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National Bullying Prevention Month 2018


Click on the green font to download a complimentary blank copy of each coloring sheet to print and copy.  RojoWhether you are big or smallRojoWhether you are big or smallEspanol2

Secure a copy of Rojo at

Rojo the Baby Red Panda at the Zoo

Do you want some live inspiration?  Book Hope for an author visit for your class or youth group.  Click on the home tab for more ideas of what she can do with and for your students.  Local visits are just $150.00 which will be waved if your group buys 10 books.  Out of town visits may include travel expenses.

Inspiration from St. Patrick’s and Red Pandas

St. Patrick's day

What in the world do red pandas and St. Patrick have in common? Most people know very little accurate information about both.  And for me, both are inspirational figures that help me rise above the lowest common denominator of my debased nature.

The first similarity is that both are usually known by common pseudo names.  Firefox and Lesser Panda are often the names to describe the red pandas.   St. Patrick’s name originated at his birth was Maewyn Sucat, not Patrick.  He took on Patrick decades later when he trained in the Catholic Church in France to become a Bishop.  The second would be the inspiration that I derive from both.

St. Patrick was Roman British, not Irish.  He was born in an economically privileged home in Brittan, and some accounts report that he usually behaved as a spoiled one.  The nearest country neighbors were not friendly and the political envy and strife that describe many today rampantly prevailed in the hearts on both sides.

Supposedly,  Maewyn  behaved as the typical spoiled teen with little interest in moral much less faithful behavior and beliefs.  One day he was nearby waters that Irish raiding pirates sailed, landed, captured him, and took him back to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. The job he was enslaved to was shepherding.

The combination of the humility of slavery,  separation from all he knew,  and time alone out doors caring for the animals began to change him.   Teaching  received in his youth from his family and church began to speak to him in his heart.  But, first, his natural human response, is what he does…run away.

When the opportunity presented he escaped back to his home.  There he finished a formal education and felt called to enter the priesthood.  A dream convinced him that he was called to go back to minister to the Irish.   But, he was turned down many times by the church hierarchy.  However, this only burdened his heart more and compelled him to persevere.

Who would do this?  These people kidnapped him and sold him against his will and economic condition when he was just a teen boy.  Yet, he was a changed individual who now knew personally and experienced the love and forgiveness of his Creator through a Savior.  This is why.  Personally encounters with the living God requires a life change.  One can no longer live the status quo or clamber up the ranks of personal promotion.  Instead a life of humble service and courageous leadership ensues.

When St. Patrick taught the Irish, he did so through what was already known to them.  He took the elements of the pagan worship that had some truths, magnified those, and then gently corrected the flaws.  He used the nature around them to teach basic tenets of the Christian faith.  The one  most see marketed today is the 3 leaf clover of which he conveyed the unique godhead properties of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit yet being the same one true and living God.

It was this style of teaching that I see as similar with my writing and inspiration that I found through the red pandas.  So many metaphors of life came to me as I listened to the zoo visitors respond, “That’s not a panda, where are the pandas?”  It is through these literary associations that I compare the red pandas to giant pandas for little Rojo to work through her identity crisis that has spiraled her into an emotional pity party that if left unchecked by her mother will spiral into a full blown MDM (Major Depressive Episode).

Check one of them out further for yourself.  Rojo is available at Chattanooga Zoo, Zoo Miami, Books and Books, The Bookstore in the Grove, and at most online retailers including the publisher Mascot Books.

#St. Patrick #RedPandasandSt.Patrick’s Day #St. Patrick’s Day

How Herbie Saves The Day from Narcissism

I humbly reflected on my morning and questioned my manners. Had I spoken too much in that morning discussion at the adult class at church? Had I over posted live blogs on Face Book? Was I practicing what I had written in my last blog? My spirit convicted me. So I promised my daughter we would watch that DVD that we borrowed from the library later that evening (after I took a long winter’s nap).

