Monday, June 5, 2023

Monarchs. Migration. Mexico. Miracles. METAMORPHOSIS!

How do you put into words the experience of a lifetime? A bucket list adventure that defies the limits of words. If every picture is worth a thousand words -- this trip to see the Monarch butterfly migration in Mexico? What's the biggest number that exists? Then multiply that by a billion. 

Priceless. Astounding. Breath-taking. Faith-fulfilling. Knee buckling. Hold your breath and pinch yourself squealing rhapsody of all of the senses. Clap your hands over your mouth so you don't scream (you're supposed to be silent, so as not to disturb the Monarchs.)

Not even in the same ballpark. Not even close. 

Yes. That's me on a horse. That's a 66-year-old grandma with her 74-year-old handsome husband on horseback at 10,500' elevation about to ride up the side of a mountain. To see butterflies. LOTS of butterflies. Monarch butterflies. By the tens and tens of thousands. Streaming.  

Let me start off by saying this is the most adventuresome-adventure that we ever adventured. This is significantly different than our snorkeling off of Bora Bora for example. Compellingly challenging at times physically, for our senior citizen bodies to accomplish -- yet spoiler alert, I'm going back on March 2, 2024 for the sequel to the 'once-in-a-lifetime-experience.'  

I am absolutely compelled to return as 'hostess' for others. But now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Where do I even begin? At the beginning or before the beginning? Here's our tour group having our first lunch together on Day #1. Incredible people. Strangers and now life connections, because. 

Monarchs. Miracles. Metamorphosis. 

You know how I feel about color, right? All the color. All the time. 

Here I am at the beginning of our first visit-a-Monarch sanctuary day. 
Blue skies. Blessed. 

I know you want a close-up of the denim jacket that I painted. Researched and found a fleece-lined denim jacket with a detachable hood. Got it delivered to my doorstep and immediately got out my acrylic paint, because time was of the essence. (Quick drying paint.) Big Monarch on the back. Many Monarchs on one sleeve. That's as far as I got. In the time allotted.

Photo taken on the way to the Orlando Airport

The two of us were 'back-up' fill-ins for two people unable to go on the tour, and we had about 5 weeks of time for preparation before we flew into Mexico City. Five weeks is not a lot of time to prepare for such an experience. Just sayin'.... it can be done. Just jump in.

For example. We didn't become proficient in Spanish in 5 weeks. As a very specific example, I didn't learn the Spanish word for hairdryer. An ensuing game of charades, complete with sound effects did NOT convey my need to the lodge employee with zero words of English. We laughed with other. Even as my sound effects of whooshing got louder, she had no idea what I needed standing there with wet hair. Which made us laugh louder. 

Note-to-self: secador de pelo

Interestingly. Five weeks is just enough time to gather 199 pairs of eyeglasses to pack meticulously into a padded box, nesting each pair inside of the next. Glasses to share in a remote village near the Monarch sanctuaries.

It was also just enough time to gather an entire suitcase full of art supplies to donate to a school during our author visit day! 

We were able to join in on this journey due to Carol Pasternak from Canada. The Monarch Crusader knew that this exact excursion was on my every dream board and my manifestation envisioning in technicolor. 

When she messaged me directly to ask if I was interested in the two available slots? I didn't hesitate for a nano-second. 


She even Face-timed me to explain the specifics. Including that school visit where I would come to donate the art supplies. 

It was Carol that knew that eyeglasses would be appreciated, sharing that with our private group chat. So gather I did: church, Elks, neighborhood, FB friends via snail mail etc. 

Note to self #2. Next time you take 199 pairs of eyeglasses into Mexico, get a letter from a foundation saying that you're going to DONATE them, to save a big hassle at Customs and a BIG surcharge. That's a tale for another day. Just trust me. Get the letter ahead of time. 

Nervous Nelly Alert. (No shade on anyone named Nelly) 

Just as soon as we started telling people we were going to Mexico all sorts of eyebrows would be raised: 

"What about the water?"  yada yada yada "What about the _____?" Fill in the blank.

***Just telling you ahead of time. You tell your friends you are going into 'real' Mexico (not cruise-ship Mexico) and they start raising concerns. Be prepared.

We had Sid-our-guide-of-guides who hand-carried healthy/safe/clean drinking water for us every day to fill up our individual water bottles. Sid and Chris, partners at Explora Latin America are two truly amazing individuals. 

Just as it is difficult to describe tens of thousands of Monarchs as they stream down from the Oyamel fir trees on the slightest puff of a breeze, it is also difficult to describe the pure hearts of these two incredible people. 

Guides. Friends. Encyclopedias-of-Experience. 

(Picture from our very last night's dinner & farewell)

These next AMAZING photos are from my fellow tour participant, 
Jude the Adventurer (from Canada.) 

She has permitted me to share her amazing photos as captured through her awesome 'real' camera, her perspective expertise, and her editing experience. 

“Fascism is cured by reading, and racism is cured by traveling.” - Miguel de Unamuno

This is just the most minimal of glimpses into a life ALTAR-ING adventure. (See what I did there?)

If you have time to watch an 8+ minute

'home video' I have gathered these and tons more photos into a home movie of sorts. I built it with the intention of teachers being able to share in their classrooms, to get a better idea of what the migration looks like in Mexico, to inform their students. 

I am returning! March 2, 2024. 
Explora Latin America. 

We still have space in the van for you to join us! 

