Heartwarming Happiness

Today I'm excited because I'm on my way to Washington D.C. 
for the 21st annual Forum on Character Education. Yay!
Many of you know that I've been working on my 
Kindness Keynote to kick off the event. I am honored and humbled.
My Godparents and my sister will be meeting me there,
as will a few cyberspace counselors and some friends from Forums passed,
so I do believe I am in for a treat this Halloween!

 A few things to share before I unplug.
First, a student-created poster that caught my eye:

MARVEL-us. Don't you love that?
I think the idea of using character as a shield has a lot of discussion potential. What character trait offers you the most protection?
It is the perfect poster to set us up for our superhero-themed Wednesday. 
Here now, collage from that Hometown Heroes pep rally:

Hometown Heroes WOWed Westwood-Bales!
They signed autographs.
They played instruments.
They cheered and danced.
They gave hugs and high fives.
They launched us into greatness with spirit bridges.
Such a beautiful way to start the day.

The leaders who took the mic talked with us about good choices because what you put in your head and heart will come out. Wisdom laced with 
heartwarming happiness.

In Mrs. Huckabee's class, the character cam caught
our little superheroes and sidekicks writing Red Ribbon messages
 in their daily journals.

More happiness!

Then still more happiness because over at The Middle School Counselor blog, Carol has posted a super review (thank you, Carol) and is offering a chance to win a signed copy of my book, so go there next to sign up.

And then at some point today, parenting expert Annie Fox is going to post a Family Confidential podcast that I think might interest you {here}.

So I'm leaving on a jet plane for a few days; 
I'll be back in November with a focus on gratitude and grace.


Hometown Hero Love

Tuesday found us kicking up our heels and stomping out drugs,
in boots, cowboy gear, and adorable apparel, like this:

It also found me counseling with a young perfectionist,
who hates to lose more than anything. So we played a game with our spring-loaded party poppers, a must-have for every counseling office.

After I missed a couple of time, I started negative self-talk:
I can't do this. I'm no good at this. I quit.
And roles switched. This little learner found himself in a situation
where he could encourage and uplift, 'cause it was I who was missing and not him. He told me not to give up, to just keep trying. He told me, "it's just a game." And he told me I could do it. So I said, "Wait a minute. You mean it doesn't matter if I win? I need to just keep trying?" and I asked him if he could show me how that looks using his hands. {We do a lot of hand signs!}

He said getting mad and frustrated looked like a fist, and when you keep on trying it looks like your hand opening up. Mindset? Yep!

Turns out once your hand goes closed, you've substantially given yourself a handicap. You can't grip the basket, you can't clap for successes, and you can't high five. This little superhero told me in no uncertain terms that all of that equals: 
No fun! 

But when you keep your hand mind opened, your chances of success {and fun!} are so much greater. Then he suggested an alternate way that I could win (turn the basket upside down and trap it) until I mastered the real way to win the game. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job?

And speaking of love, today we're hosting our FHS Hometown Heroes, who'll be leading our character pep rally. We'll be dressed in superhero Ts and capes, and the character cam is sure to be busily capturing it all. It truly is one of our favorite mornings of the school year because our role models visit and launch us into greatness by sharing their thoughts and their talents with us. We expect a full house with members of the Band, the Cheerleaders, the Wranglerette Dance Team, the PALs, StuCo, The Academic Decathlon Team, and athletes representing the various sports. I can't wait!

Yesterday we heard from Sarah Crist, a counseling colleague in North Carolina, about their school-wide superheroes theme using What's Under Your Cape?.

Doesn't her signature smile just warm your heart?

 Click {here} to learn more about their crusade and see what they're up to at Olde Providence Elementary.

To continue our Red Ribbon Extravaganza, 
tomorrow we'll be hard to find in our camo . . .

and I'll really be hard to find here, 
because I'll be on my way to DC for the National Forum.

Such a fun week of happiness and healthy choices.


Life & Lemons

Today I'm sending out birthday wishes to my mom.
And to Sally's son Nathan, who likely misses her more than ever on days like today. And I'm thinking about Christopher, a young man who lost his mom a dozen years ago, when he was in first grade. 

This lemon tree that we planted in her memory is thriving, as is he. He visited our campus yesterday because he's a teenage mentor in the Peer Assistance Leadership (PAL) program.