As the time came to watch the DVD, the week ahead began to overwhelm me and tempted me to break my promise.  Movies take up so much time and we really need to keep working on organizing the attic.  Thankfully,  my daughter resisted the negotiated offer and insisted on the first deal.  So into our DVD player went Walt Disney Productions’ 1974 family comedy Herbie Rides Again.

What a delight the next 88 minutes became.  This story written by Gordon Buford and screen play by Bill Walsh offers more than foolish cheap laughs to distract you from your reality.  The “good guys” model four different inspirational ways to work together to fight the narcissist bully, Alonzo Hawk, acted by Keenan Wynon all in hilarious manner.  Each character, including Herbie, have a mind of their own and have something to inspire in each of us.

Ken Berry plays the part of Willoughby Whitfield.  He has recently finished law school and his overprotective mother sends him to visit his ever powerful uncle.  His timing fits perfectly into the greedy Mr. Hawk’s latest plot to get what he wants with no regard for the little old lady, Mrs. Steinmetz (acted by Helen Hayes). Willoughby, the naive young man, trusts his mother and the lies of family ties.  He quickly accepts the mission to convince Mrs. Steinmetz to persuade her to sign the papers and accept the payoff to abandon the historic firehouse where her belated husband led heroically during the San Francisco Fire.

Nicole, played by Stephanie Powers, a beautiful young single airline attendant wastes no time in defending Mrs. Steinmetz, who she calls Grandma,  from Mr. Hawk’s relentless attempts to knock down the historic firehouse by delivering a blow to Willoughby’s jaw.  But her violence accomplishes little except to instill fear into the recipient of her blow.

It wasn’t until Willoughby experienced a ride with Herbie that he came through to see the truth about his uncle.  He quickly resolved that even though it was his first professional assignment gained through beloved family ties that these were no excuse to follow through with such wickedness.  He wrote his first resignation letter and rehearsed how he would deliver it.   Willoughby, however  quickly surmised that confronting a narcissist will only hurt one further.  He also learned that not only did he need to cut ties with his uncle, but his mother as well in order to develop the hero inside and to live the adventurous life before him.

What endears me most about the film is Mrs. Steinmetz’s impeccable manners and unwavering courage to continue to fight for what is right.   As a elderly widow, she is the epitome of society’s label of insignificant, weak, and vulnerable.  Never once does she rely on Nicole or Willoughby to save her.  She has unwavering confidence in Herbie.  She models a faith that truly saves.

To add to this she has fun.  She never gives into self-pity or anxiety.  Instead she acts.

Mrs. Steinmetz earned the title of Grandma from Nicole because she treated her as the ideal one.  She took her in to live with her in the historic fire house when Nicole’s apartment was knocked down by Hawk.  She also ever so graciously corrects Nicole on her default method to defend her and self with violent force.

Grandma lives her belief that manners matter no matter what.   Her reply to the guards who were about to arrest them was that she wouldn’t put her hands up until they asked politely.  She always kept her composure and never gave way to panic, even in the end when Mr. Judson delivered the bad news that there was nothing else that could be done.

What I love about the film is there is a role model for each of us to emulate. There’s a young professional single woman, single man, a elderly widow, and widower.  The overcome the obstacles and never give into the bully.  They even devise a way to win the bully over.  But the sad reality  is they cannot reform the narcissist,  Hawk.

It would do us all well to maintain suspicion, guard, and doubt in regard to a narcissist’s positive change in behavior.  Unfortunately, the definition of such selfish abuser implies that they are only laying a trap again to catch their naive prey in repetitive cycle.  But that’s no excuse for us to stoop to their low level tactics and forget our manners.  Let’s inspire our children to be mindful of others and follow Mrs. Steinmetz’s lead.

