Spicin’ It Up: THE HOUSE THAT BUD BUILT

November 23, 2014

 

Twenty-eight years ago I had a dream. My husband immediately proclaimed, “Luuuuuucy!” I admit I have had some harebrained schemes and ideas in our married years (and before) but this was one I could envision. I could actually see the in-ground pool in the basement with a spiral staircase to slide down.

Those were the days when my hubby was a chemist and I was a high school teacher. We weren’t wealthy in any measure of the word; but we were fun-loving risk-takers and thought it actually might be a wise investment. When a friend of his called and told Bud there were 2 wooded acres in South County with a hand-made sign “For Sale by Owner,” we called immediately after church that day and went to see the property. When we met with the elderly couple, they told us they had always wanted to build their dream home there, but he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. They then thought they would pass the land on to relatives, but their medical bills were overwhelming and they needed the cash. When we told them “our dream” they began crying as they had prayed for a young couple who would cherish their land as they too would have done! Their “asking price” was reasonable, and we signed on the spot!

The original idea for the swimming pool was not as a status symbol; on the contrary it was my sweet husband’s way of affirming the fact that I had lost 100 pounds in the few years prior, and that I shouldn’t have to drive miles after teaching school all day to swim at the YMCA. So he put on his analytical thinking cap and began to explore. It seemed anyone in the entire St. Louis area who would take on such a project, would also take on quite a hefty fee – far above our pay scale!

After nearly giving up, it so happened we were visiting my parents in my small hometown of Clarksville, Mo., about 90 miles north of St. Louis, when we ran into an old friend, Jim Lockard, of Lockard Construction. Bud and Jim chatted and brainstormed for quite a while, when Jim offered to come down and take a look at our situation. All I know is that a few months later not only had Jim come up with a solution – he WAS the solution. He brought a team of local guys down from Clarksville, two of them were friends from high school and one was my former math teacher!

Most people who have built a house, hire a “General Contractor” to oversee the enormous undertaking.

This wooded 2 acres was in the middle of nowhere at the time, with the closest home to ours not even visible. On top of that, we were told that bulldozers had to plow into the side of the hill which turned out to be mostly solid rock and there was no way a lower level could be dug to put in an in-ground, indoor pool.

Bud decided to act as the general contractor, not knowing a few little details such as, no public water, no sewers and no fresh well water available. Other than that, and a roofer falling 3 stories into the carved out pool filled with mud and rainwater, no one was seriously hurt and we survived the two year building process. The good part for Jim was that he had so many inquiries and demand for new business in St. Louis, he and his wife moved down here and opened up a new business. Both Jim and the business thrived quite well until he went home to Heaven last year.

Some 28 years later, I still thank God, Jim and my amazing husband for allowing me my own “Debbie Dream House.” (Barbie, eat your heart out.) We have hosted family, friends, students, teachers, co-workers and church groups – even had a Baptism in our swimming pool! We have added on decks, beautiful landscaping, a 60 foot greenhouse, and countless memories. We have listened to the owls and coyotes at night, practically petted the deer and squirrels, and fought off a few “critters” as well. We retired in this house, and were it not for us aging as the winters grow colder, we might stay forever.

So knowing that the 45-yr. love of my life, moved here to St. Louis after his initial 23 years of living on the Gulf of Mexico, I finally conceded ten years ago, that when we retired and started drawing social security, I would give him his dream. Always the avid fisherman, Bud dreamed of retiring to Florida, and living on the water, and fishing. Next month, Bud turns 65, and it’s his turn to be gifted his dream.

A year ago we went to Florida to “explore” our options, and I found the perfect home for us both – a houseboat! At first I heard the familiar, “Luuuuuuuuuuuucy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” But once I took him aboard it was love at first sight. And so our new “Dream House(boat)” awaits us. Now all we need to do is sell “Debbie’s Dream House” that my Buddy built me 28 years ago. Perhaps you know someone who loves wildlife, nature, and swimming year-round under glass! And of course if they know how to dream big and trust God, then we invite you to pass it on and help make their dream come true!

Here it is: www.cedarpoolhome.com

Spicin’It Up: Failure Or Success

October 5, 2014

What would you say if you were told that the real secret of success was something no one ever wanted to do, but all must do in order to truly succeed? Few of us have ever had to actually be rescued by using the S.O.S. distress signal. Most of us couldn’t produce the Morse code dot and dash message by telegraph, flags or even blinking lights if our life depended on it! But I dare say that all of us have reached places in our lives where we knew the meaning of the word desperation. To various degrees we have all experienced our share of problems, whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, or a plethora of other sources. No one is immune to troubles and difficulties, though we spend most of our lives striving to be so.

