Why did you write Bug in a Jar?
I wrote and illustrated the original version 4 months after I lost my Dad to cancer to help me process my feelings and grief.
Why did you decide to publish this book on such a tough subject?
There was so much that I learned during our journey and I wanted to share that with others. I think that a lot of people can loose focus as to what is important and get lost in fear and anger which can grip you and really take you down the wrong path.
One thing that is guaranteed in life is that we will all die at some point but our culture does not talk about it. Then you have terminal illness hit your family and it flips you on your head. Everyone is all over the place with what they think should be done, their emotions and it can get pretty messy.
I hope to empower people to take an active role and think outside of the box. Family and friends can do lots of things to nurture the Mind & Spirit of their loved one while leaving the Body in the good hands of a qualified medical professional.
I also wrote it so the reader would not feel all alone.
You can feel alone even when you are surrounded by family. You might have one person telling you that you shouldn’t cry and you should be strong when all you want to do is cry and share your sorrow with someone. You may have a sibling that you confide in tell you “I don’t think that is a good idea” or “well I don’t see it that way” totally devaluing your feelings. Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are, and you are entitled to them. When someone disagrees or dismisses the way you are feeling it is hurtful and is a really lonely place to be. You become a ‘bug in a jar’ yourself, all alone because no one seems to understand you and how you feel. Everyone is experiencing the same thing but differently. Li’l Bug is here for them and understands them.
Is Li’l Bug you?
No. I created Li’l Bug so the reader could step into Li’l Bugs shoes, male or female, young or old. Li’l Bug is anyone experiencing a great loss in their life.
Actually, Li’l Bug is more knowledgeable and wiser than I was during our journey.
I find it confusing as to which bug is “Bug” at times.
I’d like to address this basic confusion with a question. Have you ever picked up a lady bug and looked at its tummy or underside? Lady bugs have polka dots on their back side and their tummy is ribbed or striped in black and browns. Bug’s backside (where the lady bug has polka dots) is blue, green, purple and pink mixed. Bugs tummy is always stripped in the same order, starting with yellow and then orange and repeats. Bug is sometimes shown from the back but mostly from the front when his yellow and orange stripped tummy is showing.
The other confusion in identifying Bug may be that he is changing color while he is dying and this is most obvious in his face. His head starts out vibrant grass green and turns various shades of green, and then turns army green which fades to grey and finally black as death is near. These are subtle visual cues that tell the story without the words.
Your book looks like it is for very young kids is the message for adults as well?
Yes it is very much for adults! I deliberately chose to make the book child like because it is our inner child, who is in horrible pain, who is reading it. When your life has been turned upside down you don’t need a message to be overly complex you need it to be simple.
This is a difficult topic and I believe we all become kids again when we hear the news that someone we love is dying. You want to yell “no!’ or “this is not fair!” (and it isn’t). We are adults who suddenly don’t have the answers, we become kids again desperately looking for answers as to how this can be and what we can do.
In turn, the doctors now become the ‘parent’ or ‘adult’ with ‘all the answers’ and our power is really taken away to help our loved one or is it? Typically people surrender in a sense, and think they can’t do anything and wait for the medical doctors to provide all the answers, and sometimes even they don’t have them.
I want to remind people that we are not helpless, there is still a lot we can do. We have a choice to sit back and play victim (‘this isn’t fair!’) or we can take an active part in making the best of the time we have together.
What I love about kids books is they cut the fat out. Just like kids, they don’t qualify things they just say it like it is. Actually if we all just looked at kids and followed their lead we’d be doing great. Why? Because they are going to act from their heart and adults are more likely to over think everything and stay too much in their heads. That was one major lesson I learned from our journey – follow your heart and your gut, they will guide you if you listen within.
What’s this about chocolate and spinach?
I have described my book like a chocolate with spinach inside. It may be a cute little book but it has a big message inside.
Here’s why. An adult might buy Bug in a Jar for their child to help them discuss what is happening with a loved one and as they read it they too will be reminded as to what is really important. The message transcends age, and if I need to wrap my spinach (the message) in chocolate (kid like book) to deliver it to your inner child who is in pain, and may not even realize it, then that is what I am going to do. Yeah, did I mention that my Dad always spoke in analogies? He was pretty famous for them!
Adults will go to the end of the earth for their kids but will they do the same for themselves? More than likely they will say “oh I’m doing fine” when they are not. They are actually falling apart but are deathly afraid to admit it. Because they have been brought up to not show their feelings, ‘don’t cry,’ ‘you must be strong’ is all the messaging they heard. So more than likely they would not buy a book to help themselves but they will for their kids or grandkids. And as a result I reach the adults who may need this message the most.
What are Bug Notes?
In “Bug Notes” I’m just getting real with people. You are now on this journey and the notes are a little heads up as to what you might experience.
“Bug Wisdom” is what I personally learned form our journey and I am hoping to remind people what is really important.
“Bug Ideas” are ways to stay engaged and not feel like you are helpless. Although I’ve pitched them for kids, they are for anyone who wants to get involved and lighten the mood.
What is your favorite Li’l Bug Idea?
That is a hard one but one what I really encourage everyone to do is create a book of love. I’ve provided a template on my website for people to download if they need some place to start.
We created ours for the B-Strong party we threw for my Dad. It provided a safe way for people to express their feelings. Some people took the cards home and mailed them back to us. Others who could not be there were mailed a card with a return envelope.
Now think about how you would feel reading about what people really thought of you, and how you impacted or touched their life. Not many people get to hear that from all their friends and family in their lifetime. I wanted my Dad to know how much he was loved and that book delivered that message loud and clear.
I personally loved reading about how my Dad had touched so many lives in so many ways. I learned a lot about my Dad through the eyes of others as I read all the heartfelt comments. And the added bonus was that my Mom now has the book. She shared with me how much it meant to her as she reread it on an anniversary. She now has a ‘happy escape’ to go to when she is really missing him.
What do you want people to take away form this book?
I want people to be at peace when their loved one dies. That is the biggest gift you can give yourself.
And when you know someone is dying you have that power, to get everything out and share and resolve everything where as some people just get a call and learn their loved one has been killed in a tragic accident. They don’t get this gift of knowing, they don’t get to say goodbye. So although it is devastating getting the news it can be a gift if you choose to use your time the best way you know how. You will not be at peace if you are telling yourself “I wish I had…” “I should have…” “I meant to…” So the time is now, share your love, forgive and ask for forgiveness, make amends. Find peace.