Resources on dealing with narcissists and abusers:





School Shootings, Safety Concerns, and What to Do About Them

by Hope Mucklow, blogger and author of Rojo, The Baby Panda at the Zoo

February 15, 2018, Jugal Patel complied some very disturbing numbers that more than 400 individuals have been shot in over 200 school shootings in an article published in The New York Times after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy this week in Parkland, Florida.

This is so tragic. Anyone who teaches public school understands more than the general public.  But the problem is even worse. Each and every day can be a war zone in our schools. The hostility, anger, disrespect, lack of motivation and pain of which these students attempt to learn in is rampant. Movies, video games, and certain music stars who glorify violence and killing have too powerful of an influence on many of the students. Guns are neutral. They are just the tool and scapegoat for a very deep societal problem. Yes, gun safety and responsibility should be a high priority, but let’s also focus on the underlying problems that lead to their misuse.

Too often reactions focus on blame, political issues, and trying to undo the horrid history.  May I suggest channeling energies on something else?  Instead of using a recent tragedy as fodder to support  political beliefs by arguing and fussing over a new law or cause, commit to focus on your local sphere of influence to make a difference.  This means healing your own personal issues so that you can respond better in each and every personal encounter you make.

That begins with reinstating basic manners like taking turns and listening respectfully to one another.

I wrote this poem for both my daughter and myself.  Birthing her surfaced all those life long hurts that still gaped open wide and therefore crippled my ability to truly love and teach her well.

I understood that my behavior communicated more to her than any of my didactic lecturing ever would.  Singing this poem (yes, I wrote a tune to accompany it) helped to calm both of us down in addition to reminding us  that which we needed to do.

Guns, social media, games, alcohol, drugs, smart phones etc. are all neutral.  It is how they are used that can be problematic.  Seriously, one can dredge up data on use of each mentioned on how much good they have accomplished.  Likewise history can be revisited on how fruitless instituted laws have been to curb harmful usage of each.

So before you jump on whatever side of the gun control debate that you believe it, spend time reflecting on how you handle your emotions, channel your energies, and spend your time.  Because you, yes you, a single individual make more of a difference than you may think.  Antoinette Tuff sure made a difference by talking a gun man into turning himself in to get help rather than to fire at the learning center that she works at.

Jordan Shapiro wrote an article The Truth About Parenting and Smartphones that exemplifies my point with cell phones.  I highly recommend reading it and considering all he has to say and how it pertains to this week’s news.

We all must chose what values we will subscribe to AND  live them accordingly.  There’s nothing worse than a preacher who doesn’t practice what he or she preaches.

If you are obsessed with your problems and needs, I’m sorry,  but you are contributing to the underlying problems behind the tragedies.  If you are willing to engage and care about others then you might make a positive difference.  There’s a classic world known book and popular man of history that has a lot to say about this.

Consider joining me in facing your life’s pain, healing, learning from it, and choosing to be content instead.  Find your favorite art form to convert those experiences into beauty that uplifts, encourages, and edifies rather than fussing and fuming.  There’s a time and place to address problems, but most are handling this week’s news poorly and could stand to consider my point.

Valentine’s Day Headaches and Solutions for Parents and Teachers


In less than a week many parents and teachers will be scurrying about to ensure their child has a valentine for each student in their class.  Teachers lose another day of quality instruction as parties usually dictate the order of the day.  If they don’t the pupils squirm about in excitement and too often sugar load.

Some instructors and administrators have banned the tradition in order to facilitate test scores meet their competitive needs to secure funding and keep jobs.  Others know that Scrooge doesn’t accomplish that anyway, so you may as well allow the children to have fun.

Then the creative teacher finds a way to slip in that education through the fun.  I don’t have solutions that fit all grades, but here is one phonetic reading coloring sheet, RojoValentinesDay,  for 1st through 3rd.  And those of you that fall below or above these levels you can certainly modify my solution to meet your particular classroom needs.