As a radio and television talk show host, I have interviewed celebrities and dignitaries, many of whom would be considered among the most successful people on the face of this planet. From the President of the United States to movie stars, famous recording artists or sports figures, I always ask them to share their personal success stories. I have also interviewed many “unsung heroes” who by certain measures would not seem to be the epitome of what the world calls “successful.” However, in their own circle of influence and in their personal lives, they may indeed be aptly labeled as successful. So what is this elusive common denominator for achieving real success, and what does it have to do with the S.O.S signal?

As a University professor and retired English teacher, I must emphasize the necessity of first defining the term success. To Mr. Webster it includes: satisfactory completion of a goal or the gaining of wealth and fame. To many, success is often measured in name recognition, status, power, wealth, or prestige. But I would be remiss if I didn’t challenge you to consider the definition from one of my favorite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who I believe has captured the real essence of success:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Obviously achieving the above does not depend on whether one is or is not part of the “rich and famous” but whether one can truly both achieve and maintain such a lofty standard. I believe this is not only possible, but here lies the paradox in the means by which real success is attained. The S.O.S. secret of success that few seem to know and no one would want is failure. Yes, virtually every truly successful man or woman throughout history can attribute his or her ultimate success to past failure. This may have been in the form of a major loss, a setback, a tragedy, an unexpected illness, a personal disappointment, a professional demise or numerous unattained goals. But in almost every historical, professional or personal example I have ever known, these very failures can and often have been used as catalysts toward achieving success. Thus begins my contention that when we reach the end of our proverbial rope and submit our own unique cry of S.O.S., in whatever form that may take, then what seemed to be the end may actually be the beginning. If we will not just ignore the areas where we have failed but actually use them as learning tools, we can then find keys that unlock new paths, unexplored resources, and capable mentors. With this comes the inevitable confrontation with self –– which can be either our worst enemy or best friend. One of the most difficult things for independent, self-sufficient, highly motivated people to do is to admit we all need help from time to time and that we all fail from time to time. Invariably when we read the biographies of some of the most successful men and women of our time, as paradoxical as this may seem, the very failures that each of them experienced became only the first chapter in their life’s book. I also submit to you that each and every one at some point in his or her life had to face the proverbial “man in the mirror.” How ironic that this became one of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, and yet no one can now ever be sure that he did indeed take a long look at that ‘man in the mirror.” So I must ask myself, “Have I?” I challenge you to do likewise.

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which followed her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.

Spicin’ It Up: Always Father’s Day

June 8, 2014

I realize with every passing year how much I love and appreciate my  Daddy. I have written of him in several of my books, and joined authors  Dr. James Dobson, Philip Yancy, Rick Warren, Bruce Wilkinson, Gary Smalley, and John Trent in Embrace of Father. They also have heartwarming stories of their fathers, as do many of you. So in honor of great fathers everywhere, this is an excerpt from my book, It’s Your Turn Now, celebrating Daddy’s “Love Letter” written many years ago.

I was born on Father’s Day,1950, to wonderful parents. Somehow being born on Father’s Day immediately made me “Daddy’s Baby Girl!” For twelve years I could do no wrong; then came my terrible teens! I wish I could take back those rebellious years, for I would never have chosen to be a high school dropout and runaway – especially back in the late ’60s in my small Beaver Cleaver hometown of Clarksville, Mo.

In spite of wonderful parents and a loving family, I became a compulsive over-eater, over-drinker and over-anything else I could find to do. I don’t know why I chose this pathway, but at 250 pounds, and full of self-loathing, I also ran away several times.  This “Love Letter” was written by my precious father the last time I ran away; however, I wouldn’t receive it until twenty years later:

My Darling Baby Girl,

I write this as you have threatened to run away again. I am leaving this on your pillow with the hopes that you will get it before you leave. I know at seventeen you’re a young woman and we can’t stop you from going. Mommy and I have asked ourselves a thousand times where we went wrong…where we failed you. I would give anything if we could go back to the days when you were Daddy’s baby girl and would snuggle up on my lap, bringing all your hurts and wounds to me to “make better.” I only blame myself for all that has gone wrong and would give my very life for another chance to make it right. I didn’t see soon enough how much you were hurting. We have prayed and cried for you more than you will ever know and have asked if we were too strict, too lenient, too giving or not giving enough. All we know is that we love you and want you to please reconsider before you leave again. Let’s work it out one more time. Dearest Debbie Girl, we love you with no strings attached. God brought you to us and no matter what, you’ll always be Daddy’s baby girl. When you read this, no matter how late, please come talk to me.

