Moving Beyond Trauma

This weekend, we finally rented the movie Sully.

The entire time we were watching it, I kept trying to imagine what it must have been like to be him. Sully. The Captain of that ill-fated flight. A hero to the 155 passengers whose lives he protected when he decided to make that emergency landing on the Hudson River after a birdstrike took out both engines on his aircraft. I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like for him to experience that trauma. To survive. And then to have to defend his decisions to do what he had to do. It was very emotional for me to watch and it made me wonder how he is doing now, some eight and a half years down the road. 

It has also made me think a lot about my own trauma recovery.

For the most part, I navigate my new normal well.
The fact that it has been four years now helps.
Time tends to be a huge healer.
But still there are triggers that send me back to the scene of the collision
 on Sunset where I was hit head-on by that drunk driver.

And when trauma responses happen, it can be overwhelming; when the amygdala in the brain doesn't feel safe, it goes into overdrive. Fears are heightened and anxiety tries to take over. The startle responses can be so intense that I'd just as soon stay home as go anywhere. I start to feel so weak and vulnerable that it'd be very easy to retreat, but it's really important to keep moving onward.
 Life-saving even. 

At times like these, the message on a local marquee rings true:

Looking behind keeps us from moving beyond.

Calling on my therapeutic resources moves me forward.
 I can't afford to get stuck in the past. 
I'm not there on Sunset anymore. 
I have recovered. 
I am safe. 

How can you help someone in trauma recovery?

1. Listen to us. To understand, not to reply or advise.
2. Validate our experience. Say things like, "That must have been really scary." not "You're really lucky it wasn't worse."
3. Call and check on us. I was happy for those calls, even if I didn't feel like a visit right now.
4. Drive us to our appointments. That helped me so much!
5. Bring a meal. It will be a welcomed treat to not have to cook.
6. Pray for (and with) us. That brought me peace, comfort and healing.
7. Be sensitive to the anniversary date. That day can be difficult.
8. Send us an uplifting text or email. Trauma survivors heal from those booster shots of inspiration, joy and love.
9. Offer to walk with us. It's important for us to get outdoors for some Vitamin D periodically. That's easier to do with a friend.
10. Invite us out. Start small; maybe just a jaunt for a cup of coffee or some dessert. Every baby step matters.  
Thank you, Captain Sullenberger, for your courageous example;
I pray that you have moved beyond well.


The Law Of Attraction

Today I'm reflecting on this thought:

I've heard it said a few other ways as well;
no matter how we say it, it rings true.

What we appreciate appreciates.

Consider the day I went for a test drive in that light blue Odyssey.
I'd never seen one that color before.
In fact, I thought it might well be one-of-a-kind.
I was so excited for our unique, pretty find.
Imagine my shock to see three vans that exact same color
on our drive home from the dealership.
Perhaps something like this has happened to you, too.
It's called the Law of Attraction.
And if it works when we're not intentionally looking for it, 
just imagine how much better it could work when we are.

What we focus on, we get more of.

What if we focused on our strengths instead of our weaknesses?
What if we focused on our blessings instead of our burdens?
What if we focused on what we have instead of what we lack?

Energy flows where attention goes.

What if, for example, we focused on the graduates at Notre Dame who did stay for their Commencement speech instead of those who walked out? What difference might that make in how we feel about that event, that college, that school family, and maybe even other college-aged millennials? 

I'm not suggesting we pretend that bad stuff doesn't happen. But if we were to harness the power of positivity to promote what's good in our families, in our schools, in our communities, and in our country, our world could be a better place.

How might a Law of Attraction reframe help you?


Living Our True Colors

Happy Sunday.
Today I'm reflecting on the 2016-2017 school year
as we get ready to send not only our seniors off to college 
but also our fifth graders off to junior high.
Check out their parting gift to our school:

What a treat it was to watch them 
collaborate and cooperate
to bring this True Colors masterpiece to life.