Then comes the trouble of the valentines cards.  Some teachers send a list of names home ahead.  Others instruct the children to leave them nameless.  Here’s another idea that ensures no one is left out by common human error.  “To You”  My daughter concluded this as she prepared her valentines early this year.  She said, “Mommy,  being new I can’t remember everyone’s names much less spell them.”  Throw in a couple of extra “To You”s in case one gets lost or a new student shows up.  You can always keep the extras for next year if you need.

Teachers, consider restricting the valentines to just paper cards.  No candy or gifts permitted.  Why?  It becomes a who gave what competition and then children go home with more candy than any human body (much less child) should process.  It also makes children who give a plain valentine remember that maybe their in a different economic class than the others and possibly  artificially puffs up the ones who’s parents paid for the over the top valentines.

Offer one reasonable snack that has some nutritional value to it like a cookie, brownie, cupcake, or cake instead of candy.  Candy is just pure sugar.  If one has a parent who will offer an attractive strawberry or fruit/vegetable snack, that’s even better.

Another thought I’d like to propose is to consider fostering a love for reading over eating.  I realize I’m an author and learning nerd to start out with, but my daughter truly values a good book over any food treat.  I quantify “good” book because I believe there’s a lot of trash to be read out there.  Children need to be feed good ideas just like they need to be feed food.   Life experience will dish out enough dark over time, so take time to see what they are reading and make sure it’s full of inspiration to grow well.

There are a plethora of wonderful children’s books that writers of the past and present have written.   Of course I’m promoting my own, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, but I really hoping to influence for much more.  I’m promoting my fellow colleagues that I’ve met along the way like books by Anita Sax,  Kat MagnoliBrad Meltzer, and Karen Kilpatrick.  None of who paid for me to mention their names and only one of can count on his book writing to make a living.  (btw: did you know most of the book promotions you hear about are paid ones? It’s very tough business.)

Then there are just loads of favorites that I’ve encountered and read to my daughter like The Adam Racoon series by Glen Keane, You are Special series by Max Lucado,  Bernard Waber‘s  Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile,  and Dr. Seuss’s deeper picture books like Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.  

As I wrap up may I emphasize that this holiday of “love” out to be an opportunity to display it?  And the kind of love I’m talking about is respect.  Respect yourself to set reasonable mannerly limits with others and respect others by listening with empathy and a willingness to learn why they may feel and behave the way they do.  Then the world might become a better place for all.  Happy Valentine’s Day.



MLK Jr. Holiday Weekend

Many of you look forward to a 3 day weekend today.  Martin Luther King Jr. is the name of the individual who’s on this holiday.  He led a great movement.  But he wasn’t the only one. I challenge you to do your own little history reading this weekend. You decide and think for yourself. Don’t just let the media report on it and influence you.  If you can visit a nearby museum to remember, learn more, and reflect. My personal favorite is The Freedom Riders Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

If nothing else, reflect on your character and MLK Jr.’s words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Will you too join in with the courage that the Freedom Riders did? Click on the green RojoMLKJRrDay  link below to down load a blank copy of the coloring sheet shown.

RojoMLKJrDay MLK Jr day



Truth, Family, and Super Heroes

Woman, Gal Gadot, starts out the Warner Brothers 2017 film directed by Patty Jenkins pondering her life lessons. She profoundly states, “What one does when faced with the truth is more difficult than you think.”


The first prominent figure in her life, her mother is the first to struggle with this.  Hippolyta does a great job teaching Diana, “Fighting does not make you a hero.” And explaining, “Why war is nothing to hope for.”  But she struggles in what most parent do: preparing their beloved children for the worst this world has to offer, letting them go to experience it, and becoming who they are destined to become.

Antiope, Hipployta’s sister, however, isn’t afraid of these.  Rather, this best warrior of the Amazon’s is true to her title.  She doesn’t cower of the worst and believes the best way to deal with it is to face it and to prepare for it. Since Hipployta refuses to agree, Antiope trains Diana in secret.  Antiope knows she is right and accepts no shame for her decision when Hipployta confronts her after finding them training.  She successfully convinces Hipployta that its best to prepare Diana and finally receives her blessings to continue.