Always,

Your Loving Daddy

He didn’t know that night I had already run away again and wouldn’t return for six weeks. The letter disappeared, yet I returned once again to unconditional love. However, this time with much-needed boundaries, and wise counsel, and my parents’ help, I was reinstated in school, and paradoxically went on to complete college and became – of all things – a high school teacher! I initiated many programs for at-risk youth and helped with our first Alternative School for troubled teens. I have come to believe a quote from Genesis 50, “What the enemy meant for harm, God will use for good.”

Twenty years later, happily married, and having lost  100 pounds, I was being honored at the Missouri State Teacher of the Year banquet. Sitting between my husband and Dad, along with the rest of my family, I was rehearsing my upcoming speech when Mom gave me a beautifully wrapped gift box. Proudly thinking I might find a pendant or medal with the inscription “Teacher of the Year,” or “Wonderful Daughter,” I instead opened the box to find nothing but a yellowed, crinkled, tear-stained, faded letter dated twenty years earlier, hand written by my loving daddy. I wept uncontrollably and with mascara streaming down my face, I said, “Mother! How could you give this to me at a time like this -right now when I have to give a speech!”  She took my hand in hers, patted it and sweetly replied, “I knew there would be just the right time!”  I realized for the first time all my parents had gone through in the midst of my own selfishness.

I quickly improvised an entirely different speech and through tears read to the audience my Daddy’s letter written twenty years before. I explained that had it not been for my parents, I would never have finished high school or become a teacher helping other at-risk youth. In my closing, I thanked the Father above for my earthly father who was finally able to see the fruit of his unconditional love.

Upon my retirement from teaching high school, I was one of five selected nationally for the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Dad was there as I read “his letter.” For 10 years I hosted a radio talk show where I had numerous calls from parents and teens to whom I also offered hope and often read “his letter.”  My parents often accompany me as I travel around the world as a motivational speaker, and I always share Daddy’s letter, and tears flow whenever I read it.

Nearly seventy years ago, Dad and Mom vowed for “better or worse.” When asked their secret of success, Dad teasingly says, “Serving as a Navy Pilot in WWII was nothing compared to Deb’s teen years!” In private, he still cuddles me, and says I was the best Father’s Day present ever. This weekend, I will celebrate both my birthday and Father’s Day in the embrace of my 91-year-old daddy, who still calls me “Daddy’s Baby Girl.”

Happy Father’s Day to my Daddy and all you fathers – especially those who had to put up with kids like me!

Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, was one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. For info, visit www.pepperseed.org 

If you would like a copy of the book The Embrace of a Father, by Bethany House Publishers, you can go to your local bookstore, Amazon.com or contact Dr. Peppers directly at http://www.pepperseed.org. Other tributes she has published include, Thanks, Dad in the Chicken Soup series, Living Your Dreams, Dr. Peppers’ Pepper-Uppers, God Allows U-Turns, The Master’s Hand, and her own autobiography, “It’s Your Turn Now.” 

Spicin’ It Up: In Search Of Holy Week!

April 13, 2014

 

Several years ago my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Egypt and Israel along with a Rabbi and his wife who made the whole experience very enlightening for us as Christians. We were such good friends that we actually enjoyed learning of both our similarities and differences as we visited all the Holy sites. I finally began to understand for the first time the connection, and our basis of having the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, the Jewish Torah. My biggest question to Rabbi Levi was how our Easter fit in with Passover, and he was much more knowledgeable than I. Years later I now know both the dates and the Spiritual connection for Christians.

