Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Carla A. Carlisle

MCA-Interview-Series Carla A. Carlisle

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! We have another interesting interview for you today– we were lucky enough to get some time with Carla A. Carlisle, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, My Big Notebook! My Big Notebook is a “buddy in a book”. It includes real stories, healthy, evidence-based coping mechanisms, positive affirmations, resources, and coloring & journaling pages. JC shares his experiences and evidence-based techniques to help children process and express their feelings in a positive way. Keep reading to find out more about Carla and how her award-winning book, My Big Notebook, came to be!

MCA: Hi Carla! Thank you so much for joining us for this interview and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award for My Big Notebook! I’d like to start this interview by finding out a little bit about yourself!

Carla A. Carlisle Award-winning book, "My Big Notebook."

Carla A. Carlisle’s Award-winning book, “My Big Notebook.”

Carla: I am a TEDx Speaker, author, trauma expert, and child advocate. A proud boy mom, I have dedicated my life to informing the world about the impact of trauma and how we can excel beyond it.

I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I earned my B.A. in sociology from Indiana University. I also earned an M.S. in human resources management from American University and another in organizational development from Johns Hopkins University. I obtained a graduate certificate in change management from Johns Hopkins University. None of which prepared me for my journey to motherhood.

My company is Carla A Carlisle, LLC dba The Compassionate Companion. I provide workshops to support our communities in becoming trauma-informed. I incorporate my lived experiences penned in my memoir, “Journey to the Son” as well my son, JC’s, in “My Big Notebook” to drive home how to thrive beyond trauma.

At the end of my decade-long journey to my son, I was financially depleted, emotionally a wreck, physically unhealthy, and struggling mentally. My faith helped me hang on and my desire to be the best parent possible made me refocus on self-care. I related to the phrase, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I am an avid Peloton user – I do cycling, meditation, strength, barre, yoga and pretty much everything that the app and bike offer. It was a lifesaver for me as, after my decade-long journey to my son, I found myself 40 lbs overweight and pre-diabetic. Thanks to a great support system and so many online friends and family, my physical health has improved greatly.

I love to write and journal. That leads to my third book, which will be released in 2022. The book will provide supportive guidance to fostering and adoptive caregivers as well as anyone supporting a loved one who has experienced trauma.  It contains what I wish I had known before starting my journey.

MCA: Wow, you’ve had quite the journey, we can’t wait to hear more about it! Let’s start with what your path to becoming a writer was like.

Carla: I became a foster mom to a beautiful baby boy who was two months premature and just 10 days old.  At six months, he went back with the birth parents and I let my foster license expire to try to help the family because I saw their lives were not stable. The six years I spent trying to co-parent with his birth parents was my introduction to intergenerational trauma.  His parents had suffered extensive trauma as children and the cycle had continued with their other children. I was determined to make a difference. At age five, I saw my gentle giant son’s behavior change; he presented with aggression and anger. At age six, the change was so drastic, and – after a crisis – I realized the current approach had to change. I gained emergency custody of my son to try my best to give him a safe and stable life. Two years and many court dates later, I became his adoptive mom. Once I learned about the devastating impact of trauma on children and how one loving advocate can change the trajectory of a child’s life, I had to share our story with the world.  I started working with a family friend who was a ghostwriter to share my journey. Journey to the Son was the outcome of our year-long effort.

From there, I started speaking across the country and internationally about the impact of trauma.

MCA: That is so amazing and inspiring, thank you for sharing! So it’s safe to say the experiences you have had with your son are what gave you both the inspiration for writing My Big Notebook?

Carla: The concept of My Big Notebook is to support children experiencing stress or trauma. Every child is deserving, but not all have informed parents/caregivers. Remember, I was a well-intentioned, yet uninformed caregiver who made tons of missteps (none of which I would change).  If our experiences and lessons learned could help at least one child, the mission of the book would be accomplished.  I searched, along with my publisher (SPARK Publications) for a book that provided support for elementary school-age children. I couldn’t find a “buddy in a book” anywhere. This gap propelled me to go for it and, at the same time, teach my son how to help people in a healthy way.

MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in My Big Notebook?

Carla: Some of the key lessons in My Big Notebook are:

  • You are not alone.
  • You are amazing.
  • You have tools to use when times get tough like square breathing and writing or coloring your feelings.
  • The cognitive triangle (the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions) is explained in children’s terms with real-life examples from JC’s life.
  • Dream big.
  • Help others.

MCA: Your career has been heavily focused on childhood trauma and its lifelong effects. Can you share with us some of those effects?

Carla: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente conducted a study about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are much more common than one might think.  About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.

Preventing ACEs could potentially reduce many health conditions. For example, up to 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million cases of depression could have been potentially avoided by preventing ACEs. There is a 10-question assessment used to determine one’s ACEs score.

Some children are at greater risk than others. Women and several racial/ethnic minority groups were at greater risk for having experienced 4 or more types of ACEs.

The ACE Study and subsequent research show that people with an ACE score of 4 are:

  • 2x as likely to be smokers
  • 2x more likely to suffer from depression
  • 3x more likely to develop anxiety disorders
  • 7x more likely to be alcoholic
  • Increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent
  • and attempted suicide increases by 1200 percent

An ACE score of 6 or higher is associated with a 20-year shorter lifespan compared to someone with an ACE score of 0.

ACEs can cause developmental delays, typically in the areas of impulse control and thinking.  Imagine trying to think and perform in school when you are living in fear.

ACEs are costly. The economic and social costs to families, communities, and society totals hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

However, subsequent research has shown that social buffers, such as having just one caring adult in a child’s life, can mitigate the impact of ACEs.

MCA: Those statistics are quite shocking and so important to be aware of. Please tell us more about how you and your son have used your traumatic experiences to help others!

Carla: I started with my book, Journey to the Son, and then I became a TEDx speaker. My talk is called Becoming Trauma-Informed Changed My Life – and it really did.

JC was instrumental in developing My Big Notebook. He let me know which experiences to include and what was most important to a kid. He also helps me; from time to time when I’m overwhelmed, he may grab my hand and tell me to deep breathe with him. It’s amazing!

Our May 7, 2022 book launch will be held in Charlotte, NC at Studio 229 on Brevard. The proceeds of our silent auction will support two charities designed to help children impacted by trauma – Alexander Children’s Foundation and The Charlotte Angels. Sponsorship packages and tickets are available here: My Big Notebook Launch Tickets, Sat, May 7, 2022 at 1:00 PM | Eventbrite

I continue to speak at events, on panels and I work with the local Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training helping officers learn how to deescalate a person in a mental health crisis. I advocate for improved and increased mental health services for children and their caregivers, working with Mental Health America of the Central Carolinas and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Charlotte and NC chapters).

MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?

Carla: A few therapists I’ve met have said the book is an exceptional tool to help children and their caregivers. It includes some techniques they teach their patients!

Children have taken to the book and the character, JC, and use it over and over again. We still use it even thought JC is now 12 years old.

Adult readers have indicated they learned something from the notebook and it was helpful to them. One dad said he uses it with his daughters to supplement what they are gaining through therapy.

Jon Mcleod from ESPN said:

Carla A. Carlisle Amazon Review

MCA: I must say, it is all well-deserved praise! Thank you for sitting down with us today, Carla. Please keep us posted on when your third book comes out! 

You can learn more about Carla A. Carlisle and her award-winning book, My Big Notebook by visiting her MCA Shop pages.

Interview With Carla A. Carlisle

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