Giving Back


School Safety, Bullying, and Teaching Kindness

Bullying, School Safety and Teaching Kindness

My head has been a jumbled mess of random thoughts since February 14 when innocent teachers and students lost their lives  in Florida.

Yesterday I watched a video of a man who confessed that he would have been a high school shooter if he had the resources as a kid to purchase a gun. His story was a sad one of being bullied and unloved, and while he did carry weapons to school, a gun was not one of them, simply for the fact he couldn’t afford it.

It’s not an excuse to kill or even think about killing, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of the violence we see happening in schools starts with a child being bullied, and that is something we as parents can change.

A few months ago my husband overheard one of my daughter’s schoolmates making horrible racist comments during school breakfast. Some of the kids around them started laughing at what she was saying and he had to step in and say, “no, we do not talk this way and this is NOT funny.” This is only FIRST GRADE friends. Where would a child learn to say these things?

We had a long talk that night about how the things that were being said were wrong, how badly they could hurt someone if they overheard it and why we choose to be kind to everyone, no matter their nationality or differences. I told Rylie I really didn’t want her to hang around this girl. But was that the right thing to do? According to Rylie it wasn’t.

A few weeks later I just casually asked who she’d eaten lunch with that day and she said she didn’t want to tell me because I’d be upset with her. When I finally convinced her to tell me, she said it was the girl we had talked about that said mean things. She followed it with “Mom, wouldn’t you rather I be friends with her and teach her to be kind than to not be friends with her and she just keeps saying mean things about people?”

What could I say to that? I check in regularly on their discussions, but I have to say that these days I fully trust that Rylie knows right from wrong when it comes to the words we use, and isn’t afraid to speak up when she feels they are inappropriate.

She asks that we change the radio when a song using the words shut up or hate come on and she changes words in books if she’s reading and doesn’t feel comfortable with them. She’s learned to step away from people who are treating her or her friends poorly.

Most importantly, last week, her teacher called me to tell me she was proud of Rylie for her bravery in reporting something that made her feel uncomfortable. Can anyone explain why my child had to report a boy in her FIRST GRADE class for telling her FIRST GRADE friend that he wants to rub his penis on her? Are we taking the #MeToo movement to the lunch line in elementary schools?


My Personal Experience with Bullying

You see, I was the bullied kid in school. I never felt that I fit in. In elementary school I was teased about where I lived, the clothes I wore and the people I sat next to in school. I had a brick thrown at my face by an older neighbor who should have known better.

In junior high I was an easy, naive target for teasing and playing pranks on. My “best friend” would boss me around, and when I stood up for myself she pushed me down in the hall knocking the wind out of me and landing me on my face in front of everyone between classes.

But worst of all in high school I was stalked and humiliated by a classmate who was known to be the “best shot in the state” on the school rifle team. How was that even a thing? He set the wool on my sweaters on fire as he’d walk past me with his lighter. He poured rubber cement under my chair in shop class and set it on fire. He paid people to come and humiliate me in the cafeteria at lunch. But what was most scary was that he managed to steal my drivers license. He knew where I lived, which was in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, and could explain in detail parts of my house and would tell me he saw me in my bedroom or in the bathroom. We had no neighbors at the time, there was no reason to keep my windows closed or curtains drawn until he said these things. He had my social security number MEMORIZED. I’m thankful for the one teacher who put an end to it.

I was sensitive, fragile, naive and afraid to ever say anything to stand up for myself. While I never had any intention of being a school shooter, these words and actions did affect me and still do affect me. Words do hurt, and they affect different people in different ways.

I realize that there are a lot of other actions that need to be taken to make this world a safer place, but just based on these few experiences my child has already had in only two years in elementary school, there is a lot of room for parents to step up, to teach their kids compassion, empathy and kindness. I realize not everybody will do this, adults can be just as cruel as kids, but at least we can encourage our kids to inspire their friends to be kind, even if their parents aren’t.

Skate Rising – Too Cool for Phoenix Heat

Photo: Trisha Gulbin, Still Rad

Have you heard the news? It’s hot in Phoenix. Like, airplanes can’t fly in the sky hot. Like, plastic garbage can melting, fry an egg on the sidewalk hot.

But even with extreme heat warnings, girls from all over Phoenix are still coming out to 91 West, an indoor skatepark, for Skate Rising’s service project and FREE skateboard clinic on the third Saturday of each month!