This year, Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, begins at sundown on April 14,  and ends at sundown on April 21. For us Christians, or those who may simply not know, this is the holiday commemorating the Hebrews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, as Moses led them out and on to the Promised Land. It lasts seven days and begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar and ends on the 21st of Nisan in Israel and for Reform Jews. Since Hebrew days begin and end at sundown, Passover begins at sundown on the preceding day. Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the paschal full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. The holiday can occur anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians and celebrate Easter, it hopefully means more than a new dress or suit for church (if we go at all) However, for the “secular” it may simply mean decorated eggs hidden for the kids by the  “Easter Bunny.” But if you want to know what it really means and how it relates to Passover for us Christians, The Council of Nicaea in 325 established that Easter would be celebrated on Sundays. Before that Easter was celebrated on different days in different places in the same year and actually wasn’t called Easter until later.

Last year, a friend of mine who was born and raised Jewish but later converted to Christianity, invited me to her place of Worship which still holds all the Jewish traditions and celebrations. She said, “The only difference I have now is that I believe Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” So even though many of my traditional Jewish friends strongly disagreed, for the first time I celebrated Passover. Since it is in remembrance of the time in Israel’s history when the angel of the Lord moved through Egypt destroying the firstborn of all people and animals (see Exodus 11 and 12.) I felt strongly this was part of my Judeo-Christian heritage as well. This was the final of the ten plagues God visited upon Egypt designed to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave the country and their captivity. The Israelites were commanded by God to take the blood of a male lamb—one without blemish—and smear it on the doorposts of their houses. When the angel of the Lord saw the blood, he would “pass over” that house. For Christians, this is a foreshadowing of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus, whose blood would cover the sins of those who believe in Him, causing God’s judgment to pass over them. Ever since that night, Jews have celebrated the Passover in remembrance of God’s grace to them.
There has been an explosion of interest in adapting the Passover festival to Christianity. Various organizations, such as Jews for Jesus, have long promoted Christian Passover services as a means for Messianic Jews to retain their cultural heritage while professing their Christian faith. They have also used the Christian Passover as a means to communicate to Christians the Jewish religious heritage that they value. I was deeply moved as this was an understanding for me of how the Passover Seder has application to my Christian faith; and a Christian celebration of the Passover provides a unique way to bring the story of salvation to the ceremony. So whether or not a Christian celebrates Passover would be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian. Like all the Old Testament Jewish Feasts, for Christians the Passover Feast was a foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.  We are told in the book of Colossians that we should “let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” Christians are no longer bound to observe the Passover feast the way the Old Testament Jews were, but they should not look down upon another believer who does or does not observe the Passover or other special Jewish days and feasts.

While it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Passover, it is beneficial to study it and could be beneficial to celebrate it if it leads to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection. The Passover is a wonderful picture of Christ’s atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin. That is something we should celebrate every day of our lives.
Whether you are Christian or Jewish, or other or “nothing,” I do hope you take this time to seek and explore for yourself. My search took me a long time in my life to make my decision, but what a difference it made for me – literally life and death.

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is www.pepperseed.org.

The Winter Hell Froze Over!

March 30, 2014

I know there are those of you who love winter.

You love skiing, ice-skating, snow-boarding, building snowmen, and you even love shoveling snow. What is the matter with you? Were you born in a barn? This winter has proved that most of us are beyond simply complaining; we are ready to take action! My husband and I who are recently retired have made the big decision to move to Florida.

When we were first married 40 years ago my husband and I lived on the Gulf Coast just outside of Mobile, Alabama on an inlet named Alligator Bayou. We weren’t far from Gulf Shores, and could actually watch the shrimp boats navigating the canal right in our own back yard. I was student-teaching nearby and my husband had landed his first job as a chemist for an oil company. It was absolutely heaven on earth…for about six months. By May, I was sweltering and couldn’t stomach the smell of dead fish and stagnant water. Suddenly appearing were flying cockroaches the size of mice and red ants that were lethal.

However, as newlyweds living at no cost in my in-law’s summer cottage, I tried to tolerate most anything that came my way.

Then came the deal-breaker – without warning. Since it was 99 humid degrees on that summer afternoon and far too hot to cook, my husband came home from work and proceeded to barbecue pork-steaks on our backyard grill. As he went inside to shower, all I had to do was slice tomatoes and stretch out on the lounge chair.

With sweat dripping from my entire body and not even the slightest breeze, I couldn’t imagine what was causing the rustling sound near the water. As it got louder and closer, I rolled off the lounge chair to find myself face to face with the intruder. Immediately I remembered the name of our backyard canal, Alligator Bayou; and there it was. I must have scared it as much as it did me for it made an about-face, allowing me to see it had only three legs. Hysterically shrieking I watched my husband come running out with a shotgun just in time to see the gator plunge back into the canal. Although it was just one lonely gator, I knew that there were probably more! However, at that point it didn’t matter! Lower Alabama with the varmints, critters and overwhelming humidity had gotten the better of me and I began packing that night. My husband reluctantly followed suit.