But Hipployta still desires to hide and protect Diana when Captain Trevor’s arrival disrupts their peace and Diana feels called to go with him.  At first Diana complies, but she had spoken with Steve Trevor.  He shared that his dad said, “When you see something wrong in the world you can either do something or nothing.”  He had tried nothing and it didn’t work, so he had to go back and try.

That profound statement and conviction had to grip Diana.  She grew up believing her mother’s tale that she and the other Amazons were created to protect mankind.  This purpose far surpassed the selfishness of living on Paradise Island problem free. So she resolved, “I am willing to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.  So by night she scaled the tower wall, secured her divine provisions for battle, recruits Steve, and made way to leave.

Hippolyta with full guard on horseback approached Diana and Steve on the beach.  But this time instead of forcing Diana to return to the palace she laid the guilt trip on her that she couldn’t stop her and that she was breaking her heart.

Guilt trips manipulate so many.  And parents are some of the experts at laying them.  Thankfully for Diana, she chose to leave with the consequence of never returning.  But too many never find such courage and continue to stay close to mama.

Diana went on to experience the conflict her mother tried to protect her from.  She learned that men are easily corrupted and that they often fight without honor.  That they can incite “an endless war where men would destroy themselves. ” But she also learned that “it’s not about what one deserves.  It’s about what one believes.” She concludes, “But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light and learned that inside everyone of them there will always be both.  A choice that each must make for themselves something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know only love can save the world.”  Love, not guilt, fear, or justice is what saves.  What do you believe? What choices are you making?

Hope Mucklow is the author of Rojo The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, a Children’s Illustrated book for kids and adults.


Tips for Veterans with Disabilities Looking to Start Their Own Business

Guest article by Erica Francis from

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Photo credit: Hope Mucklow

For people with disabilities – especially veterans returning home to civilian life – traditional jobs can be much tougher than you could even imagine. Not only are there physical barriers to some traditional work (if you have mobility issues or a visual impairment, for instance), but the inflexibility of some careers can end up putting a strain on you and your family. For many in this situation, business ownership is a way to be your own boss, make the rules, and give yourself ultimate flexibility. Here are some tips.

Consider starting your own at-home business

A long time ago, when the internet wasn’t helping people from all over the world connect in seconds, the idea of running a successful business from home would’ve seemed ludicrous. But now, the concept is not only possible but it’s highly feasible. For those dealing with a disability who still wish to jump into the world of business ownership, creating a business that you can manage from home may be the smartest decision.

If you have professional skills, you can start up businesses in fields like graphic design, tax preparation, writing (grants, articles, technical), and public relations, and language translation. Low-stress jobs that could help you ease back into civilian life include transcription, life coach, travel agent, online tutoring, and technical support/advice.  The following are more for you to read and consider:

The power of email, telepresence (Skype, Google Hangouts), and social media can make careers that were once done only in offices and stores, face-to-face, available for you to do at home.

Know how to stay relaxed, healthy, and grounded.  Avoid drugs, alcohol, and other self destructive behaviors.

Starting a business is a stressful process. It’s counterproductive to work yourself to the point of exhaustion on a new small business idea. Sure, you want to work hard, but if you don’t take time to take care of yourself your efforts will be in vain. Stress, especially in veterans with disabilities that may suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another mental problem, can lead to unhealthy behaviors (for more on vets and addiction,  click

If there’s one tip that sits above all else on the importance scale, it’s probably to make sure you get enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep or poor quality, interrupted sleep is a silent killer that trickles down into nearly every aspect of your daily life. Don’t be tempted to “add more hours” to the day by sacrificing sleep.

While the US government no longer gives out grants to disabled persons to finance their small businesses, there are organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities and veterans get started. It may not be financial help, but it can point you in the right direction and help you learn the basic steps to achieving your goal.

