Answering The Call

Today I'm excited because I made it to the other side of yesterday.
Yesterday was the kind of day that I needed some of those mindfulness practices I've been researching and sharing. I feel like I could have sat forever in a safe spot inhaling calm deeply as I rubbed this pillow to change the sequins from black to white, then exhaling chaos as I flipped them back from white to black. 

Click the picture for more info; I was lucky to find these treasures on holiday clearance, 
so I bought six of them and using the extras as prizes for my mindfulness learning session.

Let me explain. Last week, after an unsuccessful security update (which I typically choose not to do!), my iPhone started randomly restarting itself until it finally froze. Ugh. Pretty sure that it was a goner (and extremely frustrated with a company that would send updates that would freeze or slow down a phone on purpose), we headed to the T-Mobile store Thursday night and ended up buying a Samsung. Though not totally sold on changing from an iPhone to an Android, I figured that my kids, who all have one, could help me if I got stuck. Besides, it's not like I get that many calls; I mostly use the phone to text and email. Friday was okay because no calls came in, but my frustration spiked Saturday morning as I held the phone, unable to figure out how to answer it, as it rang. I could tell that John was calling and I was trying desperately to answer (Hello? Hello. Can you hear me now?), but pushing the green button rendered it unresponsive. It just rang and rang. I ended up texting him to let him know that I don't know how to answer my new phone.

That's when I decided to call Apple to see if my old phone was, in fact, a goner. Thankfully I had nothing to do that morning, because I spent forty five minutes on hold before Sara, a kind and patient Apple rep up in Montreal, answered and offered to help me. Over the next two hours, we tried two different things, with two different cords, on two different computers. She called me back three different times and three different times we got a code 9. Stuck, she offered an appointment at my local Apple store; the earliest thing they had, she told me, was next Thursday. I took it, thanked her profusely for helping me, then decided to head to the Apple store and take my chances on a walk-in appointment. I met a joyful young man named Roman at the Genius Bar and was given a spot in line. In two hours. Two hours, I figured, was lots of time to figure out the new Android on the chance that Apple couldn't revive my iPhone. I found a spot on a bench outside of the chaos inside the Apple store and began texting my questions to Kaitlyn. Twice she offered to call me to practice, and twice I couldn't figure out how to answer as it rang in my hands. Just as I was at the point of a frustration cry feeling so weak, John showed up, so I handed the ringing phone to him. 

Now neither one of us could figure out how to answer that new phone, so we texted Kaitlyn asking for the secret. She said that you have to swipe the green button. Slide it, she said, to the right. A bit counterintuitive, but she dialed us one more time and success, John was able to answer the phone. He handed the phone to me so Kaitlyn could give me a growth mindset pep talk about how it's just going to take time, about how it's still basically a smart phone, just in different skin, about how persistence will pay off. She offered whatever help I might need to navigate my new device. 

John and I walked around and did some shopping before two hours were finally up and it was our turn back at the Genius Bar. An hour later, the rep confirmed what Sara in Montreal already knew, that a code 9 pretty much meant the phone was a goner. They'd be happy to sell me a replacement at a discounted price, but now I'd have to decide: Keep the Samsung and climb that steep learning curve with Kaitlyn's help or buy a replacement for that frozen phone and hope that the next update didn't mean more of the same. At crunch time, I went with the latter.

That's right, I'm a Droid dropout.

I didn't feel good about abandoning it before I gave it more of a chance, 
but I wasn't really connecting with it.
It didn't feel right in my head or my heart or my hands.
And I wasn't sure it ever would.
So I gave myself permission to prefer an iPhone to an Android.
Pretty funny, really, all of that fuss over a phone, 
especially since nobody even really calls me and vice versa.
But today, everything feels right again, 
because I'm back to answering my calls on an Apple.

Sometimes life's like my day yesterday: The phone is ringing, but we can't quite figure out how to answer the call. And like a phone that needs more memory, it can be overwhelming to self-regulate, solve problems, and work at maximum capacity when our mind is full. Know that it's not weak to get frustrated or cry. Stay in the moment, mindfully aware, focused on your breathing, with intention, careful not to let your challenges disconnect you from your therapeutic safe spot. Stay there as long as you need. Take your time; you deserve it.

What are your go-to resources for answering the call
when life threatens to disconnect you for a spell?       


Mirroring Kindness

This was such a short week; because of a weird ice storm we only had two days of school. I used some of that time to cut out letters for this kindness display.

Got it up in time to kick off next week's Great Kindness Challenge.
We're super excited; the kind acts check lists went home today.
On the way out the door, one of our fifth-grade boys enthusiastically shared that he'd already completed seven of the suggestions! Have you signed up yet?

