Techniques used to understand agitation

“There are times each day, when things don’t go your way, and you feel, agitated! agitated! agitated! There are things you can do, to keep from feeling blue, so you’ll feel good, and do what you should!”

These are the first lines of the charming book “Agitated!” by local author and artist, Cindy Brandy O’Brien.

The book goes on to describe situations that might make children feel agitated, teaching coping mechanisms and give the positive outcome of feeling good.

“Books serve a purpose,” Cindy said. She wrote this one while she was an elementary school teacher and felt inspired by her young students’ interest in strong words.

While some books serve to entertain, the purpose of this one is clear and impactful; it gives children a word for a complicated emotion and techniques for controlling and calming themselves.

I’ve read “Agitated!” to my daughter, and she benefited from both the message and the bonding of story time.

I also benefited from this book — when my preschooler starts crying that her pancake is too cold, or won’t stop pulling on my clothes while I warm up said pancake (can you guess what we ate for breakfast today?), I tell her that I’m becoming agitated. Knowing what it means and how to react to it helps us both. Plus it’s a fun word, and repeating it often brings us both to laughter.

Cindy illustrated “Agitated!” using photos of adorable collages of objects she put together. The photos are simple, sweet and inspiring.

Her books, “Can I Do It? Yes,

I Can!” and “Grandma’s Jewelry Box” are illustrated in the same way. Cindy illustrates her books purposefully, “so that kids feel inspired.”

As for her own inspiration, Cindy said she never planned to become an author. The text of each of her books flows and the ideas for illustrations come easily, she said, “when I feel I can make a connection somehow with children.”

“Grandma’s Jewelry Box” was inspired by her own grandchildren. “I think it’s important for kids to realize grandmas are interesting people, not just cookie bakers,” Cindy said.

Children’s books aren’t Cindy’s only art. She also colors inside the lines — the lines of sidewalk cracks, that is.

Several years ago, walking in her neighborhood, Cindy noticed the intricate patterns cracks in the sidewalk created. She took photos, printed them out and used “whatever I find in my cupboard” (markers, watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, tissue paper, etc.) to color pictures formed by the cracks.

The images she saw and turned into art include cats, birds, children playing, her sister wearing a purple hat and a portrait of French poet Charles Baudelaire.

Cindy compared finding pictures in cracks to clouds. But she said, “The sidewalks give you more time to think about it.”

Cindy donates her sidewalk crack art to fundraising auctions of local organizations. She’s participated in art shows (including at the Morgantown Art Center), and is a member of the Morgantown Art Association — displaying her work regularly in their gallery, at the Mountaineer Mall.

Cindy’s words in her book, “Can I Do It? Yes I Can!” encourage children to learn, play and dabble in the arts: “On paper there’s so much to do, with crayons, scissors, paste and glue. Sand and water, paint and clay; I could work with these all day. Sometimes it takes more than just one try, but there’s no need to sit and cry, Cause I know I’ll get it in the end.”

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