The Powerful Impact a Teacher Can Make #IKEASoftToysEdu #CleverGirls


I remember asking Mrs. Stock, my high school English teacher, if I could read Jazz by Toni Morrison. The book had just come out. I had been reading books like Beloved, Sula, Their Eyes Were Watching God (by Zora Neale Hurston) and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (by Maya Angelou). I had an affinity for black female authors. Their words were strong and the subjects compelling. It was the first time I could put myself into the mind of a slave or an otherwise oppressed woman. I was sixteen years old, and I was riveted.

Mrs. Stock was hesitant when I asked to read the book because she wasn’t sure if the content was appropriate for me, not to mention the fact that she hadn’t read the book herself. I remember her explaining her concern and how I countered by telling her I could handle the book and the writing of a report. She agreed. I read the book and wrote a pretty darn good report, if I remember correctly.


A very small glimpse of my bookshelf.

That small vote of confidence made a huge difference in my life. And is part of the reason I am a writer today. The words that I read back then molded my love for writing. Something as simple as giving me the go ahead to read what my heart and mind yearned for showed me that I did not have to limit myself.

I mentioned to my friend the other day that my boys have yet to have a teacher that I haven’t loved. I have already seen the profound impact each one of them has had, in the smallest of ways, on my kids.

We often hear more about the bad experiences with teachers than the good ones. Those moments, the positive ones where a child is empowered in a new and exciting way, can stick with that child for a lifetime.

Soft Toy Image (Why) 2015_3

How’s that stat for a little perspective?

There are times I have stopped to think about where I would be without teachers like Mrs. Stock, or without the education I am fortunate to have had throughout my life.

Education can transform lives and is the most impactful way to help children escape poverty. Education had a direct impact on health and well-being. It also gives children the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves. When a child begins, and stays in school, she not only changes the course of her own life, but that of future generations.

With that said, I’ve got another gift that gives back for you to consider this holiday season.

The Soft Toys for Education Campaign is a global initiative and involves the entire range of IKEA soft toys and children’s books. For every soft toy or children’s book purchased at IKEA from November 9 2014 until January 3 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to Save the Children and UNICEF.  The money is donated to projects focusing on providing children in low and middle income countries a quality education in Europe, Africa and Asia.

More than 11 million children have been impacted through 99 projects in 46 countries since the Soft Toys for Education Campaign started in 2003. Each year, IKEA customers who buy a soft toy make a contribution to the vision of a world where each and every child can go to school. It is a good investment for children living in poverty, and it creates opportunities that impacts generations to come. The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.

The total amount donated so far is $90.4 million.

I’m a big fan of IKEA, along with the work of Save the Children and UNICEF. You really can’t go wrong with a soft toy purchase for the holidays.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Clash of the Couples: Lynn vs. Scott

Clash of the Couples2-01

I recently had the opportunity to be part of the cover reveal for the book Clash of the Couples. You may remember that Clash of the Couples is the follow up to the book I co-authored, The Mother of All Meltdowns. In that cover reveal post, I mentioned that I actually know several of the authors via the blogging world and that four are from the state I reside in, Maine.

Well, I also know one of the authors personally (as in I actually see her in person from time to time!). In fact, Lynn Shattuck and I used to work for the same nonprofit mental health agency. That’s how we met. Ten years ago.  Over the years, I also got to know her husband, Scott. So when Crystal Ponti, the managing editor for Clash of the Couples and fellow Mainer, asked if I was interested in doing an author’s question and answer session, I immediately suggested interviewing both Lynn and Scott. Because there are two sides to every lovers’ squabble, right?

Before we get into the questions and answers from Lynn and Scott, I want to share a quick quote from Lynn’s story in the book entitled “A Hypothetical Situation.” 

I glanced at his profile, strong and handsome. Our disagreement had started innocently, with my offhand remark. But throughout the course of our conversation, as was my pattern, I’d swallowed the argument whole, convincing myself that this ridiculousness mattered. Seriously, would he think I was still hot if I was obese or limbless?  Why, in the name of all that is right and holy, couldn’t I get in his belly? And, dammit, why couldn’t we have mocha-skinned, sapphire-eyed little muffins?

You’ll have to buy the book and read the full story. It’s hilarious.


Photo credit: Kevin Ouelette of Amazing DJ Sound and Photography

Now for the interviews!