Those of you who know our school's story know that this year has been a difficult one for our district and town. Hurricane Harvey hit just seven days into the school year; 63 of our Bales students and eleven of our faculty and staff were displaced by those fierce flood waters. Life has been a challenge course for all of us as we recover, rebuild and restore from this trauma. 
But there have been some sun showers, too, like when the Kindness Team from Kids For Peace came to Friendswood to bring donations. They then chose Jet Stream Jax as their national spokesperson for this year's Kind Coins campaign and filmed him on location right here in town and at our school, 
to kick off their annual Kind Coins charitable collection. 

Right before the holidays, we got an email from Jill, co-founder of Kids For Peace, asking if they could build a play space to help our school family heal. Such a humbling, beautiful surprise; that virtual challenge course that we've been on in real life is going to be built in real life just outside our gymnasium, a generous gift.
For us. 
A rainbow in our cloud. 
To help us heal.

Here's a sneak peek. 

Weather permitting, the ribbon cutting will be Wednesday, January 31st. I can't wait for the Kindness Team to come back to Texas and help us put the finishing touches on the Peace Garden that's adjacent to the challenge course. 

Good Morning America plans to feature Kids For Peace this coming Thursday to showcase the Great Kindness Challenge family edition, so be sure to tune in. Additionally, Hasbro Children's Fund will be matching all #KindCoins donations up to $100K, so if you haven't donated yet, now's a great time.

Incredible kindness of epic proportions, just because they can;

A brilliant Sketchnote from Julie Woodard.  
that's the kind of kindness that I promise to always intentionally mirror. 



Nurturing Mindfulness

Today I'm excited because my post on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) SMART goals went live at Free Spirit this morning. Click the image below to go there and check it out.  

This assignment really challenged me because I haven't actually thought too much about goal-setting for our SEL piece. In fact, I kind of wanted them to tell me what goal to use. They didn't have a specific goal in mind, so after cooking on it for a while and then finally writing my reflections, I decided to write some SEL goals, for real. You can see why I'm so grateful for this opportunity to write for them.

Click {here} for a template from teacher Paul Solarz, author of Learn Like A Pirate, and his students to help make those SMART goals even SMAARTER

Today we're home from school because of a wintry ice storm. Tomorrow school will be closed, too, so I'm taking advantage of the gift of time and doing some meditative coloring. We'll be completing this one on Friday when I meet with the Pearland ISD counselors to lead a Motivation & Mindfulness Learning Session.

This beauty comes from Barb over at Grade Onederful Designs.
It's part of a 12-page Valentine Mandalas coloring book that I know my students are going to love. I predict yours will, too. 

The Mandalas with the animals in the middle are especially adorable and will totally complement this precious new Mindfulness title:

Travel with these three friends as they learn the art of
sitting, listening, relaxing, breathing, and being.
Take a body scan, use some calming strategies, and
tap into the senses to breathe, listen, see, and feel.

Check it out on YouTube.


Couple it with some Mindful Breathing at Stop, Breathe, Think.
Then, grab some gel pens, markers, colored pencils or crayons and do some meditative coloring of your own. 

Meditate With Me addresses mindfulness and brings it to life in a simply powerful way for our younger learners, so I've added it to my recommended list of Mindfulness resources.

And did you know that mindfulness can lead to kindness?
There's no time like the present to give the gift of mindfulness.

Listen to Mindful's Top Ten Guided Practices of 2017 {here}.
What are your go-to strategies for nurturing mindfulness?


The Power Of Thoughts & Words

Happy birthday, MLK; today we celebrate the life and legacy
of a civil-rights activist, a strong orator, a passionate leader, a hero.
In his honor and memory, this book that spoke to my heart
on our date at Barnes & Noble last night.

Like Kate Jane Neal, the newbie author of this heartfelt powerhouse, Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream, 
that we would use our words and actions 
to lift each other up, not tear one another down, 
to heal rather than to hurt,
to inspire and not to injure.
What they both know is that the choice is ours.
We have the power to choose the words we use.
Every. Day.
All day long.

And though this gem is geared toward children ages 2-6,
its message really applies to young and old alike.
I've chosen to read it to a class of fourth graders tomorrow
whose words haven't been very kind lately
and have, in fact, been used to hurt each other.
At ten years old, these superheroes are still young
and trying to figure out how to get their needs met.
They're learning that they can get attention
in positive ways as well as in negative ways,
so I plan to use this treasure as a tool to help them
rethink what they're doing to one another's hearts.
I can't wait.
Check out this book; it'll make your heart happy!

Couple it with this Heart Of Gold PSA from Girl Scout Troop 7611.

Know what else makes my heart happy?
Teaming up with my friend, author Maria Dismondy, and thirty other 
passionate edu-heroes to Empower, Ignite & Soar.
Here's the stellar line-up for Monday, January 22.

During my interview next Monday, we'll be talking about examining the mindset that precedes our thoughts, words and behaviors.

