Grieving The Goodbye With Grace

As midnight approaches and I get ready to say goodbye to May,
as we get ready to say goodbye to another school year this week,
and as I prepare to say goodbye to an office I moved in to back when we used dial-up to connect to the Internet, my thoughts turn to one of my favorite 
childhood characters, Winnie The Pooh.

It's been a month.
And what a month it has been.
A month since they told me I was being transferred.
A month of heartbreak and heartache.
A month of grieving the goodbye. 
Hard stuff.
So hard that some days it hurt to breathe.
Some days I felt sick to my stomach.
Some days I couldn't stop crying.

And I couldn't exactly figure out why.
That's important, you know, getting to the why.
Because once we know the why, we can get to the how.

It was this Thursday, on my mental-health day away from school,
 that something my sister said helped me get to the why. 
It's kind of like a divorce, she said. 
One that you didn't see coming. One that you don't want. And one that you're having trouble accepting. Of course you're grieving.

Amen. Someone gets it. And the pieces fell into place.
I was hurled into a separation I didn't ask for and don't want.
No wonder it hurts so bad. Yes, it makes sense to me now.
I understand why I haven't been myself.
It's not that I don't want to follow my kids next door,
or nurture the seeds I've planted, or experience them in the next age and stage. 
It's that I was blindsided by an unwanted break. 
One that shocked me.
And one that hurt. 
To the core.

I wish I could say that I've handled it with grace.
Some days were better than others, but this month,
this month has been really challenging.
Difficult at best.
A real character builder.
An emotional roller coaster. 
I've been sad and mad. 
And I've wanted to take my wounded pride and run away.
As fast and as far as I could.

The good news is that, day by day, I'm tenderizing
and that pride is turning toward grace. And gratitude.
I'm thankful for a new opportunity, for sure and
I'm ever so grateful to readers, family and friends
who've checked in on me and normalized my feelings.
Just yesterday, Sue (whom I look forward to meeting in real life one day) sent an email to make sure I was okay.
She validated the notion that counselors need a job that fits. 
And she said she was crying with me. 
There's that glorious virtue of empathy. 
I value that in a friend.
And it helped me move toward the how.

So tomorrow when I wake up, I'll be a year older.
And a lot of tears wiser.
It'll be a new month and another chance
to grieve the goodbye with grace.
And to move forward.

I'm lucky and abundantly blessed to have worked since dial-up in a school, 
where I've felt rooted while rooting for kids, 
where I've felt joy basking in the climate of caring, 
where I've always felt at home. 

We're starting the mural on the wall in my Counseling Cove in the morning, a nice first step into my new story.
Good grief; is that a twinge of excitement I'm feeling?
Grace ... it's a beautiful thing.


Nailing Those Teachable Moments

I've been a little lost lately, but I found myself on a walk through the neighborhood this morning, when I saw a rusty nail at the entrance to a drive. Without hesitation, I bent down, picked it up, and headed toward the house to where three boys in their formative years were shooting baskets. I told them that I'd found this nail on their drive, then asked if they'd throw it away for me so that it wouldn't puncture a tire. 

One of the boys came toward me, took the nail, 
and said thank you. 
My Dad always told me to watch out for nails
I told him as I continued on my way. 
And, thinking about that interaction, the boy's manners, the seed I may have just planted, I found a new spring in my step.

It reminded me of this Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ballad.
And reinforced the importance of seizing those teachable moments.

Finally, some reflections I shared with this year's PALs:

Dear PALs,

I’ve been praying for you and want to share a few points to ponder as you get ready to graduate and start a new chapter of your book. Let’s begin with the end in mind: Think about what you want people to say about you when you’re gone and spend your life doing exactly that. Make those things a part of your daily routine. Be intentional; maybe it’ll be something simple like “She/He always smiled at us!” How we treat each other matters; in the end, it’s all about connections and relationships. 

Empathy is a glorious virtue; try to see life through other people’s eyes and work to walk in their shoes whenever you can. What we focus on, we get more of, so look for the good in people. Sometimes that’ll be easy; other times you won’t think there’s anything that could possibly make you like that person. Keep looking. Mine for those qualities, ‘cause it’ll be worth it. You’ll see. Believe that people are diamonds in the rough, that they just need someone like you help to polish them. Invest the time to listen to their stories and connect.

