HOPE Is An Amazing Gift

 It's that time again, time to choose my one little word.
It's a tradition I've enjoyed for six years now,
one that has almost taken on a life of its own,
in which the words seem to choose me instead of vice versa.

In 2012, peace was my one word.

In 2013, gratitude took on a meaning of its own.

In 2014, I focused on seizing intentional joy.

In 2015, I needed harmony.

This past year, the word enough helped me with
sufficiency and contentment.

And now, for 2017, my focus word will be hope.

To have finally selected my #oneword completes a search that began in September, when I traveled to Montana
and made friends with a special third grader named Hope.
Then this Fall, I kept seeing stuff about hope everywhere ... 

Source: whatwillmatter.com
inspirational sayings and influential signs.

On our traditional Thanksgiving trek, I stumbled on {and purchased!} 
this insightful wall decor that sealed the deal.

It encapsulates what endears hope to me
and I'm certain there's a message that has yet to unfold.
I also love that hope is at once a verb and a noun,
that hope offers potential and promise,
and that hope implies trust.

My one word for 2017,
another year that holds so much hope,
another chance to serve,
another blank page to inspire.

365 new days to love.

So as we bid 2016 goodbye, I'm holding tight to hope; 
I can't wait to see what this amazing gift brings.

Happy 2017.


Finding Our YES

This evening as I sit in quiet reflection, I feel at once 
and sort of sad. 

We're back from our trek to my childhood home, where we spent five majestic days enjoying family togetherness. The snowfall on our first full day in the Frozen Tundra frosted everything so beautifully.

One tree prettier than the next. 

As dusk fell ... 

so did the huge flakes of dense, wet snow that we trudged through on foot 
to pick up our Friday night perch at the Corner Cafe.

We woke up to this snow-covered scene the next morning.

That evening, a clear reminder that all is well.

 Silent night. Holy night.

The next day, we layered up and treated ourselves to some Christmas Eve magic at Lambeau Field, the cherry atop our holiday fruit cake. 

Nothing says home for the holidays like a Green Bay Packers win.

Bidding adieu is never easy, but {for some reason} 
this time around it was particularly difficult.
I always joke that I'm good at checking my feelings at the door,
but this visit is indelibly etched on my heart, for sure.

The lights on our Christmas tree will soon burn for the final time and, unless the Packers make the playoffs, the outside lights will come off of the house this weekend, attic-bound. Gifts are neatly packed away, card games at the table are now just a memory, Hallmark Christmas classics have had their final run, and the stores already have Valentine's Day candy hearts for sale on their shelves. Yes, it's safe to say that Christmas 2016 has now come and gone. And you can likely see why my feelings are all jumbled up as I enjoy the reflection in the rearview mirror.

So now it's time to look forward to the new year, 
to another fresh start, another chance to find our YES.

My thoughts for inspiring our National Honor Society inductees next Sunday are percolating. What does it mean, exactly, to find our yes? Just how do we do that? And when we find it, how can we make the most of it for ourselves and for others? I plan to suggest this three-fold head, heart, hands approach: 

Y is for yearn.
     E is for embrace.
S is for share

Yearn to learn. Believe that anything is possible. Pursue your passion.
Embrace the present. Experience it. Feel it. Appreciate it. Make it yours.
Share and show gratitude in all things. Live generously. Love wholeheartedly.

Still simmering; I promise to let you know how it goes.


The Best Things In Life

Today I'm energized at the thought of two glorious weeks off of work, to spend with family and friends. Before I sign off and unplug my device for the holidays, 
I've got a few reflections to share.

First, our picture from church last Sunday.
My husband invited me to play along with the orchestra he's in,
so I dusted off one of Kaitlyn's clarinets and said yes.

It's true what humorist Art Buchwald is credited with saying about the best things in life. I've found that they're really not things at all, but experiences ... 

and loved ones to go along with them ... 
like this outing with the kids in Aggieland to enjoy Jacob's Jazz Band as he performs a trumpet solo in his last Christmas concert. So many lasts.

Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye ... and then someone who understands sends you a copy of Todd Parr's new book, priority mail, to help comfort you. 

Sometimes the best thing is a word picked especially for you and inscribed on a Giving Key by someone you adore

The idea is to wear it for a while, then give it away to someone else, 
someone who inspires me or who might need some inspiration.
I'll be honest; that's not going to be an easy thing to do.

Sometimes it's a kindness that someone special picks up for you 
because they think it has your name written all over it.

The tag attached reads: A good deed can go a long way. Our tokens acknowledge that we must freely give of ourselves by performing 'random acts of kindness' without expecting anything in return. Why not do something nice for someone today? Pass along the Pay It Forward token and hope that they too will do something good for someone else.

These may be a bit easier to share.

Sometimes the best thing is a tradition; look who just came by with a sweet treat on his annual Friendswood Fire Truck trek through our neighborhoods.

Seriously, I think I got every bit as more excited than the boys!

