UNION, NJ — A Franklin Elementary School teacher said she had many of the same experiences growing up in town as the character in her self-published children’s book.
“You kind of grow up thinking you’re not good not enough,” said Nikki Gangemi, who now coaches others to combat those feelings with yoga and meditation. “That’s a pretty common thing in people’s lives.”
Gangemi’s first children’s book, “My Gracie,” guides the reader through mini meditations and reflections with a character named Gracie, a shy girl with low self-esteem who finds it difficult to make friends. That all changes when she meets an elephant and learns how to replicate the peace and happiness radiating from the friendly animal.
The 28-page story features illustrations by Justice Naim. Gangemi connected with the artist by asking for interested candidates at The Kubert School, a graphic art and cartooning program located in Dover.
The book’s theme of finding inner happiness is something the author lives, breathes and even teaches. Gangemi created a mindfulness program in 2015 for her Franklin third- and fourth-graders, teaching simple yoga poses, gratitude and ways to deal with stress.
“I work with children, and working in education all these years and seeing these kids, they have a hard time — they struggle — with bullying,” she said.
Gangemi is a professionally trained Law of Attraction life coach. The method teaches people to be mindful of the positive energy in their lives, and the author has also started offering the program, known as Mindful Matters, outside of school. The program is available to both adults and children, she said.
“If you put out that you’re thankful for everything you have, then you’re just going to get more experiences and reasons to be thankful,” she said of her coaching.
Gangemi said she grew a little while writing the book, as well and that Gracie was drawn to look a little like her.
“I think it was based on my own life and, just seeing it in a book, I was just able to feel more compassion for myself,” she said.
Gangemi said she is interested in writing another book in the future, possibly a nonfiction one geared more toward adults and with a similar theme: learning how to empower others and think positively.
“I feel like I’m thankful for everything that happened to me along the way and now I’m in a place to motivate and inspire others.”
“My Gracie” is available at Amazon. To learn more about Mindful Matters, visit mindfulmattersliving.com.