When I Got Kicked Out of Girl Scouts

Last week Liz Gauffreau posted a story from her childhood with an image of herself in Girl Scout uniform. Wow, did that ever send me back in time! If you’re familiar with the Girl Scouts, you know that the first level is Brownies. My mother bought me a cute little brown uniform, lightly worn. I remember swinging in the swings at school, pumping my legs as hard as I could, looking down at my mocha brown skirt. My friend and I were singing, “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” 

Skip forward to fourth grade at a new school. I remember walking down the hall from the art room to the Girl Scouts meeting room. I was carrying money to give to our leader, Mrs. Norton. When I handed it over, she counted it and then accused me of stealing some pennies. I will admit that when I was a teenager I engaged in some shoplifting and paid the price. But as a nine-year-old? I wouldn’t even have thought of it. I was scared of authority, too.

What I learned from the experience is that even if you’re not guilty, once you are publicly accused you have been publicly shamed. Nothing was worse to me as a kid than shame. The look Mrs. Norton laid on me was pure hatred and disgust. She kicked me out of the troop, and I never went back. But I lived with that feeling of shame (and the stomach aches it helped cause) for years afterward.

Did anything positive come from the experience? I think it made me more sensitive to other children and then to other people in general. I never liked to see anyone bullied and would try to support people I saw bullied. This has continued throughout my life and has even included “mom groups” on social media where I defended the picked-upon. So I guess it was worth it, but it wasn’t the only problem I had at that new school. Luckily, I was only there for 1 1/2 years before we moved elsewhere.

About my new book, Rooted and Winged: it went into pre-orders last Monday. Why would you want to pre-order it instead of waiting until the release in September? In part, to be nice to me hah. The thing is, the number of pre-orders the book gets determines the royalty percentage that I will receive, as well as where the book will get marketed. So I can’t stress enough how much I would appreciate you pre-ordering instead of waiting (if you are able to, of course). AND, if you pre-order, you will be helping the wildlife in the Phoenix area as I am making a $5 donation for each pre-order! Info that I posted last week is copied below. If you want a donation slip, please let me know you pre-ordered and what your email address is.


Release date: September 9

Book description:

The poems of Rooted and Winged explore the emotional and physical movement of flight and falling. They are of the earth, the place of fertile origins, and of the dream world we observe and imagine when we look upward. Golems and ghosts that emerge from the ground, as well as the birds and angels that live above us, inhabit the collection. We will always be striving for flight, even as we feel most comfortable closest to the earth.

There are poems about Arizona, California, and the lakes of Michigan. My maternal grandparents are the characters that most inhabit this book.

Cover art: Leonard Cowgill

If you pre-order . . .

I would love it if you could pre-order the book, if you can swing it. For the pre-order period, I am donating $5 in the name of each person who pre-orders the book to Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Two months into the pandemic, we had a red-tailed hawk in our yard. She was unable to fly, and a volunteer from Liberty Wildlife came out to rescue her. I wrote a poem about the incident, which was published in The Orchards Poetry Journal and is in Rooted and Winged. The gardener and I have brought many smaller injured and orphaned birds to Liberty Wildlife over the years.  Some of the poems in the book are about the wildlife in our area.

If you place an order for the book, please let me know with your name and email address. That way I can keep track of the pre-orders to make sure my list matches that of the publisher. When the pre-order period is over, I will give the list of names and emails to Liberty. You will then receive an acknowledgement by email of your donation for the birds and bunnies.

As always, I am available for blog interviews and guest posts.


all my ghosts and angels become each

other and then me with a hinted outline of wings.

from “The Shape of Me”


Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing

57 responses to “When I Got Kicked Out of Girl Scouts

  1. Amy

    Done! Placed the order. I think you have my email address.

    That’s so awful that you were accused that way. I loved Girl Scouts from second grade through eighth. I am so sorry you were treated that way.