Start every day with gratitude for another chance to positively influence someone. Celebrate those opportunities. Share, collaborate, and cooperate. Confront issues but carefront people. Be brave and have courageous conversations when necessary. Sometimes you’ll have to agree to disagree. Affirm people, appreciate them, and apologize to right wrongs. Forgive yourself and others, over and over again. That, my friends, will be a gift of peace for everyone. Approach life with passion and enthusiasm. Make things fun! Laughter truly is “the best medicine” and humor can help relieve stress.

Show respect, understanding, compassion and kindness. Extend grace lavishly. Above all, speak positivity, life and love. You’re going to get about sixteen hours a day and it’s up to you to use that time wisely. Please don’t live life overly hurried. Choose your YES moments with discernment and leave lots of time for self-care. Implement what the airlines advise: Put on your own oxygen mask first. Eat healthy foods, get a good night’s sleep, and exercise routinely so that you’re always in good shape and have the physical and emotional stamina to go the distance. 

Dream big, but be willing to take baby steps to get there. Be patient; it’ll pay off. Personal best will take you where you need to go. Show up on time and be prepared. Be fair and compassionate in all of your dealings. Remember that fair doesn’t always mean equal. Do what you can to level the playing field whenever possible. Work hard and show integrity, because doing the right thing must be a non-negotiable. When you don’t know what that is, ask.

Surround yourself with trustworthy people who’ll lift you up and be there to help you when you get stuck. Ask for {and accept} help when you need it. And always give back. Volunteer, serve, donate. You’ll end up bountifully blessed in ways that you can’t even imagine right now. Savor every minute of every day, every moment of every experience. Take good care of yourself so that you can enjoy the journey. More than anything, people will remember how they felt when they were in your presence. Delight in them, for that’s a gift that will bring them joy long after you’re no longer in their orbit.

Cape up … it becomes you!

Mrs. Gruener


PPBF: The Pout-Pout Fish In The Big-Big Dark

Today I'm excited because it was our last Friday of this school year
and I found a fishy PPBF about feelings that'll reel you in,
hook, line, and sinker.

Title: The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark
Author: Deborah Diesen
Illustrator: Dan Hanna
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Date: August 17, 2010
Suitable for: ages 3-6
Themes: feelings of fear, courage, friendship
Brief synopsis: Ms. Clam needs help when her little pearl is lost at sea. Can the Pout-Pout Fish conquer his fear of the dark so that he can keep a promise?
Opening page: 
A doozie of a drowsy
Made Ms. Clam yawn.
Then a big current whooshed
And her pearl was GONE!

Check out this Pinterest page with Pout-Pout Fish resources.
Find Pout-Pout Fish resources and summer activities {here}.
Compare and contrast with other ideas about courage {here}.
Sing along with the Pout-Pout Fish song:

Project-Based Learning: Read the book, research ocean life, then hold an Aquarium Open House. Here's a sneak peek into the sea-life event that Mrs. Martin's Kindergarten learners hosted this afternoon; talk about courageous!

Why I like this book:
Who wouldn't savor this sea-worthy story as we sail in to summer? Cute and clever, this rhyming underwater treat serves up an all-important underlying truth: 
We are bigger than the dark.
Mr. Fish knows his strengths, but he's also well-aware of his limitations. And although he wants to help his friend recover what was lost, he realizes that he must first muster up a whole lot of what he doesn't have much of when it comes to the dark: courage!
Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. For Mr. Fish, it's going to come shaped like Miss Shimmer, who works side-by-side with him to keep his promise, face his fears, brave the dark, and recover that pearl. Find out from your little sponges what scares them and let them share their strategies for mastering those 
scared feelings.

Check out this book and the other Pout-Pout Fish titles,
then head to Susanna's blog for today's other picks.


When You're Root Bound

It was bound to happen, 
this natural part of life.
You put down roots, deep deep roots, over time,
and look at what happens.

This schefflera has been in this pot 
for about as long as I've been at my current school.
Minding its own business, doing its job.
Growing taller and going deeper 
with every moment, day, month, year that passes. And now, it's 
root bound.
Check out the way its purple roots are sprawling into the pea gravel.
It has outgrown its home.
It's not like it happened overnight, 
but this morning for the first time I noticed it. 
Have I been too busy to pay attention? 
Maybe I just wasn't ready to see what it needed. 
Or strong enough to do anything about it.