Sometimes it's an opportunity. I'm so grateful to Free Spirit Press for the chance to write for their readers. Click the graphic below for my most recent post.

I've been so blessed recently with speaking invitations.
We worked on boosting self-care routines in as Wellness Workshop that I was blessed to lead last week with some amazing school counselors in Brazosport; on our first day back from break, we'll be discussing growth mindset and grit with two school families in Clear Creek ISD. Then I'll give the address at the FHS National Honor Society induction ceremony January 8th before heading back to CCISD to speak with some parents at a PTA meeting on the 10th. So many fun opportunities for me to plant seeds and watch them take root and grow.

So today I'm wondering: Wouldn't it be the best thing 
if every moment of every day could be like Christmas?

Just for fun, I put this message on my new Light Box mini-marqueeI'm super excited about using this gift to motivate and make people think.

So that's a wrap, except to remind you, dear reader, that every day is a gift; don't forget to unwrap the present. Savor every second as if it were your last and appreciate the best things in life as we celebrate the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas. 


Caring Is Always In Season

Today I'm excited because we're celebrating caring at school
And not just this time of month, but all year long, 
because caring is always in season.

On Friday, we hosted our inaugural Character Pep Rally.
Prior to the event, we interviewed some of our superheroes 
to see what they had to say about caring, 
how they feel about it, 
and how they put it into action.

At the pep rally, we shared those reflections with our school family on the big screen before recognizing a few Caring Ambassador nominees, those students who live life thinking with their hearts, with a Backpack Tag. Teachers personalized the tags by writing why they chose that student for this distinction on the back.

Our character cam caught this precious moment when my friend Grant got his tag. This week was really special for him, because his story was featured in the Galveston County News after he wrote this complimentary note of friendship and care to author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.

I tweeted Grant's compliment and question to Mr. Reynolds and here's his kind and very personal reply which, as you can imagine, made Grant's day.

Kindness is like that, it ripples out.

Photo courtesy of FISD
And, like a boomerang, it {almost} always comes back.

After Grant shared the story with his class ... 
you guessed it ... another letter came my way ... from one of his classmates ... with a request to please send it to her favorite violinist Lindsey Stirling. 
So I did. Then I tweeted out that beautiful drawing along with a link to Lindsey's subway performance of Hallelujah.

Grant told me that he has decided that December 18th ought to be designated as Write To Your Hero Day. Isn't that a fun idea? 

Peter H. Reynolds thinks so!

Great things are happening at Bales Intermediate. 
On our way out the door on Friday, 
one of my fourth graders had this to say:

I think that today's Pep Rally will make more kids
want to do kind things, don't you Mrs. Gruener? 

We can only hope, my friend; we can only hope. 


Get Up

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Bales;
just look at this beautiful display in our library collaboratory!

Totally made by kids.
And what would the season of kindness be without a winter superheroes board, southern style? Here's my new creation for our Great Kindness Challenge.

Today I saw this growth mindset masterpiece on a visit to Ross Elementary just down the road. Don't you love how the black and white changes to a colorful burst of brain power as the fixed mindset changes to a growth mindset?

The reason for today's visit to Ross centered around this man,
our favorite ventriloquist Dennis Lee,
and his miraculous story of 
resilience and recovery,
of healing and hope,
of gratitude and generosity.

When my friend Jenn switched schools this year, I naturally assumed that she would bring Dennis' show to her new school family. He is, after all, our favorite performer because of his powerful, passionate character campaign. When she told me that the budget didn't support the cost of his show and that her Roadrunners weren't going to be seeing his show, I felt a tug to ask Dennis when he came to us in October if he'd be willing to work with me to bring his show to them. As it turned out, I missed Dennis' show this year so I texted him asking if I could hire him to do his Lite As A Feather show for Ross. He wrote me back almost immediately and told me to make it happen, that he'd like to do his show for them ... at no charge {to them or me}.

Dennis Lee is a gift. Not because he's a wildly talented and hilariously engaging ventriloquist {although that's totally true and he's oh, so fun to watch on stage}, but because he's a wildly generous and incredibly compassionate friend to everyone who is lucky enough to cross his path. Dennis Lee walks the talk, now more than ever after surviving a life-threatening collision this past March which makes it painful at best to even walk at all. Today he treated my friend's school family to a beautifully powerful message, to get up even when we don't want to or when we think we can't, to lift people up instead of tearing them down, and to always ask "why not?" instead of "why?" He encouraged those little Roadrunners to unpack the icky stuff that weighs them down and get it out of their wagon. And he let them know that they deserve to be loved because they are a treasure. 

Tears filled my eyes as I watched my friend Dennis cast his magic spell on this school family; what an experience as they giggled, gasped, laughed, clapped, and enjoyed the inspiration that is Dennis Lee. Thank you, Dennis, for your determination to get back up and keep on growing. Clearly God has big plans for you. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your AmAzInG journey.