This site discusses laws and programs concerning disabled veteran-owned businesses, such as the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Procurement Program. This site offers a toolkit full of links for vets, like info on how to write a business plan, how to estimate business costs, and how to find a business mentor. This site, SCORE, offers more info on mentors. This site offers tips and resources for any disabled person hoping to launch a small business.



Shopping Therapy

Earlier this week I experienced the most delightful shopping experience that I now share with you.  I felt genuinely respected and valued by the manager and her assistant.

It all started when we were waiting to yield onto Route 1.  My daughter sighted Safespace Foundation, Inc’s Thrift Store.  I hesitated to ask her if she wanted to stop, because I was tired and had a lot to do at home.  But recalling from past positive experiences when my daughter would do this, I decided to step out in faith. Maybe some provisions were waiting for us to purchase as we squealed in delight at our bargains.

I parked the car and we sauntered along the sidewalk towards the door. How strange, the door was locked and space empty.  Elise noticed that the space next to looked like the store we used to know.  So we proceeded around the building in search of another door.

We stepped inside and saw a young man busy organizing A LOT of stuff.  The place was jammed full of clothing hanging on racks with barely adequate space to breathe, much less move. Items on shelving lining the walls. This place was definitely under renovation!  Could it possibly be open for business?  I asked. The pleasant reply said,”Yes, mam! Come on in.”

I replied, “It looks like you’re moving.” The manager said, “Yes we are.  The space adjacent to us got rented out by someone else.  But we still have this area and the room in the back.”  “Room in the back? What’s that?” I asked. “Furniture.  Are you looking for any furniture?” “No.  Just a bookcase.  Do you have any over there?” I asked.  She answered, “Just the one next to you.” “But you need this one.  It’s holding all the stuff your selling” I replied.

“That’s not important. We can move that stuff” she said.  “But it’s really full of stuff!” I argued. “He’ll take care of it” she assured.  He happily lifted his head from the box he was processing and said, “Yes, Mam! There’s no problem with that. ” “Well, alright.  Let me see if it’ll fit in the car first.  Can I use this broom as a measuring standard?” “Oh, I have a measuring tape over here.”

That courteous guy walked out with me to see my car.  Putting the back seat down wasn’t going to be enough.  So I turned to return to the store.  He gently said, “Mam, it’ll fit if you put down the front seat too.”  “Good point.  Let me think about it while I shop.” “Take your time, Mam.  I’m here to help you when you are ready.

Well, we didn’t waste a minute.  We started digging for those treasures.  On the side hung a skirt that would add nicely to my wardrobe. But would it fit? And how about those pants? My daughter entertained herself by clomping around in the Liz Claiborne high heels that she found.  I moved onto the CDs. I found The Best of the Gypsy Kings and many other gems!

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I found a couple other pieces of clothing, but I questioned if they would fit.  Just like their other space, they had a small one person restroom utilized as a changing room too.  I opened the door to artistically painted walls that welcomed far warmer than those cold changing rooms at most clothing stores. The bathroom part of it sparkled with a clean shine and a large mirror allowed for me to view how the clothes fit. I felt respected and worthy!

Now that I had found my treasures,  it was time to pay and get that bookcase in the hatchback.  That young man continued to impress us with his outstanding customer service.  He gingerly nudged it inch by inch into my car cautious ensuring that no damage would occur.

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We’ve been home now for a couple of days.  We’re absolutely thrilled with our bookshelf and shopping experience!  We don’t have an ounce of buyers remorse or bad feelings from this retail excursion.  In fact, it stands out as one of my finest topping the days when I shopped at Lord & Taylor and Nordstroms for business attire.

What I love most is how well these two individuals treated us.  It exemplifies that what matters most is how people are treated.  It’s not really about what the store looks like.  The best atmosphere is one created by an attitude of gratitude, respect, and willingness to serve. To top it off, we feel great knowing that proceeds from our purchases are going to