Lynn’s Q & A:

How did Scott react when you told him you’d be contributing to a book called Clash of the Couples? Were you nervous at all? (Personally I found it a bit intimidating to contribute a story about my worst meltdown as a mother when I was asked to be in The Mother of All Meltdowns.)

I actually told Scott about the call for submissions for ridiculous arguments couples have, and he instantly mentioned the one I ended up writing about, which I’d forgotten about! Since his role in the story was the more rational party, he didn’t mind that I’d written about it and was excited for me. I was nervous that people would think I was racially insensitive, but so far haven’t heard that from anyone.

Was it hard to pick a story to share for the book? Or did you have plenty to choose from? (Tell the truth!)

While Scott and I have had plenty of arguments, I definitely think I captured the most ridiculous one!

Do you have a favorite story in the book? Which one and why?

I really liked Kathryn Leehane’s story about a sandwich. I love her writing, and she definitely captured the silliness that can happen in a relationship.

Do you have any advice to share with couples on how to not clash so much?

As far as advice for other couples on not clashing? I am certainly no expert. I’m working– very slowly– on not reacting when Scott asks something of me that I’m not happy about. Also? Couples therapy is priceless.

What’s next for you? Any other books in the works?

I’ve recently become a blogger for, and that’s been really fun. I also have a story in an upcoming anthology called Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor.

Scott’s Q & A:

What do you think about Lynn being in a tell-all book about lovers’ squabbles and relationship spats?

I am all for it, particularly since I knew she would keep the cannon pointed at herself based on the stories she was talking about including. She had actually forgotten about getting angry that I “wouldn’t let her in my belly” so I like to think I added to the story a bit.

Men and women tend to see things differently, as illustrated in the book. How accurate is Lynn’s story? Anything you want to add to it? (This is your chance!)

It was quite truthy, although I would expect I am much more hilarious and handsome than I came across.

If you were to contribute to the book, what story would you tell?

Honestly I would have picked the ones she did, and perhaps our first ever fight about changing names upon marriage. That one ended when she asked me why I didn’t change my name instead.

Have you read the book? (Tell the truth!) If so, do you have a favorite story? (And you’re not allowed to say Lynn’s!)

I have not read the whole book I’m ashamed to say, but I did read some of the stories in the advance. OTHER THAN MY DARLING BRIDE’S HILARIOUS AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING STORY (lest I provide fodder for the book’s sequel already) I really enjoyed “I Can’t Believe You Ate My Sandwich.” Hell hath no fury like someone who messes with a hungry individual in our house.

Do you have any advice to share with couples on how to not clash so much?

You mean take my advice since I clearly don’t use it? Consider not just what you’re saying but the tone with which you say it.

Point well taken, Scott.

Well, there you have it. They are clearly a cute couple and even picked the same favorite story. I guess the “vs.” part in the title wasn’t really necessary.

Be sure to buy the book Clash of the Couples to read Lynn’s and all the other fun couples stories. It’s a great read. You can also read Lynn’s blog at The Light Will Find You.

Do you have a good couple clashing story? 

Philanthropy Friday: Global Impact Summit

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.


The Global Impact Summit, an online event happening November 10 – 28 on your computer (if you so choose), includes 30 thought leaders in 15 Inspiring days. It is “all about Purpose, Strategy & Action and how you can create a profound difference in the world with your business through the IMPACT of giving.”

When I received an email from my friend Paul Dunn of B1G1, I had to share this event. Not only does it sound incredibly insightful for entrepreneurs and change makers, the Global Impact Summit is free with a donation of as little as $5. True to the B1G1 giving model, you can select a giving project that you’d like to support when you attend the summit. As you can see in the screenshot below, I chose to give a child access to life-saving water for 5 years. With just $10!

globalimpactsummitFrom the Global Impact Summit website:

We believe that businesses have the power to change our world.

All of the speakers at this Summit are here to empower you and the businesses you’re a part of to create greater results and at the same time give back to create the real change we want to see.

So we ask you to implement the learning into your daily business practice so that you inspire others to create a positive impact too.

The line up of speakers sounds pretty great too. You can find each of the leaders featured on the the B1G1 Facebook page.

Find out more about the summit, take a look at the schedule, and register.

Will you join me at the Global Impact Summit?

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