We're so proud of the Class of 2024 and so thankful to artist Diane Fifer and art teacher Nancy Schilhab for helping us revive a tradition that left the building with the sixth graders, who were relocated to junior high seven years ago. It was such a delight to watch each of these rising sixth graders paint their square and leave their mark on our walls. {I even got to paint a piece of the green mane on the respect horse.}

This teamwork project was the perfect complement to our True Colors theme that our Character Committee has worked diligently to integrate and infuse into our everyday habits and routines this year. Our staff now has colorful pillar Ts that we wear each Wednesday to align with the district's core values spotlight.

Every month we recognize students who serve as Ambassador for the values because they put them into motion by walking the talk.

It's super fun to unite as a school family at our end-of-the-month Character Pep Rallies and celebrate character. To showcase responsibility, for example, our students worked together to create a rain storm that would parallel collective responsibility and the magic we can create when we all do our part. 

Hometown Heroes from our HS drum line along with Mighty, our mascot, helped lead our Respect Assembly. After they fired up the crowd, we discussed the Golden Rule pillar using these icons to represent the many facets of respect.

Can you guess how each of them fits?

We're coloring the world with character,
one day at a time,
one idea at a time,
one child at a time
until living our 
True Colors 
becomes who we are,
how we behave, and
how we treat others, 
all the time,
even when nobody's looking.


They Came Back

Today I'm excited because this is how we started our day.

They came back.

Our high school seniors.
The FHS class of 2017.

To walk our halls one last time.
The halls where their school careers began.
This time in their caps and gowns.

To see their teachers, principals and school counselor.
To smell and feel the memories.
To relive the happiness of their childhood days.

It was a treat to see them all again.
Some of them don't look at all the same
and I couldn't pick them out of a lineup if I had to.
Others look exactly the same
only older and taller.

So we put on our college t-shirts,
got out our rally towels,
lined the hallways in anticipation,
put on some graduation music,
and welcomed them back
so that we could launch them into greatness.

We cheered for them.
We celebrated them.
We gave them hugs and high fives.

It felt really good, to have them back at Bales.
Back home.
If only for a few minutes.
I wanted to keep them longer,
to hold on tight and not let go,
but I know we can't.
It wouldn't be any good
for either of us.
It's time for them to spread their wings and fly.

We're so very happy that they came back.
And we're gonna miss them like crazy.

Thank you, Class of 2017; you make us proud. 
We can't wait to see where life takes you.


Character Diplomas

Today I'm feeling melancholy, because it's time to start saying farewell to another group of amazing mentors, our high school PALs. 
And though good-byes can be understandably difficult,
this one was really tough, because these are Joshua's classmates.
This is a class full of Joshua's peers.
They are about to graduate from high school.
And that whole empty nest thing is about to get real.
At least for people like us. 
At least for me.
So I made each PAL a character diploma, suitable for framing,
with some of my reflections and dreams for them.
I rolled the papers up, diploma-style, 
and tied a blue and white bow around each of them.
I delivered it to them in person,
but I knew I'd be too raw to read it aloud right now.
I handed each student their diploma, 
then we took a moment of silence
to read and remember.

I may have heard a few sniffles. {It's possible they were mine.}
I'm also feeling thankful that we've had this opportunity
to teach them to soar, this amazing batch of baby birds.
Beautiful song birds, 
just waiting to be heard;
strong song birds,
so ready to spread their wings and fly.
It's what we want even as we fight with our hearts to let go.

I hope that they'll fondly remember the nest
where they grew up and learned to fly.
I hope they've felt comfortable here 
and that they'll return to refuel, restore, and reflect 
with some regularity.
I hope that they'll be able to apply all of the life lessons
and secrets of survival we've tried to share.
I hope that they will dream big and
give themselves grace when things don't work out.
I hope that they'll love and be loved.
I hope that they always know that they matter,
that they are valued and valuable.
Our most precious resource.
The golden eggs from our nest.
Our future. 
Our hope.
Our heartbeat.

That's what I would have said out loud,
if my heart, like an eggshell, weren't so fragile right now.

I can't wait to see where their flights take them
and I can't wait to hear all about it when they come back home.