When I pointed out to him how fruit-filled his mom's tree is,
I held back tears as I watched him pick two of the lemons.
This young man hasn't had it easy, but he's an example of
resilience and grit. He lives life like his mom did,
with unbridled verve and a big smile on his face.
Seeing him yesterday got me to thinking about this quote:

Simply by looking at Chris, you can't possibly see or feel
the pain that he has endured. The grief. The loss. The loneliness.
But instead of letting it paralyze him or shut him down,
he's using his challenges to help other children,
to nurture their happiness and give them hope. 
Life gave him lemons, and he's making lemonade.

Everyone is facing something.
Wouldn't it make sense to just treat each other
as if ... just in case ... 
with kindness and care?

Birthday blessings, Mom. May you have many, many more.


Happy Red Ribbon Week

October is coming to a close, but our month of celebrations 
is still going strong as we focus on healthy choices.

Today we said LEI Off Drugs and wore Hawaiian shirts and leis. 
Student Council leaders made these visual reminders for us.

Tomorrow we're Givin' Drugs the Boot in our cowboy gear
and on Wednesday, we'll welcome our FHS role models to our mid-week community gathering to spearhead this year's character crusade. Our theme that day is Be A Superhero; Have the POWER to Say NO!

It's one of my favorite annual events when our Hometown Heroes come to lead our pep rally. Each of our superheroes will get one of these cool pencils to put the power in their hands!

Speaking of superheroes, my friend Vivian Kirkfield posted a heartfelt review of my book on her blog {here}. Thank you, Vivian, for your kind reflections.

How will you celebrate Red Ribbon Week 2014?


When Root Bears Fruit

Today I'm looking back and reflecting on our band's progression
from sweltering summer beginnings to yesterday's first-place finish
in Area competition that earned us a spot in the UIL 6A State Marching Contest. 

It's not like we're a stranger to State competition,
but this year is different because our enrollment moved us up.
From 4A to the new 6A.
To compete against the biggest and the best.
We knew we had our work cut out for us, so we laced up our work boots, slipped on our gloves, and went to work in our musical garden. 
Early mornings, late nights, grueling rehearsals.
Because we know that what we plant will grow.
And when roots go deep, abundance eventually abounds.
We weren't sure it would be this year,
because bounty doesn't happen over night.
It requires patience, endurance and hard work.
Toiling to constantly till and fertilize 'til root bears fruit.

So it is with campaigns and crusades,
with practice and performance,
with living and with life.

Every day we're planting.

Sometimes, the seeds are for trees whose shade we may never get to enjoy. 
But it's well worth it.

When properly nourished and nurtured, those magical seeds of connection and character, of laughter, loyalty, and love will continue to prosper and bear healthy, tasty fruit, not just for a season, but for a lifetime. That will be our legacy, our message that will echo with time, long after we're no longer here.

Cape up and crusade on ... the best is yet to come.


Kindness Can Change The World

Another Saturday, another stellar Band performance!

As I reflect on today's show, we are awaiting the finals announcement. Ten of today's 40 bands will advance to finals at 7:30; seven of those will earn a spot in the 6A State Competition.
This is our first year to compete in 6A, so we're on pins and needles. Advance or not, these musicians and dancers have what it takes to succeed - drive, determination, work ethic, responsibility, cooperation - and that makes them winners in the game of life.

Speaking of competitions, I had the honor of reading essays for the TriSigma essay contest. This year's theme - Kindness Can Change The World - piqued my curiosity because of my upcoming keynote.

Today I got this clever thank-you note for serving as a judge.
Click on it to read our top-ten picks; prepare to be inspired by what these college-aged change-agents have to say about being kind.

And speaking of kindness, look what I got yesterday,
from Mrs. Tucker, Kaitlyn's third-grade teacher.
She phoned to ask if I could meet her after school
because she had something that she thought I'd like.
When we met, she explained that it was a Christmas gift for her mother-in-law, who, sadly, passed away before she could use it.

How wonderful is this? A knitting bowl. And more wonderful because, even in her grief, Mrs. Tucker was thinking about others. Now that's kindness ... global warming of the real kind.
Thank you, Mrs. Tucker. I love it!


PPBF: One Gorilla

I had a super night last night as a delivery penguin
for our fundraiser with Papa John's Pizza and our PTO.

It's a toss up whether I had more fun dancing with my deliveries
or carrying our character message out into the community!

