difference in the fight. (And, as it happens - they have a pressing need for funding on their current case. If you can at all, please consider donating to them.)
But what really keeps me going on my path are the readers who circle back to tell me how they got involved after reading my books. They're organizing rallies and fundraisers. They're telling their friends and neighbors. They're sharing the information at their schools and churches. They're changing shopping habits and finding organizations they care about to help out. They are changing the world in ways I never could.
So, as human trafficking awareness month comes to a close, I'm giving away the new and improved Devil in Disguise for free on Kindle. Several of my books deal with human trafficking, but this one was the culmination of all the others. It was the product of many-a-discussion with Project Liberty's lead investigator.
Sometimes, the bad in the world seems so overwhelming that it tempts us to do nothing at all. If you can't move the mountain, why bother trying? But something in us changes if we lie down and let the bad steamroll us. We have to stand for right, for truth and for goodness - if only to be able to say to ourselves we tried. But the funny thing about trying is that it's contagious. When one of us makes a stand, it gives courage and hope to the people around us to make their own stand. And that becomes a groundswell and suddenly the odds aren't so insurmountable.
I can't believe it's been nearly two weeks since I've blogged. Whoops. Somehow I blinked and those two weeks were gone, gone with little checked off my to-do list. (So, yeah, I know I'm behind releasing Vance's books. Sorry about that.) I feel like all of the amazing momentum I'd built up just came screeching to a halt. As tempting as it is to go off on a tangent about why my productivity has been reduced to zero, I think I'd rather talk about something happy.
If you've followed my blog for very long, you know I have a sometimes-series called "Leave Your Mark," where I feature guest bloggers who talk about how they use their skills and talents to make the world a better place. There are times I ask people to write a post and they respond that they don't feel like their input is enough to make a real difference. It always makes me a little sad when I get this response, sad that the person doesn't see just how important they are.
A couple of friends of mine at church have recently started a "person of the week" post in our Facebook group. Each week, they pick one person from our little church to publicly thank for their contribution. Another friend has started giving out one thank you note a week to tell the person how they're special. Our world needs more of this. Today alone, there were hostages held at gunpoint in two separate cities. Really, on any given day, reading the headlines can leave you with the feeling that the world is falling apart. Reading my Facebook feed leaves me feeling we've forgotten how to be kind to one another. For my own part, I'm determined to keep focusing on the good, to be kind, to search for light.
So I'm going to begin starting my week by calling out a Person of the Week. I welcome your suggestions - if you know of someone who makes this world a brighter place and you want to publicly thank them for it, email me and let me know. If I haven't heard from you, I'll just keep posting my own. I'm pretty blessed to be surrounded by some pretty fantabulous people, after all.
Jeanie is one of the women in my Sunday school class. We've gone to church together for a while, but I didn't know her super well until our little class began. Now I can't imagine my world without her. She has a no-nonsense way about her that I admire, and I get the sense that she could personify "mama bear" if need be.
Here's what I absolutely adore about Jeanie: She's honest, tenacious, humble, kind beyond measure, and always willing to help - even people she has no reason to like. When we were working on the foundation for our house, she came over and spent the entire day on her hands and knees, digging through the dirt and rock to help. Whether it's family, friends, or total strangers - if Jeanie finds out you need something, you can bet it'll be done. Need an ear? Jeanie. Need a smile? Jeanie. Not only does she brighten my world with her presence, but she is constantly striving to be a better person, to be a better Christian. Being around her challenges me to be a better person, a better Christian.
The funny thing: if you asked Jeanie if she makes the world a better place, she'd say no. Or she'd laugh self-consciously and wave you off. But she does make it a better place, every single day, just by being who she is. The world can definitely use more people like Jeanie in it!
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