All of my St. Louis family were thrilled that we were coming “home” to live. Even my husband admits that most of these past thirty years have been seasonally tolerable. I acknowledge we have had our share of floods, tornadoes, muggy summer nights and even icy winters. But this past polar vortex was the clincher. I was actually ready for Global Warming, and adhered to my hubby’s request to head South.

Florida!

Last month after a few weeks of visiting and exploring Florida, we discovered that inland near the center of the state are beautiful vast lakes begging us to “come on down!”

Thus,we have now joined the ranks of the millions of “snowbirds” who migrate south to escape the intolerable icy winters. I write this not to persuade any of you to follow suit, though the older you get you may also reconsider. I too once loved the skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling. I even once said, ” I won’t move back South until hell freezes over!” This winter it did. And I concede.

Spicin’ It Up: School Daze

September 29, 2013

I have been the keynote speaker this past month for several school openings, as I do every September. I know I am getting old since the new teachers all look like they are twelve! I have been teaching teachers in various Masters Programs, and speaking at conferences and workshops for over thirty years now. I have spoken to well over 100,000 teachers and staff members and believe me I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. Having retired from teaching at Lindbergh high school, I must admit that I have been the good, the bad and the ugly.

Every teacher worth his or her salt, or Pepper in my case, has mixed feelings once school begins each year. If they have a teaching position, they are grateful, excited and a bit nervous. However, they also have a bit of angst at not getting everything accomplished they had hoped they would during the summer, and they always have more preparation than days left until school begins. I used to dread the “Back to School” signs and commercials that began the middle of July. I just wanted my full summer time to vacation, read, catch up with friends and families and just do NOTHING for a couple of days. But it seems now that school begins in early August, and all of us are getting older, time goes by more quickly and summers are shorter and shorter. Plus, I teach most of my staff development workshops in the summer when teachers are working on certification or advanced degrees, and I no longer get summers off – even though I am supposedly retired!

One of my favorite composites to share with my audiences is a list called: THE TOP TEN QUALITIES SHARED BY TEACHERS AND LEADERS OF EXCELLENCE. This is an opportune time for self examination by any of us involved in any type of leadership, management, or supervisory capacity. I am the first to admit I have never perfected it through the years, but I never cease my efforts to improve. See how you relate in these top ten qualities:

1. Others see them as “real” – they are trustworthy, safe and respected.

2. They are good listeners.

3. They see subordinates as “real” people.

4. They have clear, consistent expectations.

5. They seek solutions from many sources.

6. They are flexible and willing to change.

7. They have developed a good sense of humor.

8. They can motivate those under them to succeed as well.

9. They find the “good” and praise it.

10. Both personally and professionally they live a life of balance.

The last number is broken down into the Carl Jung psychological profile of balancing one’s life in six categories: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, family, and work. I don’t know anyone who has yet to perfectly balance his or her life in all six categories; I sure do admire those who consistently try.

This year as you see the big yellow buses and perhaps your own children, grandchildren or other friends and relatives well into the school year, don’t forget to be kind and encouraging to the teachers in your sphere. It is not a job, and not even a profession; I believe that teaching is a calling. And our schools are the largest mission field on the face of the planet. So a prayer won’t hurt either. After 37 years in education, this has been my daily prayer I used to always close out my radio broadcast with as well:

Our lives will touch a hundred lives before this day is done,

Leave countless marks of good or bad before the setting sun;

So let this be the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray;

Lord let me leave the mark of love on those I touch each day.

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.

Spicin’ It Up: Laughter: Medicine For The Body And Soul

July 27, 2013

Having grown up in a bright purple house, my mother was a costumer for the local Theater Guild. Every holiday she decorated the large pink ceramic pig in our front yard and I thought we were normal. I was always voted class clown and made sure I lived up to my reputation. I had no intention of becoming a teacher, since they were my favorite “targets;” but I was being well-equipped with life’s most powerful tool, the ability to find humor in almost anything, especially the faux pas of life.
Since professionals will tell you that self-effacing humor is the funniest, I have kept a lifelong repertoire.