Clearly it's time for a transplant.

It's bound to hurt a little lot, 
when it has to leave the comforts of its blue pot.
But this plant will improve, be better, thrive
in a bigger space with more room to grow.
Makes me think of graduation.
 A bittersweet sea of blue.
Marking a milestone.
An ending.
And a beginning.
At once happy ...  and sad.
My transplant really hit close to home 
at Kindergarten graduation last night.

Look at the adorableness I found in my archives.
I was holding my own, meeting and greeting, 
welcoming our families to this celebration,
basking in the delight of my littles as they'd squeal my name,
 as if they hadn't seen me in forever.
And then, the reminder: 
So, this will be your last Kindergarten graduation.
Time to transplant.
What are you waiting for; let's get growing.
And I couldn't catch my breath.
It felt as though someone with a sharp, sheering shovel was 
digging deep, really deep,
to get me out of that blue clay pot.
But I'm comfortable in here.
Hey, be gentle.
Really comfortable.
I'll do better.
Stop it.
Needless to say, but I will anyway, 
the flood gates opened and I spent the night sobbing.
My poor husband didn't know what to do.
The good news? 
There are therapeutic benefits to crying your eyes out.
It was a big ugly cry, 
'cause I'm gonna miss that small blue pot.
A lot.
So when I woke up with a puffy face and a dull headache, 
I decided to take a mental health day, 
to rest, regroup, and reflect on my new normal.

Am I eager, excited even, to move to the bigger space 
to nurture the seeds we've planted? 
But is my heart breaking a bit 
as I say goodbye to and let go of the familiar? 
No doubt.

So for today, I'm going to join these mindful little leaders 
and Just Breathe.

Well, I may take a walk, a bath, and a nap, too.

What strategies do you use to survive thrive through those transplants
when you find you're root bound?


Happiness & Harmony

Today I'm grateful because I got the sweetest tweet this afternoon, from a counselor in Indiana. Look at her super  silhouette:

And as delighted as I am at her thoughtfulness,
I'm really energized that she is getting ready for next year already.
Isn't that inspirational?
We're not even at the end of this school year yet,
and many of us are exhausted,
tuckered out,
But not Ms. Kozuch.
Or maybe she is.
{She has to be, right?}
But instead of staying in PJs all day and watching the Hallmark Channel (like I did),
she's planning, embracing, doing. For next year.
Forward thinking.
I admire that in a role model. 
It inspires me. 
It makes me happy.

True confessions:
Things have not felt very harmonious in my heart lately;
in fact, it has been chaotic, messy, painful.
But with every tweet, text, email, and call of support,
I feel like I'm turning a corner
and finding myself again.

What I'm learning in the process of change is how much I value 
the loving kindness and care of friends and family near and far,
not only when things are working in concert with ease, 
but also in times of discord and dissonance.

That's when thought, word & deed harmonize for me. 
It's a formula for happiness.
And a chance to feel hopeful again.

Cape up ... a new school year is just around the corner!


Developing Leaders

This morning I woke up with leadership on my mind. When I stumbled on #satchatwc, it moved to my heart. After the chat, I went on a walk and felt it literally going to my feet and filling me with all sorts of plans for the upcoming school year in my new space at my new school, and now I'm really excited about developing leaders.

This weekly Saturday-morning chat, moderated by the motivational and effervescent Shelley Burgess, starts at 9:30 am CST and lasts an hour. I use TweetDeck to follow along and weigh in. On the chance that you've not been a part of a Twitter Chat before, here's how it goes. 

On Twitter, we have 140 characters for our answer.
Today, that wasn't a hard framework to work within,
but sometimes it's tricky and we have to be creatively concise.

Our topic this morning was The Leadership Countdown.
Here are the questions {published with Shelley's permission} and my responses, followed by a few of my favorites.

Empathize, equip, empower, engage with energy & enthusiasm.

That's how I answered. Then I read through all of the other reflections and I truly connected with this heartfelt response from my friend Steph Frosh:

And I love this one, from Art Liberman:

How would you answer that reflection question?