Mindset Matters; it's one of my favorite topics!

Don't miss out on these free, twenty-minute interviews by parenting experts that you can watch from the comfort of your own couch. This online Character Summit will send your parenting, educating and caregiving soaring to new heights. 
Sign up {here}; we'll use the hashtag #EISCS18 for this exciting event.

Here's to empowering with kindness and love wherever you go;
 it's the most important heart work you'll be blessed to do.


Kindness Rocks

Happy new year. Today I'm still energized from yesterday's afternoon with the school counselors in Spring Branch ISD. What a satisfying time I had with them, leading a self-care learning session. One of the counselors gave me this affirming feedback: You are the kind of presenter I love, the kind that makes us feel. 
It made my heart super happy.

On another note, many of you know that Hurricane Harvey put a damper on a lot of activities last semester, including our annual Pinwheels for Peace project, which we had to cancel, so this week I've been partnering with our Art teacher as our learners painted their Kindness Rocks for our alternative idea, a Peace Garden. What a blast it has been, to watch this new teacher in action working with and coaching our students.

One of the things I really appreciated after our first class with fourth graders was when Ms. Giamfortone asked the students this reflection question: What's something that you noticed about someone else's rock? What a beautiful way to elevate empathy as students work alongside one another to paint a positive peaceful message on their rocks. 

At the end of the month, our families will gather to paint a rock.
We are so grateful to Grace Church School in New York for their generous donation to help us build our healing Peace Garden!

Click the image to go to the Kids For Peace website. 
Then today after school, I grabbed the character cam and caught our Student Council in this kind act, tying blankets to warm up our friends in Houston who are struggling with homelessness. 

StuCo leaders invited our students to each bring in 25 cents ... 

and ended up collecting $200 in quarters to purchase the fleece.

Our donation of 50 blankets will undoubtedly warm a lot of hearts.
I know that watching these kindness ambassadors certainly warmed mine.

On the personal front, I put my #oneword2018 {vulnerability} to the test when we took our family skiing last week.

The reason we went was to celebrate the boys having both graduated this past year. They wanted an experience instead of a party, so we planned this trip to give downhill skiing a try. 

The snow that started to fall on the afternoon of our last day on the slopes was a huge scoop of ice cream on our celebratory cake.

If you've ever gone skiing, then you know that it's not as easy as it looks. You have to go into it knowing you're going to fall down. Maybe a lot. It's a good idea to take a lesson and then it's another good idea to go slow to go fast. It's a lot like life, really, and it made me feel really vulnerable. But we persevered and made it off of the bunny slopes onto the green slope aptly called Rookie.

It was an amazing adventure and everyone at Monarch Mountain was so courteous, patient and helpful.

We also carved out time to visit St. Elmo,

highly regarded as Colorado's most enchanting ghost town.

Look closely and you might just be able to see a face 
in that upper lefthand window. 
So haunting.
So quiet now.
Enjoy this mindful moment and see.

I can't help but wonder what kind of character lessons
the teachers (and life) taught in this abandoned school house.

I hope that 2018 brings fresh, new, one-of-a-kind adventures.


Vulnerability: What's Trust Got To Do With It?

Today I'm excited because Free Spirit has released its top blog posts for 2017 and two of mine are on this list; I'm so grateful to be a guest author for them.

I've been fighting a chest cold, which has given me a lot of time for reflection. During my couch coma and more Hallmark movies than I ever thought possible, one thing I kept thinking about is trust.

Maybe it's because my one little word for 2018 is vulnerable.
It makes me a little nervous, to dig deeper into the concept
behind that word and its connection to the word trust.

Trusting can be unnerving.
And yet we're called to trust all the time. 
The other day, for example, when I needed my bangs trimmed.
My regular stylist is on recovery from knee surgery,
so I phoned my former stylist,
who scheduled me with her new coworker.
I sat there in her chair so vulnerable
as she took her scissors to my hair.
There was nothing else I could do, but trust.
She seemed to understand what I wanted
but I was a nervous wreck,
holding my breath as locks of hair fell from my forehead.
It can be so hard to trust.
And that's just a small thing, like bangs.
What about when the stakes are bigger,
like in a relationship.
At home.
At work.
With students, neighbors, friends.
With strangers, even.
It begs the question:
Does trust always have to be earned
or is it possible to take a leap of faith
and just trust?

Dr. Brené Brown says this about trust and vulnerability:

Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time
 and requires work, attention and full engagement.

It takes work.
It needs attention.
And it requires full engagement.
It's so important.
And really worthwhile.
I'm told there's a certain strength in vulnerability.

So here we go, head first into 2018.
I'm ready and eager to learn more about being vulnerable.
I can't wait to see what happens to my willingness to trust.

What's your one word for the upcoming year?

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