My first college date with my future husband, who now calls me, “Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucy,” was College Entry #1. Having lost 100 pounds, I only had one pair of clean underwear, Big Mama Size XXXXL. Thinking one flimsy safety pin could hold them in place, I had no idea we would have to run across eight lanes of traffic that night. As the pin gave way, so did the pants, and I did the Bunny Hop across the boulevard to keep from being run over.

As a young wife I set the kitchen on fire twice, had three automobile accidents in my own garage, and thanks to Hubby, even made America’s Funniest Home Videos.
As a speaker, presenter, and teacher with thousands of audience members each year, I have no way of knowing what they are going through or what challenges they have faced. Unfortunately there is one common denominator that seems to strike all of us these days and that is stress. It’s true that we cannot change what has happened to us, but we can change our reactions and our attitudes.

As a high school teacher with classes starting at 6:30 AM, I inevitably faced teens with hormones running rampant, sleep-deprived hungry bodies, and all the drama that goes with the age. When I began teaching teachers in a university Master’s program, I found they were just the same. Now as a speaker worldwide, I have found that people are the same wherever I go. Equipped with this bit of wisdom, I begin each presentation the same as I did when teaching. In order to get minds focused, attention spans corralled, and anticipation stirred, the trump card is always humor. I didn’t learn the added benefits until much later. Research tells us that:

  • Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, and epinephrine (adrenaline.) It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and the number of antibody-producing cells. This means a stronger immune system and fewer physical effects of stress.
  • Laughter provides an emotional release to the extent that most of us can remember a time when we laughed so hard we would cry.A good “belly laugh” actually exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even provides a good workout for the heart.
  • Laughter brings the focus away from current problems and negative emotions in a beneficial way.
  • Laughter connects us with others; it is contagious. If you can learn to laugh more and see the humor in situations, you can most likely help others around you to realize these benefits as well. Even spiritually, we are reminded that “A Merry heart doeth good like medicine.”

Knowing all of this, begin your joke and joy journals, and make it a point to laugh, laugh, laugh – especially when the joke is on you!

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which followed her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.

Spicin’It Up: FATSO!

May 5, 2013

dr_peppers“Hey Fatso!” I will never forget the first time I heard those words. They were spoken by a cute redheaded boy I had a crush on back in third grade. Until I was eight years old I didn’t even know I was overweight; and I guess my family didn’t either as they had never mentioned it. When I went home crying that night I asked my mom to tell me the truth and she said, “Sweetie, you are beautiful, you are healthy, you are talented and you are mine. But if it would make you feel better, I will make an appointment with Dr. Jackson and we can see what he says.” That was the first time “I ever went on a “diet” – but it certainly wouldn’t be my last.

I spent the next twenty years of my life self-conscious about my looks, what I ate and what I wore. My older sister was a cheerleader, size 6, and I couldn’t even wear her hand-me-downs. I gained the most weight when I was in high school, and then I would go on crash diets that wouldn’t last for long. No one was harder on me than I was on myself. I vowed that if I ever became a teacher like I wanted to, I would make sure none of my students ever called anyone hurtful names. It was a great goal, but of course I couldn’t fix the world.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s and married, that I began a healthy well-balanced eating program. It wasn’t a diet, it was a new way of living. I am proud to say that I did indeed become a teacher, and for the past thirty years I kept off 100 pounds. What I am most proud of is that while teaching, I was able in my school, to form groups and clubs, where all of my students could come to talk, encourage one another and feel accepted no matter their size, color, height, or anything else.

We began lunchtime Peer Mediation and Conflict Resolution groups open to all; and the news traveled quickly. By the following year, we had written our own stories and compiled them in a student play called Choices! Although we kept each story anonymous, we held auditions and performed this for the entire school. The local newspaper did a story on us and a local theater producer wanted to spread our stories even further. Funded by Bell Telephone, my students and I were hired for the summer to film for an educational Teachers Packet to be distributed to schools throughout the United States free of charge, so they could easily implement such programs in their school. We got calls and letters from all over the country thanking us for telling our stories. It was a bonus when the following year, the producer submitted Choices for a regional Emmy Award -and we won!