  2. I went to Catholic school and the nuns were notorious for shaming. My cousin developed digestive issues from the stress of maybe making an error and eventually her mom transferred her to public school. You never forgot those moments.

  3. the Girl Scouts memory is powerful and reminded me of a Dr Phil workbook I bought (at the twenty-five cent sale)- and Dr Phil talked about defining moments from childhood and how they connect to who we are (in a. variety of ways – as you noted) – and he also had a teacher relate to a negative defining moment in bis life (that of course led to much good – but had pain too) – he and a few others stuck up to bullies and his favorite teacher didn’t support hi the way he expected; instead, she shamed him.
    Anyhow, glad you got away from the school that was “not so good” – whew – but it sounds like it helped shape you in wonderful ways

    • Oh, how interesting that is about the workbook. Yes, defining moments from childhood creating the adult us. You are not kidding about that school. And actually the school was nice and my 4th grade teacher was phenomenal, but I had 3 big bullying episodes during that short period of time: the 3rd grade teacher whose class I moved into in March, two girls on the bus, and Mrs. Norton. Thanks for stopping by!

      • ouch – three during that time…. whew –
        and I never would have read the dr Phil material (not sure why) but glad I gave it a try for the quarter – ha

        • It was worth at least a quarter!

          • well I ended up seeing it again and got another copy (and gave it to someone that I thought needed it – she was early on her self-discovery journey)
            I am a used book shopper (at times) and I sometimes see waves of books hit the bins.
            The workbook was called “Life Strategies” and I just left that copy on my mother’s bookshelf –
            and another key takeaway was how we “rise above our raising” – which he doesn’t claim to have coined – but such a good quote – eh?
            and ties into your post here – with overcoming

  4. Wow, Luanne. The Brownie story is a powerful one. None of us will ever know the internalized messages our children learn from us. Shame on Mrs. Norton for treating any child the way she treated you. I consider that the original sin.
    Bless your inner child’s heart.
    And still we rise.

    • Is it any wonder her daughter was a “mean girl” growing up? Funny thing though. The gardener was at a party at their house in high school and overheard my best friend on the phone to me telling me he was there (only a crush at that point). He asked her for the phone and asked if he could come pick me up. The rest is history. And I didn’t have to go to a party at that woman’s house hah.
      And still we rise. YES!

  5. I think we’ve all come across a Mrs. Norton in some form. (Perhaps she is a grown up mean girl shapeshifter.) How awful that she could have done good–made a new girl welcome–and instead she chose to be horrible. Even if she thought you had taken the money, she could have handled it with some kindness.

    I was in Girl Scouts for a long time when we lived in Dallas. I think I stayed with it because I thought it was good for me, since I didn’t really have friends, other than my sister. But I had no desire to look for a new troop once we moved back to the Philadelphia suburbs.

    • Yes, you’re right. She could have been kind, but she certainly wasn’t and neither was her daughter who I ended up going to high school with. That 1 1/2 years was so strange, looking back. On the one hand, I had the best teacher ever in 4th grade (wrote a blog post years ago about him) and on the other hand, the teacher I had from March-June in 3rd grade there was a big bully and I was also bullied on the school bus. Now that I remember the girl scout fiasco I am putting all 3 things together and wondering if there was some cause and effect involved.

    • Oops, went to create a new paragraph and hit send instead. I can totally understand why being in girl scouts would have given you instant peers and a way to interact with other kids without worrying about not having friends (yet). And why you wouldn’t need it once you moved back where you felt comfortable.

  6. That’s pretty awful. I can see how that kind of public shaming would stay with you forever. And it would be hard for you to prove that something didn’t happen, especially if she had no evidence that it did.

  7. Pre-order placed. The cover art is fabulous – can’t wait to see the whole thing! 🙂

    • Thank you, Jennifer! I love that art, too. Len is such a great artist. I knew FLP wouldn’t screw up the cover. I love their light touch with that art.

