If you’ve attended Ashland´s July 4th Parade or Festival of Lights, you have most likely seen Grandma Boom! Her costume wings spread blessings to children sitting on the curbs. She is in full costume when she teaches children social emotional learning skills online or in classrooms for the past 44 years.
Janai Mestrovitch, aka Grandma Boom, keeps busy practicing self-healing techniques, helping the homeless, writing books, filming PSAs and running her non-profit, Superkidpower.org, dedicated to empowering children. In today’s interview, I talk with Janai about her life, her dreams and her visions for making the world a better place.
Janai, I am so excited to get to do this interview. I know many in the community have seen you but I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity to get to know you or hear your incredible story.
Shields, thank you for your interest in my work and huge thanks to you for yours!
I learned about debilitation as a very sickly child, near death twice before 2 ½ years. Many illnesses followed. I longed for vibrant health.
Lucille Ball inspired me with her outrageous funny predicaments – a stark contrast for childhood in the 1950’s when children were ‘seen and not heard.’ Wearing bland uniforms grades 1-10 created a craving for colorful, creative clothes. Playing dress-ups in imaginary costumes, jewelry, hats and regalia were salvation even though reality was towels or cloths pinned on me. Writing, directing and starring in neighborhood plays exercised my imagination.
They called me “Little Mother” by the age of 2. I took great care of my siblings and babysat many children. Caring for children was natural.
Peers called me “Uglystick” around the age of 10 due to my scrawny, sickly demeanor. Self-worth flowered in my twenties studying biofeedback and healing techniques. I nixed manipulation from others trying to dictate how I should be. I love my free spirit.
Immigrant Croatian grandparents and a Catholic Dad who married my Southern Baptist Mom provided much family diversity. I was the oldest of four children raised in Kansas City, Kansas. My family was influenced by the Great Depression, Dad’s WWII experiences, Mom’s southern cooking and sayings, and a serious work ethic. Both parents worked full-time.
Seeing unhealthy trends in education, I homeschooled my two children, requiring tremendous self-discipline. I was unanimously voted Miss Hospitality of Kansas in the 1969 Miss Universe pageant and recently voted the honor of Grand Marshal for the July 4th parade, Ashland.
What and who inspires you?
Orphanage volunteering in grade school showed me the impact on children who are not loved. Working with children in a state hospital who lived in isolation units taught me countless lessons on psychological damage, sanity deprivation, abuse of meds. Teaching halfway house criminals relaxation/imagery techniques showed me lost souls desiring upliftment.
The five stitch scar on my finger reminds me that my dedication superseded violent troubled teens who acted violently toward me.
That resulted in powerful healing for their ‘wanna-be-criminal’ mindset. My children and grandchildren continually show me avenues of growth. Homeless individuals connect me to new levels of understanding. Asian teachers helped me understand life/death/healing/love/compassion at deeper levels. My parents/grandparents guided me to focus on something bigger than just me. Spirituality practices sustain me through my life lessons. Nature fuels me. Dance, play and fun enliven me. Inspiration is medicine.
At the age of 13 you had a powerful vision. What was it, and how did it change your life up to this point?
Being given a vision brings a ‘knowing feeling’ at the soul level that cements itself unforgettably in one’s core. I ‘saw’ the earth and heard a voice to care for the world’s children. I told my parents I was enlisting in the Peace Corps in order to begin helping children globally.
My Dad (his IQ registered at the genius level) said, “NO! You are NOT joining the Peace Corps! You are finishing high school and going to college!” Being an obedient daughter, I earned a B.S. and M.S. at Kansas State University in Family and Child Development. Teaching online through Outschool.com now, I reach children around the world, from Asia to Canada, Australia, United States and more.
Janai, please tell us about Grandma Boom. How did you step into your power to fully embrace Grandma Boom and all the magic and grace you share with the community?
When my grandson was tiny, I held him up to a gong, helping him hold the mallet and make ‘Boom.’ We would drum and make ‘Boom.’ He began calling me “Boom.” I became ‘Grandma Boom.’ Grandmotherhood blesses my growth.
It deputized me in mind and heart as a grandmother figure to all children in the world’s village. I gave birth to two children and have two grandchildren. I feel love for all and love being Grandma Boom!
Janai, you have an extraordinary body of work which has been of service to so many people now for decades. Can you please share about the work you have done?
Seven books are available on Amazon. Beeing Calm, Dragonella, Superkid Saves the Day, Superkid Camp, Superkid Power Guidebook, Jackson’s Fun Adventures… all for use with children with powerful lessons, skills, stories. The Grandma Boom Chronicles…. More Alive at 65 is my self-help memoir. The Secrets Inside Copper Mountain was intended to be an animated film feature in Japan in 1996 but the company collapsed financially. The book wants revival. I need help marketing it. Kids say it is a Native American version similar to Harry Potter.
1980’s I created two TV series on Cable and NBC for children with inner resource skills. NBC series won 2nd place, silver medal, at the NY Film & Television Festival worldwide out of 2,000 entries.
I have taught countless children with my 3D approach and trained others. Presently, I film PSAs with seeds of the lessons that encourage teaching children the skills.
I was an Instructor at the University of Oregon and Adjunct at SOU, have done international training/speaking, a newspaper columnist in Kansas and Oregon, published widely, creator of television series for children on Cable and NBC, created award winning programs. My NBC series won 2nd place out of 2,000 entries at the NY Film and Television Festival. Hosted a family call-in radio show.
Thousands of rejections regarding my 3D pioneering work for children have never stopped me from moving forward/upward/onward/TRUSTward! It is the Vision that drives me with passion and purpose.
Over the past 40+ years you have developed a powerful model of 3D learning for children. Will you please tell us about it?