I have always believed ever since that first incident in third grade, that wherever you have been hurt the most is where God will use you to help others the most. You can have sympathy for other people going through a problem, but you have empathy for them when you’ve been there yourself. Perhaps that is why I have always loved the “underdog” and the kids who just didn’t seem to fit in. Perhaps that’s why I so wanted to help initiate The Alternative School in our district and mine was the first classroom to host full inclusion special needs students. I cried when I became Teacher of the Year; my students were the real award winners.

Several years later, upon retirement, I was one of five teachers nationwide inducted into the National Teachers Hall Of Fame. I now use that as a platform to speak in schools throughout the world about the importance of each child. Because my tender little heart was pierced by a mean name someone called me when I was only eight, I learned how to not waste the pain; where you’ve been hurt, help others. Once you have learned to be an over comer, you will be so much more motivated and capable of helping others. The boy who called me Fatso apologized many years later. But I had already forgiven him many years before. He didn’t know the ugly name that he called me would make me better – not bitter.

Thousands of people have now heard “my story”; maybe, just maybe, there are thousands more waiting to hear yours. Once you know how special and unique you are, you will truly believe the words of Dr. Seuss: Thousands of people have now heard “my story”; and just maybe, there are thousands more waiting to hear yours. Once you know how special and unique you are, you will truly believe the words of Dr. Seuss:

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is “Youer” than You.”

What will you allow you to do?

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which followed her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.

Spicin’ It Up: Daddy Danced

April 21, 2013

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A lifelong athlete and WWII Navy Pilot, my dad had always been strong, muscular and handsome – my hero. When he had a stroke a few years ago we didn’t know if he would ever walk again. Then two years ago after surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage, he also became forgetful and at times lethargic. Then last year after his 89th birthday he began to bounce back. I was able to take him to physical therapy several times a week and he was soon able to use all of the machines; but he still couldn’t walk. After he and Mom celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary last September, it took us several weeks to convince him he would turn 90 in February.

As everyone began to tell him how good he looked and how well he was doing, he set a goal for himself. For his 90th birthday he wanted to go to Florida, take all the family with him and celebrate by going to dinner and out to dance. Mom and dad had been married during the big band era and they were the Queen and King of jitterbug. Just 10 years ago they even won a jitterbug contest in Las Vegas Nevada. Unfortunately being able to dance was something my father’s Dr. told him may never happen again. But Dad didn’t remember this, and so we began exercising and training for his big event.

In all honesty, none of us – especially Mom – could envision this event actually coming to pass. But were we ever wrong! We had spent the week having fun at Disney World, the Holy Land Experience, basking in the sun and visiting with friends and family. Still, Daddy kept talking about the big dance event coming up. The only dinner and dance club we could find, was BB King’s House of Blues. Hundreds of young people gather there on a Friday or Saturday night; I doubt that very few, if any, have ever celebrated their 90th birthday there.

After a four-course filet mignon dinner, I accompanied my mother into the restroom, where I saw she was visibly nervous and very apprehensive. Daddy had not walked by himself in three years, and Mom had given up on the idea of them ever dancing again. I explained to her that my brother was going to help Daddy to the dance floor when they announced his birthday and he would hold him up while they symbolically danced for 30 seconds or so; but Dad had far different plans.

As the club was jam-packed, my brother and I tried to figure a pathway from our table to the dance floor. Knowing that he would practically have to carry Daddy and maneuver him through the crowd, we came up with a new idea. Seated at the front table were two nice young sales executives in Florida on business who graciously agreed to let our parents sit at their table for a few minutes until the band’s lead singer announced Dad’s birthday. Three songs and an eternity later, my brother was still standing near the front while our parents chatted with the young men.

Finally, the moment had arrived. As I watched the lead singer stride toward the front microphone and glance toward my parents and smile, I gripped my video camera and headed to the dance floor. I shamefully admit my intention was to catch 20 seconds or so of my parents in an embrace without showing my brother holding Daddy up. All I remember from that point is praying, “God please help Daddy stay up!” Yes, I still believe in miracles, but what transpired even I had never anticipated. The entire dance floor cleared away – including my brother. I saw the panic on my mom’s face, but it was indeed short-lived. Through a soulful, bluesy four-minute rendition of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” Dad and Mom danced, embraced, and even kissed as hundreds of young people applauded the celebration of a 90-year-old World War II veteran’s promise to himself and his bride of 67 years, that they would dance. And indeed they did.