Thank you for being here, friend.

Another favorite answer from Steph: 

Talk about the power of collaboration, moving from me to we!

I know it won't work.

Here's a good one from Shelley: That's how it's always done.
and an illustration of Amos to go with it.

Don't these culture-killer reflections set your mind spinning?

Give kind, get kind. {Kindness is the real global warming, after all}

And one of my faves, this one from Jessica Torres;
Make your words count.

Another winner from Danielle Brown: Share your awesome today.

Be someone's SUPERHERO.

And this one, from Jonathan Kegler {and God}:

And a fan favorite from Beth Houf: Walk the talk! 

Let's grow. 

More wisdom from Steph:

Dave Burgess added these two words: Join Us.

My one little word: Kindness.

Other reflective OLWs I connected with: 
impact, resilience, relationships, transparency,
authenticity, innovation, engagement,
passion, outreach, growth.

Shelley tells me that in just over an hour, there were some 2000 tweets, retweets, favorites, and interactions. Click {here} to read through the archives. 

Now I'm heading to the pool for some reflection of a different kind along with some much-needed Vitamin D.
Before I go to soak up some sunshine, riddle me this:

How are you developing leaders for tomorrow today?
{Oh, and don't worry about your word count.}


PPBF: I Wish You More

As graduation time comes back around, 
I'm super excited about today's PPBF pick.

Title: I Wish You More
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date: March 31, 2015
Suitable for: ages 5-8 (and up!)
Themes: inspiration, motivation, wishes
Brief synopsis: The words on each page in this thoughtful, inspirational gem express a wish of all things good for the reader:

Opening page: I wish you more ups than downs.


See more pages and download Teacher's Guide {here}.
The story behind the story as told by the illustrator {here}.
Read a review at Cool Mom Picks blog {here}.
Check out another review at Sal's Fiction Addiction {here}.

Why I like this book: As you may know, I'm always in the market for a good book, one that will grab me and refuse to let go. So the other night when I was browsing at Barnes & Noble, I was pleasantly surprised to happen on another newbie by the dynamic duo of Rosenthal and Lichtenheld. I read it in the store, but left without a copy for my shelf because I wasn't sure I needed more books right now. I was wrong. As I reflected on my way home, I wished I'd have bought a copy, and the very next morning I went back and bought four. It's that good. 

And not just for this time of year, though it'd be perfect for that special grad. I picked up a copy for myself, copies for two friends who find themselves at a crossroads in their life, and a copy to keep on hand.

I wish you more will than hill ... 
who wouldn't savor hearing that right now?

And how would I use this beauty?

As a gift, I can imagine finding a complementary scripture, inspirational quote or uplifting song to write alongside the wish on each page. 

In the classroom, I can imagine students making a wish page for a class book or individual booklets for parents, teachers, caregivers. 

I imagine students creating a bumper sticker. Here's mine:

I imagine writing wishes on address-label-sized stickers to seal the wrap around the napkin and plastic-wear at a local fast-food place.

I imagine a visual display on which we post students' wishes for one another and for our school family.

And I imagine using this treasure as a Reader's Theater and/or performed for special guests like Grandparents or Veterans.

What do you imagine doing with this precious book of wishes?
Leave your answer in the comments, then head over to 
Susanna's blog for more PPBF titles. 


A Time To Grow

As many of you know, I've been struggling with the news that I'm moving with my rising third graders next year, and that my struggle has nothing to do with where I'm going and everything to do with where I've been.
Because moving toward acceptance takes time. 
Getting my heart to catch up with my head takes time.
And finding grace in the grief of letting go takes time.
But of this I'm sure:

For the first fifteen years of my career, I didn't put down any roots.
In fact, I never stayed anywhere more than four years before
shaking things up a bit,
 changing direction
and moving on to something new.
I worked in Wisconsin for my first year out of college,
then moved to Texas and worked at a junior high for a year.
A job opened up for me at Friendswood High School and I stayed there four years before taking a leave of absence to explore Seattle and check out the possibility of becoming a counselor. {What a great place to do that, I know!}
Then I came back to Texas, got married, and taught for four more years at FHS before heading to a neighboring district for a year as a high school counselor. Then we moved to WI for a year and when we got back to Texas, I worked as a counselor at yet another high school for three more years. 
When I felt the pull to leave secondary education, I went for a year to a middle school and the Westwood position opened up. I had a steep learning curve to climb, but it would be worth it to be back home where my own children were now attending school.

