Taking The Wheel

This week has been an emotionally-loaded one for me. 
In a very healing, therapeutic way.
I spent the last two days at Friendswood High School helping with Shattered Dreams. I've been on hand all four times they've done this drinking-and-driving prevention program to read the obituaries of the living dead who are pulled from classrooms to represent drunk-driving fatality stats on any given day. Four years ago, I also participated as the mom of one of the mock-car-crash victims. 
It was intense, to be sure.

Scene from the mock car crash - Friendswood High School 2014
Click {here} to experience the 2012 Shattered Dreams production. That one was difficult for me because I had to read the obituary of my son's girlfriend as she was removed from the junior English class they were both in together. Tears filled my eyes as I imagined what it must be like for Jacob to sit there and hear me read about her life and death.

This year, not only was I there as a counselor, but I was also there as the victim of an intoxication assault. First, I was asked to speak at the parents' meeting. Then I was invited to address the participating students at their all-night retreat. Yesterday, I was approached about speaking to the thousand juniors and seniors at today's mock Memorial Service celebrating the lives of those two who passed away in the mock crash in front of school yesterday.
 Of course I said yes to all three opportunities.

Using a slideshow of the pictures that my husband took at the junk yard when he went to retrieve my personal effects from our totaled vehicle, I started by inviting participants to take the wheel of the car that I was driving when 
I was hit head-on 15 months ago.

Then I shared my story from the wreck ... 
the sights, 
the sounds, 
the smells,
the sensations ...

... to recovery.
I talked about stakeholders and how that,
even though this wasn't a fatality collision,
my life was forever changed for me and my family that day.

And, like the splintered glass of that shatter-proof windshield,

there were a lot of broken shards to try to
piece {and peace} back together.
With ortho appointments.
Physical therapy.
Treating doctor visits.
Trauma counseling.
Anxiety meds and more.

And I ended with how it was 
and gratitude 
that kept me going,
even when the going was grueling.

Some drunk-driving victims aren't as fortunate.
They die or they're left paralyzed.
Lives needlessly lost,
negatively impacted,
and forever changed. 

My hope is that this experience might help deter
someone from taking the wheel and 
driving under the influence ... or 
from making the mistake of
jumping into a car with someone who is.
I encouraged them to plan ahead,
to find a designated driver {or be one!},
to sharpen their refusal skills 
in the event that they'd rather not drink at all
and to drink responsibly once they're of age.

I reminded them that every day they get a choice.
They can do something helpful or something hurtful.
And I encouraged them to commit to helping someone
who might be impaired from making one of those
life-changing mistakes from which they won't get a do over.
Because nothing happens in isolation.
And the effects of our choices ripple out and back.
Every day.


Loving Your Tax Deduction(s)

What a day! It started bright and early when I picked up the Jo-2-Go from Dunn Bros to serve with banana bread and blueberry bread at our 7 am Coffee Chat.

Designed with dads in mind, the workshop objective was to affirm them and reiterate the importance and influence of their presence in the lives of their most valuable tax deductions, their children
I was so proud of Krystle for her planning and prep; 
here are adaptations of some of the slides that she shared.
Simply click them to go to their source.

Our Assistant Principal, Lee Whitlock, helped out with some real talk, dad-to-dad. Some points he made include: We have the privilege to influence our children for a little while, sometimes subtly, intentionally or unintentionally, for the positive or for the negative. We do this by how we speak, how we spend our money, how we respond to our spouse, the respect we show for authority, how we treat others. Our underlings are always watching; the smallest deed never goes unnoticed. Research indicates that parental behavior rather than their attitudes or words was the biggest contributor to their children's actions. Children whose parents smoke, for example, are twice as likely to smoke. Therefore, there is a strong chance that our children will grow up to do what we do. We must be the parents that we want our children to be. Every day. Now that's an important investment that'll pay huge dividends, don't you think?

He then shared his family's cell-phone contract. 
Click {here} for a copy as well as for our workshop handout.

