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.

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?


Cut Out For Great Things

Tonight I'm excited because tomorrow I'm putting these festive
cookie cutters on the tables at our holiday staff meeting
as table decor that teachers can take home with them.
They were super fun to make, in part because my husband helped me. 
We found the cutters on sale at Michael's and just added the tag. 

I gave one to my friend Melissa today,
and she asked if I found this idea on Pinterest.
It was kind of cool to say that I thought it up all by myself.

Then today, I decided to bring this beautiful image to life
onto a life-sized wall display outside of our learning space.

I was pretty happy with how it turned out,
especially when one of my fourth-grade boys asked
if I meant for the colored papers to be like the ornaments.

As we count down the days to our holiday break,
we're working with intention to make our days count.
To show caring to one another.
To be joy-makers.
To remember the less fortunate by donating gifts for the Blue Santa drive and by bringing in quarters so that our Student Council leaders can buy fleece for blankets that'll warm up our friends who are homeless.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Gruener at Gilmore Elementary
On Friday afternoon, I got to help Kate Campbell, a junior at FHS, distribute these donations from her Books And Blessings campaign. Because of her generosity and love, every student who was displaced in Harvey's floodwaters four months ago got to shop for seven new-to-them books to help rebuild their personal libraries. Such a blessing to see the joy in their eyes as they got to choose their new treasures. My favorite was the fourth-grade girl who chose a book for everyone in her family. 

Sharing is caring after all.

In this afternoon's mail, I got a beautiful Christmas card
from a Twitter friend up in Canada,
with a $5 bill asking me to pay it forward.
I think I'll use it to buy the baking supplies we'll need to make 
a second batch of cut-out sour cream sugar cookies . . .

and take them to a family whose kitchen was destroyed 
by the hurricane and isn't put back together just yet.
Thank you, Roman, for being an example for kindness;
you make our world better!

And in case you haven't heard Sheryl Crowe's tribute 
to Sandy Hook yet, click {here} to listen to The Dreaming Kind.

Yep, we are definitely cut out to do great things.

What do you have planned to spread joy tomorrow?


The Magically Refreshing Present

It was the best thing, to wake up on Friday morning
to this magically refreshing blanket of snow.
In south Texas. Weird, right?
That's what made it so incredible.

Just before bed, Joshua had sent this picture of the bikes outside of his dorm along with the news that it was snowing in College Station. In fact, they had several inches already and it was still falling.

Shortly after Joshua texted, Jacob called.
Giddy with delight, like a little kid in a big candy store, 
he was headed home to build a snowman.
It made this mama's heart so happy
to experience the college boys' child-like excitement
over something as simple as snow.

I fell asleep wishing we would get some snow too, but knowing full well that it wasn't likely since we only had a 20% of the white stuff falling this far south. 
But when my alarm went off, I went out back to find this:

Each snowflake unique,

clinging to each other, 

hanging on for dear life,

 and blanketing every branch so beautifully.

The wet, white wonder 

covering every blade of grass,

turning the drab into dreamy

and the ho-hum into heavenly.

Yep, 2017 has been kind of crazy for HoUSton!

The kids came in to school all bundled up, uplifted by the
and joy
of nature's surprise holiday gift,
the magically refreshing present.

What an incredible feeling, the beauty of that miraculous moment,
proof positive that the best things in life aren't things at all.

In other news, The Corner on Character was chosen 
a Top 60 School Counselor Blog last week. 

Click {here} to read all about the distinction, to follow these amazing school counselors, and to add some new resources to your arsenal. 
I'm so grateful to be aligned with these passionate professionals.

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