I thrived on change.
Change invigorated me.
Change is good and I was good at it.

But the last fifteen have been different, because I stayed.
I found something that I really connected with, so
I put down roots that go really, really deep. And wide. 

So it's been a while since I've had to change, and let's face it, change is hard. I know. Please don't email or text those words to me right now. I get it. It's most helpful when people validate how hard it must be to let go. Because I'm working on moving toward acceptance, really I am. I know that it's time to get growing, because if we never change and grow, we'll never have anything new to offer.
I asked a group of firsties in the Counselor Cafe today
what they would do if I left Westwood.
First they gasped, then they said they'd be sad.
After hardly any time at all, Megan said,
We'll do the character you taught us.
So for today, I'm planning the renovations for that sound-proof former band hall where next year we'll be mining the treasures that lie within our superhero middle-grade leaders. Now I just have to decide which sounds better, 
Leadership Lane or The Values Vault.
Let's grow!


PPBF: Nobody!

Today I'm delighted to feature this thought-provoking newcomer
from our friends at Free Spirit Publishing.

Title: Nobody!
Author: Erin Frankel
Illustrator: Paula Heaphy
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
Date: April 28, 2015
Suitable for: ages 5 - 9
Realistic Fiction
Themes: conflict, bullying behaviors, problem solving
Brief synopsis: A boy in Thomas' school is behaving in such a way that it makes Thomas feel like a nobody. With the necessary help and support from family, friends, and trust adults, Thomas finds that he can feel like somebody again.
Opening page: I used to like school. But that was before somebody decided to make my life miserable.

{Excerpt from Nobody! by Erin Frankel and illustrated by Paula Heaphy, copyright © 2015. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.}

Visit the Free Spirit page to download the Leader's Guide.
Read a five-star review at Hall Ways.
Watch the Conscious Discipline clip Bullying Road Signs.
Compare and contrast with these titles that also have 
an anti-bullying theme:

Alley Oops by Janice Levy, Band-AidChicken by Becky Hinton, Billy Bully by Ana Galan, BirdChild by Nan Forler, Carla’sSandwich by Debbie Herman, Don’t Laugh at Me by Steven Seskin, Hey Little Ant by Phillip & Hannah Hoose, JungleBullies by Steven Kroll, Juice Box Bully by Maria Dismondy, MySecret Bully by Trudy Ludwig, One by Kathryn Otoshi, Say Something by Peggy Moss, Simon’sHook by Karen Gedig Burnett, Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig, You’reMean, Lily Jean by Frieda Wishinski

Why I like this book: If we don't talk about bullying behaviors or, worse, if we turn a blind eye, then the problem grows and children suffer. Their families suffer. We all suffer. Books like Nobody! help create an awareness of the devastating damage that even just one child's mean thoughts, words and deeds can do to someone's heart, mind and soul. Children deserve to feel safe at school, to like school, to thrive in school, so first and foremost, we must address it.

This 44-page social story is very real.
It approaches a sensitive subject with transparency and grace.
But the text doesn't leave us with a problem;
it offers up plausible solutions like thought-switching.
In the back, there are several pages dedicated to comprehending, processing, analyzing and reflecting. There are also two pages for caregivers to help readers unpack the details and understand the implications.

Use this gem to elevate empathy by stopping on every page to find out what your students would do, using questions like this:

What does Thomas want? How can you tell?
What would you need if you were Thomas?
If you were Patrick or Jay, what would you do differently?
What might it be like to be Kyle, the boy with bullying behaviors?
What would you want/need if you were he?
Have you ever felt like a Nobody?
What did you do?
Have you ever been the child with bullying behaviors?
Who helped you turn those behaviors around?

For more anti-bullying resources, visit
Author Trudy Ludwig's Bullying Basics 
Huffington Post: On Bullying

Thank you, Kid Prez and Soul Pancake, for this reminder:

Check out this book, then go to Susanna's blog
for today's other PPBF picks. 

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