Flaunting Who I Am, By Maria Dismondy

MariaDAs far I can remember, it started in elementary school. The name calling, bullying, ridiculing, whatever you want to call it. I see it as the mean behavior I will never forget. It was a time when I was supposed to be living a carefree life as a little girl and instead I was doing everything possible to make it through the day without crying.

There wasn’t anything about me that was out of the ordinary. Well, if you asked me. I liked different things and I wasn’t afraid to be who I was around others. That is, once again, before all the bullying began.

My dad’s family is Maltese so I was blessed with a head of big curls. Instead of feeling lucky as a kid, I thought these curls were a curse. My mom made us unique foods for our lunch boxes. My parents owned a pizzeria that served pizzas from around the world (Polish was one I remembered). We were lucky to have a mature palate. But I didn’t feel so lucky after I was teased for my liverwurst sandwiches and for my favorite, spaghetti in a hot dog bun. Then there’s my size. As an adult I am 4’11 and ¾. I used to round up but I am proud of who I am so I announce it loud and proud when asked now. Not in elementary school. Being short gave me the nickname “Chicken Legs.”

Most of the examples above are much like other stories young children have going through school. The only difference is that I didn’t grow up and forget those memories and horrible feelings as an adult. I decided it was my mission to do something so that there is LESS bullying and MORE kindness. LESS emphasis on who we are on the outside and MORE emphasis on feeling good and loving ourselves from the inside out. Differences are to be celebrated. Being different is not bad.

As a first grade teacher for over a decade, my memory of being teased coupled with situations I witnessed day in and day out in the classroom gave me the idea to write my first children’s book, Spaghetti In A Hot Dog Bun. It was released in 2008 and is scheduled to come out on stage in NYC as a children’s musical in the fall of 2014. The story, based on my experiences as a little girl, is making a difference in the lives of children all over the world.

I believe in early intervention. I believe in teaching important character traits such as empathy (which is not an innate behavior but one that is learned) kindness and forgiveness (I’ve forgiven my bully!) I believe in teaming together with other inspirational people such as Meg Zucker, who are empowered to make a difference in the lives of others for the very same reason….we all deserve the chance to live a life where we are celebrated and respected for who we are.   www.mariadismondy.com

My oldest daughter got my curls and I am teaching her to celebrate her beauty!

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