We launched with this fun Dad's Life clip.

What's your most promising parenting practice?


The Best

Today I'm excited because my friend was just awarded Montana's School Counselor of the Year. You may remember her from several guests posts she's written, most notably the ever-popular Empathy in a (Shoe) BoxHer name is Tanya Kirschman and I feel blessed by her friendship even though we've yet to meet in person.

When I was injured in a car collision last year, she sent a sweet note and some treats to cheer me. At holiday-time, she sent a JOY statuette. And last week, she sent me a book, 
just because.

And it's not just because she sends me stuff.
Over the years I've received notes of affirmation, just because.
She prays for me and her emails are always Day Makers.
Along with the book came a note, that she thought I'd like this book, 
and if I already have a copy, to please share it with my intern.
Isn't that the best?

It's a vibrant book with an important message:
We don't have to be the best, just be our best.
The best that we can be.
Dog stays busy bragging about being the best,
but my students were quick to notice that
he wasn't comparing apples to apples, so to speak.
When the tables are turned and his friends point out the
skills that they're better at, Dog realizes the error 
of his ways and apologizes. But is Dog done boasting for good?

Lots of food for thought in this little nugget;
I think you'll agree it's a delightful treasure.

Please join me in congratulating Tanya
on this outstanding achievement. What a thrill it was
for me to be contacted by a friend of hers and be in on 
the surprise nomination by writing a letter on behalf of my compassionate and caring counseling colleague.

Tanya, I'm so proud of you.
Keep up the heart work!


Gardening With Grace

 I have seriously been waiting for this sight for years and years.
My small iris patch in full bloom.

You see, irises grew handily in Wisconsin {or at least I'm pretty sure they did!}, but not so much in my back yard in Texas. We've got gumbo for soil and super hot sub-tropical temps, both of which I'm told bulbs don't care for, so I've had minimal success since I planted this experiment. Like one, two, maybe three flowers per season. Until now.

Sometimes life is like that, and we get a bumper crop.
Maybe it's your dream class.
Maybe it's a bonus or other recognition at work.
Maybe it's an answer to a long-standing prayer request.

And, unfortunately, this too must pass.
See the bloom in the center bottom? 
It's already shriveled up and died this morning. 
The brown foliage around it had already done its job and moved on.
 And soon even the buds will be just a memory.

My point? Life goes on and we must go with it.
We can either enjoy the blooms or worry about how quickly they'll be gone. Every day we get to choose.

And is there a classroom connection here? you might be asking.
Why yes, there is. 
I was blessed on Thursday with an invitation to sit in on a strategic planning committee meeting at a school down the road that's planting character seeds to bloom out their garden.
Amber, a second grade teacher with a green thumb, shared a wonderful strategy that she uses to fertilize morning meeting. 
Using a rose-bush metaphor, she carves out time every day to ask her kids to share a bud, a bloom, or a thorn in their lives. 
The bud is something coming up they're eagerly awaiting.
The bloom is something that just happened or is happening right now that they're excited about.
The thorn is a challenge that's got them worried, something they could use help with so it doesn't negatively impact them.
How great is that?

Not only do her students have permission to get real with one another, but they're encouraged to feel and to share. And she gets the benefit of drawing patterns as she gets to know her little learners more personally. Who are the children who always share thorns? What might they need from her? From each other? 
That's what I call gardening with grace.

And that's why I love the outreach part of my job.
I get to watch character educators
plant seeds, 
nurture growth,
cultivate and harvest.
It's all there, right before my eyes.
And it's a bountiful experience.

What's growing in your garden today?


Climate Changers 5

I'm not exactly sure how it happened or specifically when, but somewhere around the springtime of 2008, I began asking a friend from church, Mr. Phil, to come to my small group classes with his best friend Sadie. She's a Keeshond and works in schools as a trained reading dog and in hospitals or rehab centers as a therapy dog for patients who are convalescing.
Just look at that heartwarming, healing smile.