PPBF: A Letter To My Teacher

Today I'm grateful because my day started with this beauty from one of our new students that has grabbed my heart. I love the creative way she spelled my name almost as much as her heartfelt sentiments.

One year, I got these books with letters from students
which I keep in my special Smile File. 
Letters from our students are such a blessing,
a treasured gift to be sure.

Click the image for more Teacher Appreciation Week ideas.

Tonight I found this touching PPBF gem on a date night at Barnes & Noble, the perfect complement to these student letters and the perfect way to top off 
Teacher Appreciation Week 2017.

Title: A Letter To My Teacher
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Pictures by: Nancy Carpenter
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Date: April 4, 2017
Suitable for ages: 4-8 (and up!)
Genre: Realistic fiction
Themes: understanding, inspiration, gratitude
Brief synopsis: A girl, now an adult, shares her childhood reflections through a thank-you letter to her second-grade teacher.
Opening pages: Dear Teacher, Whenever I had something to tell you, I tugged on your shirt and whispered in your ear. This time I'm writing a letter.

Read review on Book Page {here}.
Check out the Publishers Weekly review {here}.
Enjoy the Random House review {here}.

Why I like this book: This book is a brilliant way to honor and celebrate teachers present and past while incorporating the lost art of letter writing. Through the technique of sharing vulnerable reflections in an honest, poignant way, this text tugs at heartstrings because we all have that one teacher that made an impact. I love the way that the little girl talks so openly about her experiences in school, the good times along with the bad, punctuating the difference that her teacher made to a little someone who wasn't always very keen on school. 

And as I was reading it, I couldn't help but wish I'd have written it.

Use this treasure as a perfect springboard for a letter-writing activity for your staff. Read it aloud at a faculty meeting and provide note cards so that your teachers could write to a teacher, mentor, or coach who inspired them when they were students in their formative years. Maybe even the one who sparked their passion for learning and growth and encouraged them to become teachers.  

When we did this (thanks for the idea, Jay Billy!), a few of the teachers shared how much they enjoy getting updates from former students, how it fuels their emotional reserves, how it keeps them going and makes them want to be better, a win-win for sure.

Check out this book; I think you'll especially love the full-circle ending. 

Then head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill's blog next to see the other fabulous PPBF picks waiting for you there. 

Happy reading.


The Color Rainbow

As I get ready to head to the teacher-sorority dinner where I'll be speaking on why Mindset Matters, I'm thinking about Teacher Appreciation Week. If you're an educator, I hope you're being pampered and appreciated. This afternoon, we treated our teachers to an ice cream dessert bar and put out blank cards for them to write a thank-you note to a teacher or mentor who inspired them. 

What have you done to thank, honor and celebrate your favorite 
educator, teacher, mentor, coach, or care provider this week?

I'm also still thinking about the cutest thing in church yesterday, from the little girl in front of us. She was trying really hard to visit with her great Grandmother, who was trying equally as hard to keep her quiet. 

Girl: You do know what my favorite color is, don't you Granny?
Granny: {Smiles.}
Girl: I think you do know what my favorite color is.
Granny: {Smiles and nods.}
Girl: I know that you know my favorite color is rainbow.

Well I didn't see that coming; I was actually guessing pink. 
And I'm not sure why that has stuck with me, but it has.
Now rainbow is my new favorite color
because it just makes me happy.

You know what else makes me happy? This! 

I met Texas teacher Julie Woodard on Twitter last week after I complimented her stunning Sketchnote artwork. We tweeted back and forth and she offered to create one for me. Isn't that so kind? If you'd like to commission one, look her up on Twitter {@woodard_julie}. She has a keen sense of humor and is super easy to work with; I know that we'll be laughing like crazy when we actually meet. 

Speaking of laughter, if you're already in summertime planning mode, check out the ideas in this guest post I wrote for Free Spirit.

Click image to go to the post.
Being home for the summer with kids or grandkids doesn't have to break the bank. What do (or did) you like to do on a budget during summer break?

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