85% of the brain develops by age 5. When children have fun experiences learning, they open up to the lesson, absorb and integrate it easier. I make social emotional learning REAL by using objects in the outer world to help children understand what is happening in their inner world. A ‘lie’ is wadded up aluminum foil with toothpicks stuck in it. Children hold it and will tell you where they feel tension inside when they lie. 3D accelerates holistic learning. Fun, experiences and costumes make for a win-win!
If it isn’t fun teaching children, why do it!
Please talk about your core vision for children that you have held for decades.
I imagine a huge geographical area where children learn the same social emotional skills with a fun, holistic 3D approach…a school district, city, county, state, country. I want to stream into pre-K, K and 1st grades every week in our nation for 15 minutes so all children have equal opportunity to access these skills. We would see an increase in mental health, relationship building, mutual respect, inclusion, equity, self worth and decrease in crime, abuse, bad choices. Self-responsibility and resilience would soar. Academic achievement would improve.
How long have you lived in Ashland?
Ten years! It is home. Where else can I be the town’s Fairy? My goal in the parades is to radiate joy, magical wonder, love and freedom. I wave my wings over children sitting on the curbs. I was sad this year that I could not be their Fairy. It is an expression of my spirit.
Janai, can you tell us about all the different ways you participate in the Southern Oregon Community?
In addition to July 4th Fairy, I am the Christmas Fairy in Festival of Lights, Christmas Fairy at Homeless shelters delivering packages, Chamber of Commerce member, SOU instructor, Teacher of pre-K, K, and migrant pre-K with social emotional learning, blogged 3 years on Awesome Aging for Ashland Tidings, wrote numerous columns for Inner Peace Column, Founding member of the Committee for the Unhoused, have filmed 17 Public Service Announcements airing now. I spread kindness.
You are also very involved with the homeless community here in Southern Oregon. How has this work changed your life and opened your eyes?
It endears me to the human story and plight, keeps me from being judgmental, brings me to my knees in humility, empowers my gratitude, stretches me to find funding and helps me feel connected to that part of MY community. It keeps me caring.
How do you see the world needs to continue to change?
We have to build international relationships like we are neighbors and not just depend on politics. We all have a vote to build a solid foundation with our children FIRST in social emotional learning skills, relationship building with good communication skills, goal setting and being mindful. We have to help them and they will help us. It is a full circle. That is how the change will happen as a solid foundation.
Janai, how can our community help support you with all the work you are doing?
Ongoing financial support is essential through philanthropy. Marketing my books, videos, etc. is needed. Helping my Public Service Announcements for television to spread in digital format to stations globally. Connect me to program development avenues to stream to more children online.
Janai, what do you see we as a community need now more than ever?
Staying connected and inspired; encouragement, kindness, being good neighbors lifting each other up. Let’s evolve, not devolve. Have fun together! We need the spark of happiness, joy and playful opportunities even with social distancing. Brainstorm! Refuse sedentary inclinations. We can create together. CARE! Refuse to slump.
You believe in the concept of being a good neighbor. What does this mean for you?
People are working their butts off… post office, etc. I take home-baked gratitude goodies to service people or soup to a sick neighbor. I believe being a good neighbor builds community in our neighborhoods, towns, country and internationally. Creatively connect!
Janai, please talk about the FUN that you believe in.
Fun opens us up. Fun gives new perspective and releases stuck energy. It keeps a bright light shining that unites all ages. Fun brings laughter. And laughter shakes out the psychological cooties that block us from feeling whole. Fun is one of my medicines and it beckons my inner child to be alive and play.
Please talk about your perspective and approach to aging.
Aging can be awesome! I feel more substantial and want to be more alive each year. At 71, I am learning more about being vibrant. New adventures, flexibility and spontaneity are ‘muscles’ to strengthen. Excited to see how much I can accomplish before my time is up.
Janai, I am curious to learn some of your personal life mantras.
“I am grateful.” “I love you, Janai.” “Keep on marching, Janai.” If it is harm-free for self and others, “What if?” and “Why not?” “See beyond the surface.” “Be humble and grateful.” “Life is what happens while we’re busy making plans.” “Feel the sparkle.” “I forgive me. I forgive you.” “Inspiration is medicine.” “BREATHE.” “I am responsible for my destiny.” “I love life.” “Use stress or it will use you.” “Caring nourishes the heart.” “I am what I think.” “Shine my light.” “Everything is temporary.” “I am strong.”
You mentioned being bionic. Could you speak to that?
I have a replaced hip, rod in my leg, screws in my foot and teeth implants. For root canals, tooth extraction, some surgeries, I request no drugs. It creates endorphins using my mind/body potential. When told my leg would not function exactly like the other one, I refused to let someone else’s opinion dictate my leg’s destiny. With determination and self healing techniques, I healed exactly how I intended. We have more potential if we allow ourselves to know we do and act on it.
What are your views of the pandemic?
It is a portal for change. We can use it to evolve/adventure, creating new strategies to build strength or feel victimized. We have to wake up, move energy, not be sedentary, be creatively courageous and act on positive vision…. every day!
How do you keep up with everything you do?
I allow passion, purpose and fun to steer me; practice good basic self-care; gratitude attitude; listening to my body; trusting my intuition; creating endorphins with exercise and generating joy; kindness, goodwill and dancing anytime, anywhere; meditation; rest. I don’t believe in being bored and keep busy. I know I was born to help so I look for places where there are needs. I intend to be more alive the older I grow, tapping more of my human potential.
Janai, thanks so much for your service to our community and for being the unique light that you are.
Thank YOU, Shields, for your visionary service and for this opportunity.
Superkid Power, Inc.
(non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)3
P.O. Box 1201, Ashland