|Greetings to you and thank you for joining Jazianzza Azzaza Buzzabee and me on our journey toward publication. I want to share with you a bit of my personal journey in coming to write the book.|
Amid a challenging childhood, I was able to take refuge in a backyard teeming with birds, lizards, ants, frogs, spiders, and other critters. We had some beautiful oak trees which led me to include the character of the wise oak named Tree. My childhood experiences led me to feel right at home when I moved to Palomar Mountain in 2001 with its beautiful oaks and bountiful wildlife. I was blessed to live there for over 16 years.
What heightened my sense of awe in communing with nature on Palomar was the wonderful experience of having bees walking around the palms of my hands if I meditated outside. They tickled me while they explored my hands. It was charming. In contrast to that sweet experience, I regularly saw children screaming and running away from bees that had come to drink from the fountain that was set up behind Mothers’ Kitchen, the restaurant I worked in. It made me sad because it showed the disconnect between the children and nature. I’m not advocating that children try to pet a bee or anything like that, but if they understood them more, they wouldn’t automatically fear them.
I had begun writing a children’s book while healing from a hip replacement surgery in India. The plan was to write a cute, rhyming book along the style of Dr. Seuss’s books, with the idea of introducing them to the wonder as well as the importance of our bee friends. It was fun coming up with rhyming zzz sounds, like “wuzzle”, “fuzzle”, “cuzzle”, etc. …And then I traveled back home, back to work, and put the book away…
I was forced into retirement in October 2017 due to a rare and life-threatening auto-immune disease. I had to leave my wonderful friends, work, and home on beautiful Palomar Mountain and moved to Orange County to heal. The pandemic obviously brought many changes and left me with some time on my hands, and it was then that I remembered the book. After looking it over I emailed a couple of therapist friends of mine as well as a friend who helps raise her granddaughter. I wanted to know what challenges children were facing to better understand if the book could be more relevant. The answers I received from all three of them were heartbreaking; the meltdowns, depression, bullying, and fear all led me to reconsider what type of book I was writing. It no longer felt suitable to write a cute little book about bees just to make children happy. I needed to do more if I was going to do anything at all.
I had asked the Universe for a clear answer about whether I should move forward with this, or maybe just drop it and move on with my life. The next day I had to drive about one and a half hours in the pouring rain to go to a doctor’s appointment. It was still quite chilly and rainy afterward. Just as I was about to merge onto the freeway, I looked in the sideview mirror, and there was a little bee, clinging to the mirror!
Of course, I worried about her the whole way home, knowing she wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t know where her hive was to be able to return her, and she faced a real risk of being smushed by a car if she fell off. After arriving home that night I put a bit of honey on the mirror and tried to protect her from the elements. (Side note: I found out later that giving her honey wasn’t a good idea. I should have given her a simple solution of sugar and water.) That brave and tenacious little bee lived another day and gave me a very clear message to move forward with the writing. You’ll be able to see her photo in the Gratitudes section at the end of Bee-Coming Strong!
As a child, I was intrigued by The Little Engine That Could. “I think I can, I think I can”, the little engine kept repeating to himself as he pulled the stranded long train over the mountain pass. It worked, and he made it, but it honestly didn’t feel enough for me. It was sheer grit that enabled the little engine to accomplish that difficult challenge, but I needed something more than that. Learning breathing practices to calm my mind and give me more internal strength would have been so helpful.
MamaQueenzieBee and Tree both assure Jazi that she truly belongs in the world. Her young life matters. If I had read this and thought my young life mattered, it would have been truly life-changing for me as a child. All of us yearn to know our lives matter. Bee-coming Strong is a book I wish I could have read as a child. It’s a book about inclusivity, courage, kindness, and connection – all things that would have helped me so much more than just repeating “I think I can”. (Although to be clear, I loved The Little Engine That Could.)
I believe it is crucial for children to know that they have tools they can access to become calmer and more empowered. When they learn that even simple breathing techniques can be so helpful to their overall sense of well-being, it can increase their self-esteem and self-assurance. And knowing that they truly have a place in the world and that their lives are important and valuable, enables them to grow up with more inner strength, hope, and dignity which increases the possibility that a child will act with kindness.
As Dr. Dale Atkins’ book The Kindness Advantage clearly shows, helping children cultivate kindness contributes to them becoming stronger and more compassionate. Jazianzza learns to breathe deeply. It helps her summon the strength she needs to overcome adversity. From that strength, she acts with kindness, which ultimately leads the bees to a much-needed source of food.
In addition to encouraging children to connect with their own inner strength, I also want to give children another view of bees. By reading Bee-coming Strong, I hope children will become more curious and interested in bees rather than being afraid of them. Bees are necessary for the survival of our planet. If we can raise a generation of children that have a feeling of kinship with these little beings, they will be more likely to look for ways of saving them.
Lastly, Jazi and I would like the book to open children up to the wonders of nature, but since this newsletter is getting long, we’ll save that for another time!
I have been delighted that both adults and children who have read the book find it personally helpful. I wrote it hoping that would be true. Jazianzza looks forward to buzzing around the planet, seeing children learning to breathe, shaking off their challenges, and bee-coming strong in themselves. She is happy you are joining us on the journey. Me, too! Thank you.
Included here is a link to download a black-and-white illustration of Jazianzza for your young ones to be able to use. Enjoy!
“This beautiful book is a touching story that resonates on many levels — how we can all overcome prejudice simply by learning more about those around us. The bees learn more about someone who looks different than them and discover that they are just the same as one other. They realize that even the feared hornet are ‘people’ too. If only humanity could learn from reading this book.”Martin Dohrn, wildlife filmmaker and producer, founder, and director of the award-winning production company Ammonite Films, and co-creator of the recent PBS documentary “My Garden of a Thousand Bees.” This incredible documentary won the prestigious Wildlife Film Award, the top award for Behavior, Editing, and Producer/ Director, as well as the Golden Panda, which honors the best international wildlife film of the year.
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