  8. What a horrible experience. Not the way to shape young hearts and minds.

    • Definitely not. Scarred me for sure. I was just thinking about how that 1 1/2 years was full of being bullied–by a teacher, by 2 students on the bus, and by Mrs. Norton. But what I realized belatedly was that her accusing me was similar to what I had happen too many times at home. My father was one who would accuse even when he was wrong. I do think my father could be a bully, too, and I recognized it when I saw him do it to the girl next door and to one of my cousins.

  9. I can remember some adults shaming me as a child. It’s hard to understand why anyone would do that. Children aren’t equipped to deal with that sort of thing. Shame on her!

  10. For some odd reason, I also have been reminiscing recently about my brief time in the Australian Brownies. I remember on one outing, I, being the chubby one, was made to run around and around the oval while the others ate their lunch. Ultimately, I was not allowed to graduate up to Girl Scouts because I could not tie a reef knot. Even now, much as I recite, right over left, left over right, they never come out flat.
    But the worst memory was that of two sisters, one blonde and pretty born to the family, the other plain and adopted, who were walking to the club house, when struck by a car. One was killed, you can guess which. The parents were devastated, as you can imagine, and unable to comfort the sister who was about eight years old then. I can still picture both girls vividly.
    I was around ten. None of these experiences made me a better person. At least, I have never made the connection that they did.

    Congratulations on the publication and I wish you well in the pre-sale. Am I right in guessing it is aimed mostly at a North American audience vis-a-vis the postage?

    • Good grief, what is a reef knot? I never had to do anything that hard. It was sing songs, watch someone set up a pup tent, and sell cookies. Of course, I was probably kicked out before it got difficult ;).
      What a shame about the daughters. How awful. And what awful implications. It reminds me of a memoir I read that shall remain nameless here. The writer’s favorite child was killed, and it was so OBVIOUS that I can’t imagine not being devastated if I was the other kids. Of course, I was pretty sure from reading the memoir that the writer was a sociopath.
      I actually love how you write that these experiences didn’t make you a better person. Something DID make you a better person, SUCH a better person than the things you went through as a kid. I’m guessing you have theories about that.
      Thank you re Rooted and Winged! It is, especially the US. For Canadians, it is best if they preorder and have sent to MY address and then I will mail them the book at no charge when it comes in. But for you, I don’t know. The postage cost that way might be too great? Might be better to wait until the book is on Amazon?

      • Yes, Luanne. Sadly, the postage for your works will be a killer. But I have an Australian born friend in Texas and she is forever talking about her next visit back here. So if she gives me enough warning when that becomes a reality I will get you to post a package of your books to her (I will of course pay) and she can bring them out to me.

        Thank you for such nice words. It’s a strange thing. I can never point to one formative event which made me. It was simply an amalgamation of lived experience. But, initially, my memoir was intended to lay tribute to all those strong, “ordinary” women who stepped in an moulded me. I think their presence still filters through the final book.

        Good grief! All you had to was sing and sell cookies? What about all your badges and proficiency stuff? And Bob a Job week where you had to go around the district doing odd jobs for people in the hope they’d give you a shilling (a bob) for the cause. (That’s ten cents in today’s parlance).

        Maybe you know the reef knot by another name? I’ve heard it’s also called a square knot. It’s a double loop that ties two ends together, lies flat and is good for securing bundles, such a firewood, etc. I never mastered it. It might be worth mentioning I couldn’t tie my own shoelaces until I was eight years old either.

  11. Shame on Mrs. Norton!

  12. What a lousy way to treat a child! Mrs. Norton had no business being a GS leader. Honestly, I’m appalled. Yet I suppose she inadvertently helped you become the strong person you are today. Still…

  13. Oh my gosh, Luanne! I can’t imagine a scout leader behaving in that manner. Shaming should be outlawed on any level. People don’t seem to realize that what they say to children has deep impact.

  14. How awful re: that false accusation!!

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