In the past two months Skate Rising Phoenix has donated 84 lbs. of food to St. Mary’s Food Bank AND 123 hygiene kits and thank you cards to homeless veterans.

Skate Rising is Exposure Skate’s community program for girls between the ages of 4 and 18 years old which teaches compassion through service and empowerment through skateboarding. Always a FREE event, Skate Rising takes place the second Saturday of each month in Encinitas, California, and the third Saturday of each month in Peoria, AZ.

These girls may be small, but they are making a BIG difference in their community, learning valuable lessons, and they’re having fun doing it with friends.

Photo: Trisha Gulbin, Still Rad

Shortly after a news segment aired on the needs of St. Mary’s Food Bank, Skate Rising announced that their May event would support them with a food drive. Thirty girls came out to skateboard with food donations in hand, making it Phoenix’s biggest event yet!

There was delicious food sponsored by Flower Child, Raffles, MyIntent Bracelet making with Ivivva, and Kelsey from Alive Fitness and Wellness talked to the girls about doing all things with intention.

Photo: Trisha Gulbin, Still Rad

After the event a few girls came together to make the delivery to the food bank. Not only was it a great experience seeing where all the food is stored, the kids had a blast standing on the giant scale they weight the donations on, taking photos popping out of boxes, and they even let us take a quick skate run down their loading dock!

As we rolled into June the temperatures soared to nearly 122 degrees. IT WAS HOT! The hottest it’s been since I moved to Phoenix. People all over the valley were dragging their feet, the air was heavy and getting in your car seemed like the worst possible idea.

Still, supportive parents and passionate kids came out to skate, create thank you cards for the veterans and donate personal care products for the US Veterans Initiative.

It was a small but fun event that ended in a game of limbo! There was food from Holi Kid’s Meals, raffles, and of course a whole lot of skating.

Photo: Trisha Gulbin, Still Rad

With a whole lot of help from the community and from Backpacks 4 Kidz, Skate Rising provided 123 hygiene kits for homeless and transitioning veterans in Phoenix.

A few days later, two car-loads of hygiene kits and two very eager girls paid a visit to the veterans and took a tour of their facility which was once a hotel but now provides free and affordable housing to homeless veterans. Here they can also find financial advice, job placement services, mental health counseling, and preparation for independent living.

The next Skate Rising event in Phoenix is happening on July 15. My Grey Matterz will be sharing skateboard safety tips and the event will benefit Phoenix Children’s Hospital. For complete event details visit or follow Skate Rising on Facebook and Instagram.

The Ripple Effect – Keeping Kind Going

It’s been a crazy KIND month here in Arizona, our pay it forward efforts have been unexpectedly coming back at us tenfold! It’s bananas how the kindness ripple effect works. We’re so appreciative of the heartfelt notes we’ve received, candy, lip gloss, kind text messages and so on.

Rylie has really caught on to the understanding that being kind makes you happy, and makes others happy, and especially makes mama happy. And that’s all we want right, a happier world with kids who grow up to be kind adults?

As an adult I sometimes find it difficult or awkward to extend a compliment or say “hey, thanks for being my friend”, or “that thing you said, it really cheered me up.” Do you? My kiddo is learning early on to do these types of things, and she does them so confidently. I’m kinda jealous of her carefree attitude to be honest. She pushes me to be a better person.

A few weeks ago I found a note in her backpack with an ace of diamonds on it and her skateboard coaches name. When I asked about it she explained that it was an award for a person who sets her up to succeed. My mom heart turns to mush knowing this is something she recognized in him on her own and that she couldn’t wait to give it to him.


I’ve found it’s pretty easy to arm kids with the means to be kind. Whether it’s sitting with them and writing small notes to hand to friends or teachers, or putting a few little knick knacks in their backpack to give to someone who might be having a bad day.

The other day we were preparing for Rylie’s un-birthday (yes, that’s a kindergarten summer birthday kid thing) and realized we had 10 extra smelly erasers left from the goody bags we were building. It baffles me why there are always 30 kids to a class yet it never fails that the jumbo pack of anything only has 18 or 20 items in it. Beside the point though. The point is, she kept five and put five in her backpack  to have on hand when she felt it was the right time to do something kind. The best part of my day has been when she bounces into my car to tell me she paid it forward today and made someone happy.

While I’m not a believer in always having to give materials things to show you care, I think sometimes, particularly for a five year old, it’s an easier concept to grasp and the item is a good reminder to do it. So that’s our method. How do you teach your kiddos to be kind? I’d love to hear!

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