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.


When Life Gets Dicey

Today I'm excited because yesterday I saw the most beautiful light in this child's eyes. Meet Bella, one of my fifth-grade girls. I can't remember if I shared her story yet or not, but we snapped this picture in our Clothing Exchange, shortly after Hurricane Harvey took everything but her clothes away. She wanted to donate these beautiful items, some that still had price tags on them, because the flood made her realize that she didn't need so much stuff. She said she knew that there would be someone who did lose their clothes and needs it more than she did. 
And she was right.

Just to give you a frame of reference, this is Bella's house during

Please don't misunderstand; Bella smiles every day. In fact, she's one of the sweetest children I know. In kindergarten and first, she used to draw me these beautiful pictures and write me these heartwarming love notes. It was clear early on that Bella has a heart bigger than the flood that would one day destroy her living quarters. {I'm pretty sure she gets it from her mom!}

So why was Bella's smile extra big yesterday?
Because today is move-in day, to their new house.
She was simply giddy with joy as she told me the good news and added that the move would be pretty easy, too, since all they have to move is their clothes.

Can you imagine?

Life has been really dicey for Bella and her family and their neighbors. But she has managed to find a silver lining along with a way to hang on to her joy and to 
be the rainbow in someone else's storm.

Bella, your school counselor is so proud of you
and grateful for the impact your kindness footprint is making.
We're so happy that you'll be home for the holidays!

Speaking of dicey, have you heard the great news?
Our friends Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor
have published the Dice Edition of Great Group Games 
just in time for your holiday gift-giving.

Click the image to purchase it on Amazon.
I've already read through it and earmarked the games
that I want to try with my superheroes:

My favorite part has to be that all of the games include a Going Deeper section to help sustain the activities and make them more meaningful.

 And since we all know that play heals,
this will be a great resource to keep next to that
favorite pair of dice for when life gets dicey
and you need a play break.

Click image to download and share with family and friends.

Who's ready to roll? 


Generously Inspired

Happy Giving Tuesday; whom did you help today?

This year, we supported Kids For Peace and the Londonderry School. Both of these places make our world better and I'm all in favor of a kinder, more peaceful world. I am especially excited because Bill and Melinda Gates were matching Facebook donations, so a little became more. So generously inspirational.

Speaking of inspiration, today's find features this journal that Courtney, the mom of one of my students, made for her daughter Madison's 10th birthday last spring. 

Using a lined blank journal, Courtney filled the left-side pages
with uplifting precepts.

Some are scripture verses from the Bible.

Others are words from Madison's family, her friends, her school counselor. 

Still others, adages from famous poets, leaders, and authors.

Some of the pages hold words that are wisely profound ... 

and others hold thoughts that are profoundly wise.

All of the pages are beautifully hand-lettered from the heart of a doting mother to her precious child, with room on the right-hand side for her daughter's reflective responses. Here's what Courtney told me about this special birthday present: 

It was such a joy to make with each little detail that I put into it. It took a while, but so worth every second! She picks it up and looks at it often.

They call it a Words of Encouragement journal.
Wouldn't you love to have one of these from your mom?
Or maybe you're a mom thinking you'd like to make one?
Thank you, Courtney, for sharing your artistic creation with us. 

Next, check out the priority mail that came in today's Giving Tuesday delivery
 from a faraway friend at Curious City

It's the newest Stacy McAnulty book.
Besides the brilliant illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, one of its best features is its economy of words, leaving lots of room for interpretation, discussion, enrichment and extension.

This book just begs its reader to get into costume, 
so go ahead; put on that red cape, just for fun.
{You know you want to.}
Ask your learners what the letter C inside the shield could stand for:
Or maybe yours has an S on it, that represents:

Then read this selection aloud with your courageous superheroes before asking what they think it means to be brave.
How might our world be better with a little more courage?
What would it take to make that happen?

Compare and contrast Brave with Beautiful
Stacy and Joanne's 2016 collaboration.

Click image for more information.
I bought a copy of this girl-power beauty last holiday season and gave it to the counselor next door as she's the mom of four young girls. I secretly wished it had been around when my daughter was small. Check out a Kid Lit review {here} and listen to a reading of it {here}.

Kudos to this dynamic duo for these two powerhouse titles. 
Thank you, Kirsten, for sending them my way.

I am inspired.


Living Gratitude

Today I'm grateful, just filled with so much gratitude.
I want to write it all down, 
all of my thankful things,
so that I'll always remember ...  
but where do I even begin?

I'm grateful for my God, my family and my friends.
I'm grateful for health and hope.
I'm grateful for a job and for joy.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to share strategies
through assignment writing for Free Spirit.
Check out this post on processing anger using mindfulness strategies by clicking the image. 

I'm grateful to be a school counselor, for every chance I get to show a kindness, 
to be the umbrella in someone's storm.

I'm grateful for this shirt from the PALs, not so much because I needed another shirt, but because it was kind of them to share with me. 
I'm grateful for the thoughtfulness of others.

I'm thankful that these counselors from our neighboring district
would not only carve out time for a morning Counselor Chat yesterday, but also let me treat. Don't get me wrong; they didn't want to. Each one of them said, "Oh, that's sweet, but I can get it." I know that we can all buy our own, but it feels good to show my gratitude by treating them. I'm so grateful to belong with them.

I'm grateful for an eye doctor with perseverance.
My eyes are tricky.
Like really, really hard. 
But this persistent young man is working
really, really hard to figure them out.

I'm grateful for cyberspace connections. I've never even met author Maria Dismondy in person, but I feel like we're forever friends. Maria featured our Thanksgiving Trek story on her blog a few summers ago, and we chatted about empathy on an interview last February. Click the image below to listen in.

Most notably, when my publisher and distributor both closed their doors, Maria came to the rescue and shipped all of my extra books (24 cases) from Michigan to Texas with love. Can you see why I feel so grateful for a friend like Maria? When Joshua went off to college and we became empty nesters, it was Maria who wrote me a note, just to connect and comfort me. And then look at what came in the mail from MI today; you might recognize the characters on these notecards from some of her wonderful storybooks.

Watch for Maria's newest treasure, The Fruit Salad Friend, in April.

I'm also grateful for my Bales school family.
I'm grateful for my cat and my car.
I'm grateful for food, clothing, and shelter.

I'm grateful to be able to read.
And for the passionate people who are willing to write, like Sara from Compassion ItDid you see her post about 25 ways to practice gratitude?
Are you a writer? Videographer? Photographer?
You might want to enter the Kind Bars #moreKIND contest
to try to win $10,000 for your favorite charity.
They want to know what the difference between nice and kind is.

I'm grateful for phone calls and texts and emails,
for people who reach out to share 
their heartbeats,
their hurdles, 
their hopes.

I'm grateful for music.
For singing and dancing. 
Every day.
Click {here} for a gratitude playlist and turn it up.
What song would you add to that list?

I'm grateful for time to rest, 
for relaxation, restoration,
rejuvenation, refreshment, and revitalization.

And that's only the beginning
of what living gratitude looks like to me.
Writing it down to name and claim it is important, but going out there and making it a verb? That is what gives it wings.

May you be blessed as you bless.
Never underestimate the extent of your reach,
the strength of your smile,
and the power you possess to generate love and light.

Happy Thanks and Giving, dear reader and friend.
I am grateful for you, too.