Friday, December 23, 2022

"Mighty Wings" Wins the Golden Wizard Book Prize 2022


"Mighty Wings" Monarch Picture Book wins Golden Wizard Book Award 2022


and LOOK what they have to say:

"Mighty Wings" Monarch Picture Book wins Golden Wizard Book Award 2022

Our scientifically accurate, passion project all about Monarch butterflies, from metamorphosis to migration, has been honored with the "Golden Wizard Book Prize 2022" and we are thrilled. 

Our most sincere hope is that this award will bring further visibility to our efforts to contribute to the conservation of this beloved Ambassador insect that faces threats to flying among us. 

With each book that we sell at the retail price of $20.00, we are now in the position to donate $5.00 from each book sold, directly to the Monarch Butterfly Fund. We just sent in our first contribution to MBF earlier this week! So it has been a thrilling week for us! A gold seal of approval and our first monetary contribution! What a way to end the year. 

"Mighty Wings" book publication makes donation to Monarch Butterfly Fund

We won because of your support from the very beginning. It literally took a village to get to this point. It took 2 Kickstarter projects. The first Kickstarter was to fund the musical arrangements and the second was to fund the printing of the first 1000 copies of the book. Because hundreds of people got involved in that muscle and money, we have arrived at these milestones. 


"Mighty Wings" Monarch picture book gets Golden Wizard Book Prize 2022

We are awaiting the arrival of our physical seals, which will be affixed to newly purchased books moving forward.... but when we reprint this is what the cover will look like in the future. (I bet we will affix stickers for 2023 and then refit the cover for the second edition once our books on hand are sold.) 

"Mighty Wings" Monarch picture book gets Golden Wizard Book Prize 2022

That's not all! 
I was featured on the cover of our local Vero Beach magazine! 

Debbie Clement on the cover of 53rd Neighbor Magazine, Vero Beach FL

Another DREAM comes true!!!

My local neighbors were as impressed as I was humbly thrilled. Just yesterday, I had a friend send me a snapshot from her beauty parlor and I was still on the end table! 

Yes. There was a professional photographer that came to our "Happy House" to take the photos. The cover image is in our guest room. Yes. I painted the duo of happy flowers as a backdrop for my Zoom and Virtual presentations. 

Debbie Clement on the cover of 53rd Neighbor Magazine, Vero Beach FL

Debbie Clement on the cover of 53rd Neighbor Magazine, Vero Beach FL

I was also just in our LOCAL Newspaper!

This was a delightful evening of my working with teachers from across our county. Each participant received their own copy of "Mighty Wings" and a fabric Monarch prop to use while reading the book. 

Debbie Clement Newspaper Article on "Mighty Wings"

This Newsletter below, from the Vero Beach Rotary Club documents another absolutely incredible day! Due to the kindness of angel Linda Scalco, in honor of her 70th birthday, I was given the opportunity to gift a copy of "Mighty Wings" to every single teacher at Dodgertown Elementary School! 

We've also received a great review from "Writer's Digest." 

I have to be candid  completely honest and tell you that it is something of an 'out-of-body' experience for me as I read these sentiments from the professional review people. I have to remind myself that they are speaking of me, my work, my rhymes, my art, my ability to collaborate all of that with my daughter -- the creation of the songs, the fabrication of the mixed media illustrations, while they are my vision, they also are full of a mind meld with Sarah Joy.... and as I have said repeatedly, the entire project was her idea. 


My very first kindergarten author-school-visit of the "Mighty Wings" era, was to the amazing Columbus Jewish Day School, where the brilliant Annelyn Baron had worked with her Kinder-Kids ahead of my arrival. So much brilliance! Their entrance, as I captured in the little video above, was absolutely breathtaking for me. I had to pinch my lips together while filming!

Take a look at these a-ma-zing wings that each student built under the direction of their school's art teacher. Simply stunning, am I right? This is such a brilliant example of collaboration between teaching professionals!

It literally just doesn't get any better than this (as an illustrator) -- to have a classroom teacher so infuse your work into the lives of the students that it becomes three-dimensional! 

Annelyn also directed her students to choose their own 'Mighty' word AND THEN BUILD A 3D Chrysalis! 
Love is my "Mighty" word! 

Power is my "Mighty" word! 

Here's the author welcome I received at an east-side Columbus Preschool last spring! 

Children's butterfly photo backdrop for Author Visit

Children's Art for Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

Young Children's Hand-painted Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterfly symmetrical paintings

I received this next photo of a sweetie in Dallas from my preschool director friend.
I was given permission to share her sweet smile with the wider world. 
Her mommy says that she wanted to be a Monarch for Halloween, because of her delight over "Mighty Wings." 

So that's the hook! Get the book. 
Then they want to be a butterfly for Halloween. 
Before you know it, they are nagging you to plant milkweed to save the Monarch! 

"Mighty Wings" Monarch picture book wins Golden Wizard Book Prize 2022

Now let me conclude with another exciting honor, but this one is in the future. 

I have been selected to present at the ELEVATE VIRTUAL 2023 summer cyber event. ALL new for 2023. 

Some of your favorite presenters have returned (me, me, me) and there are new faces as well, but all of the sessions will be brand new. 

This is the brainchild of the very generous Greg Smedley Warren and produced by his Mister Jason. 

Anyhow, they give us AFFILIATE codes, so that when you register through my LINK, I receive actual-factual dollars as a result. Did I mention that they are generous people? My participation last summer helped to pay off the printing expenses of the extra two thousand copies of "Mighty Wings" that we ordered.

See how this all works together for good? 

Have you watched the book trailer on YouTube? FREEEE! 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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