Sadie visited Feelings Class yesterday with her human, Mr. Phil, and once again she stole the show. He shared with the kids how she likes to play Tag but how she's never it. They had a fun time figuring that one out! I paid particular attention to the changes in the children when they'd first catch sight of her and then as they approached her. 
Their eyes light up, 
their voices get velvety, 
and their demeanor softens.

And then, it occurred to me: 
Sadie is a Climate Changer!

Her driver, and "bestest friend in the whole wide world" is Phil Johnson. When he brings Sadie to our school it's one of the biggest win-win situations we create. This fluffy little spark plug is so happy, so gentle, so caring with our children. And they lose themselves for a little while in her two layers of fluffy fur as they stroke her back and baby talk with her.

For five years, this dynamic duo only came once a semester, but this year, when our Quest teacher saw the potential therapeutic benefit of having Sadie on campus more often, she invited them to come by weekly. Together they help with literacy by listening to struggling readers, comfort friends who have lost a parent, and calm the apprehensions of our littlest learners who are afraid of pets or still just learning about animal care in general.

Sadie simply listens and loves. 
And it's a beautiful thing.

It's just like in this Margery Cuyler book when the reading dog
melts all of Jessica's worries away.

Only better, because she's our Sadie. And he's our Mr. Phil.
Thank you both for being Climate Changers in our Corner!


PPBF: Tiger-Tiger, Is It True?

Today I'm excited to share my thoughts at the Character Educator about 

I'm also super eager for tonight, our school FUNdraiser
BBQ, Bands & Bids. I'm donating a Superhero Storytime package that includes my new book (due out this June!), a hand-sewn character cape, a copy of Super Hair-O and a milk & cookies home visit from the counselor, perfect for a birthday party surprise! {4/12 update: it sold for $300.00!}

Finally, today's PPBF has me roarin' with enthusiasm, too, 
because it's an educator's and/or parents' self-help dream!

Title: Tiger-Tiger, Is It True? Four questions to make you smile again
Authors: Byron Katie and Hans Wilhelm
Illustrator: Hans Wilhelm
Publisher: Hay House
Date: November 15, 2009
Suitable for ages: PreK and up
Themes: attitude, self-help, peace of mind
Brief Synopsis: When little Tiger-Tiger's morning starts out less-than-desirable, he determines that it's going to be "one of those days." Will his prediction become a self-fulfilling prophesy? Or will his encounter with Turtle help him turn those thoughts of doubt and despair upside down?
Opening pages: One morning, Tiger-Tiger got out of bed on the wrong side. "Drat!" he said. "It's going to be one of those days." And he was right.

Resources: Click {here} to hear a reading of Tiger-Tiger.
Read a review at Joyful Parents blog {here}.
Find engaging activity ideas at TouchstoneZ blog {here}.

Why I like this book: Based on Byron Katie's Work, this little treasure gets to the meat and potatoes behind our behavior ... our thoughts and feelings. And reminiscent of the work of renowned psychotherapist Albert Ellis, the wise turtle's help leads Tiger-Tiger to discover that it's not things that cause problems for him, but rather his thoughts about those things. Turn that thinking around with his four questions, he posits, and the problems seem to magically disappear 
right before his eyes. 

Ah, the power of transformational thinking!  

So I like Tiger-Tiger, Is It True? because it targets stinkin' thinkin' and can help children discern between what's true and untrue, what's likely and unlikely, what they can control and what they cannot. Ask them to write about an illustrate something that they'd consider stinkin' thinkin' in their lives. They may also want to practice some positive reframes by applying the four questions to these situations. 

Older children will enjoy chewing on this comparison: 
How are the book and this poster similar? Different?

I see potential in using turnarounds with those clients (there is an adult version of this gem!) in my school who tend to have a gloom and doom or the sky is falling mindset. I especially like the last question and have used a variation of it for years in my counseling: 
What would life be like without this problem?

Check out this and other PPBFs at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog today.

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