This 2nd grader's pizza page perfectly parallels today's PPBF:
A good deed here, a small kindness there
may be all that it takes.

Title: One Gorilla
Author: Joy Dey
Illustrator: Nikki Johnson
Publisher: SWAK (SitWithAKid)
Date: September 30, 2014
Suitable for: K-3rd
Themes: behavior, kindness, self-control
Brief synopsis: The jungle is a wild and crazy, dangerous place to be. Will the Gorilla be the one to change all that?
Opening pages: It's a jungle out there! Prowling, savage, tooth and claw, the jungle crouches and glares.


*Read Heidi's review at Blue Star Visions {here}.
*SWAK book site for free activity download links {here}.
*Make a list of onomatopoeia words.
*Find examples of personification.
*Look for the 21 colored words hidden in the text and have learners find the words in the One Gorilla Word Search.

*Make a list as words are found; note how the words change from negative to positive as the story progresses.
*Have students research synonyms and antonyms for each word.
*Find and re-read this turning-point page:

Discuss what it means to Be The Gorilla.

Why I like this book: I'm usually more about the story line than the illustrations, but I am reeled in, hook, line and sinker by the total package in this one tropical treasure. The eye-catching watercolors that bring to life a mean and hostile jungle complement the text and soften and change with the one decision by one gorilla to be the difference and turn chaos into compassion. 

Every day, we have a choice to be kind or unkind.
So it is in the jungle.
There's taunting and teasing and trouble.
Lots of trouble.
And there laughing at, not with,
in this hard-knocks jungle.
When the gorilla comes along, he gets to choose
whether to leave the upside-down turtle to fend for himself
or befriend him and bring compassion to his community.

Besides the activities suggested above, I could see asking students to draw parallels between what they see in the book's jungle and what they experience in their everyday lives. Maybe they know a leopard, a parrot, an anteater, an ape. Who is the Gorilla in their jungle? Is it easy or hard to be the Gorilla? Ask what it took to soften those harsh, savage behaviors. Encourage them to talk about a kindness that they've shared when things seemed wild and out of control.

Finally, the publisher is SWAK - Sit With A Kid.
When I saw SWAK, I immediately thought it might mean
Sealed With A Kindness.
What creative names could students come up with if they were going to market a product having to do with kindness? Or what slogan or motto would they use to campaign for kindness?

What a wonderful way to wrap up Character Counts! Week.
How will you keep our character message alive
once our week-long celebration comes to a close?

For more PPBF picks, visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.


A Character Gallery Walk

Today, a simple gallery walk through some of the AmAzInG pages that our superheroes created to be glued onto the top of the pizza boxes for our Papa John's Delivery Night tonight. Such a fun way to celebrate character.

I am so proud of and delighted with how these turned out ...
and I can't wait to deliver this message into the community.


Inspiring Greatness

Today I'm excited because our freebie Kindle Edition of the book was downloaded so many times these last two days that we're ranked number 1 at Amazon. 
Talk about your character celebration! 

That made yesterday a lot better, because giving books away gave me something to do while I was at home with the plumber, who was in the attic fixing the leak in the water pipe so the ceiling didn't give way. I'm so very grateful to author, speaker, and parenting expert Bill Corbett for encouraging me to get the book on Kindle, for his help in making that happen, and for his kind crusade to spread the word. Here's what he tweeted last night:

And a cyberspace colleague added these tweet thoughts:

I'm eager to get back to school today to keep our character celebration going and finish up our Papa John's Pizza Box Pages. Just look at this example from a first grader, served up with a smile.

As many of you know, I leave for DC a week from tomorrow to kick off the 21st annual National Forum on Character Education. This year's theme is 
Beyond Accountability - Inspiring Greatness.
Thanks for the many bucket-filling emails and texts wishing me well and affirming my work. I am super eager to celebrate with our friends down the road in Angleton at Southside Elementary, a 2014 NSOC, and reconnect with kindred spirits from all over who inspire greatness.

And speaking of inspiring greatness, check out what some of our
superheroes have to say about empathy, peace, and kindness.
They will carry our message out into the world long after we're gone. 
{Spoiler alert - if you're coming to the Forum, you might want to wait and watch this with the audience on Friday}.

I'm so grateful to Meredith Wise and her students at FHS for filming and editing this character clip for us. 
It truly does take a village ...

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