I would like to be able to say that Dad was able to walk back to our table by himself, his legs perfectly healed; but that had not been his promise – or our prayer. As my brother helped him through the crowd, there were cheers, tears, and a standing ovation for the beautiful white-haired couple who were not through celebrating life. As a matter of fact, one of the young men who had shared his table by the dance floor with them waDad and Mom dancing (Duke's pic)untitledlked back to us and announced that he had picked up the entire bill for our whole table – steaks, drinks, tips – everything. We practically insisted that he not do this, but through tears he explained, “You see, I recently went through a nasty divorce. Seeing your mom and dad so in love after all of these years has given me renewed hope that God may have the right one still waiting for me.” Perhaps it was for him, as well as the rest of us, that in that miraculous moment, on his 90th birthday, Daddy danced!

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which followed her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.

Spicin’ it Up: Passover, Easter or Both?

March 28, 2013

Several years ago my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Egypt and Israel along with a Rabbi and his wife who made the whole experience very enlightening for us as Christians. We were such good friends that we actually enjoyed learning of both our similarities and differences as we visited all the Holy sites. I finally began to understand for the first time the connection, and our basis of having the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, the Jewish Torah. My biggest question to Rabbi Levi was how our Easter fit in with Passover, and he was much more knowledgeable than I. Years later I now know both the dates and the Spiritual connection for Christians.

This year, Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, began at sundown on March 25th and ends at sundown on April 2. For us Christians, or those who may simply not know, this is the holiday commemorating the Hebrews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, as Moses led them out and on to the Promised Land. It lasts seven days and begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar and ends on the 21st of Nisan in Israel and for Reform Jews. Since Hebrew days begin and end at sundown, Passover begins at sundown on the preceding day. Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the paschal full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. The holiday can occur anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians and celebrate Easter, it hopefully means more than a new dress or suit for church (if we go at all) However, for the “secular” it may simply mean decorated eggs hidden for the kids by the “Easter Bunny.” But if you want to know what it really means and how it relates to Passover for us Christians, The Council of Nicaea in 325 established that Easter would be celebrated on Sundays. Before that Easter was celebrated on different days in different places in the same year and actually wasn’t called Easter until later.

Last year, a friend of mine who was born and raised Jewish but later converted to Christianity, invited me to her place of Worship which still holds all the Jewish traditions and celebrations. She said, “The only difference I have now is that I believe Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” So even though many of my traditional Jewish friends strongly disagreed, for the first time I celebrated Passover. Since it is in remembrance of the time in Israel’s history when the angel of the Lord moved through Egypt destroying the firstborn of all people and animals (see Exodus 11 and 12.) I felt strongly this was part of my Judeo-Christian heritage as well. This was the final of the ten plagues God visited upon Egypt designed to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave the country and their captivity. The Israelites were commanded by God to take the blood of a male lamb—one without blemish—and smear it on the doorposts of their houses. When the angel of the Lord saw the blood, he would “pass over” that house. For Christians, this is a foreshadowing of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus, whose blood would cover the sins of those who believe in Him, causing God’s judgment to pass over them. Ever since that night, Jews have celebrated the Passover in remembrance of God’s grace to them.
There has been an explosion of interest in adapting the Passover festival to Christianity. Various organizations, such as Jews for Jesus, have long promoted Christian Passover services as a means for Messianic Jews to retain their cultural heritage while professing their Christian faith. They have also used the Christian Passover as a means to communicate to Christians the Jewish religious heritage that they value. I was deeply moved as this was an understanding for me of how the Passover Seder has application to my Christian faith; and a Christian celebration of the Passover provides a unique way to bring the story of salvation to the ceremony. So whether or not a Christian celebrates Passover would be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian. Like all the Old Testament Jewish Feasts, for Christians the Passover Feast was a foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. We are told in the book of Colossians that we should “let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” Christians are no longer bound to observe the Passover feast the way the Old Testament Jews were, but they should not look down upon another believer who does or does not observe the Passover or other special Jewish days and feasts

While it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Passover, it is beneficial to study it and could be beneficial to celebrate it if it leads to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection. The Passover is a wonderful picture of Christ’s atonement for His people and His deliverance of us from the bondage of sin. That is something we should celebrate every day of our lives.
Whether you are Christian or Jewish, or other or “nothing,” I do hope you take this time to seek and explore for yourself. My search took me a long time in my life to make my decision, but what a difference it made for me – literally life and death.

Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is http://www.pepperseed.org.

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