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.



Grateful and Wonder-FULL

Today I'm grateful because I was invited to host my first webinar on Wednesday, for a group of superhero counselors in Iowa. It was a fun challenge, to prepare and share some strategies for supercharging our character building using this medium. Click the image below to check it out. 

I'm also thankful to be on Thanksgiving break. After taking care of some car maintenance this morning, I treated myself to the movie Wonder.

Click to image for a freebie bookmark download from Presto Plans.
I knew I'd love the movie based on its trailer.
Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and a space-boy named Auggie;
can you say magic formula?
But since I haven't read the novel ... yet ... I had no way to prepare
for the different layers as the onion unpeeled.
{I use the onion metaphor purposefully because of all of the tears.}

I felt great empathy for and fully connected
with the mom's story,
with dad's story, 
with Via's story,
with Miranda's story,
and with Jack's story.
Layer after layer, so much suffering and sadness.
So much loss and loneliness.
So much fear and frustration.
Life can be really hard.

Their conflicts reminded me of what I'm blessed to do every day,
to step into the stories of our students
and to help them process their feelings,
cope with their situations,
and garner up the grit and grace they'll need
to face whatever comes their way.
I get to comfort and to care for them,
to help make life a little less difficult to digest.

Moment by moment,
day by day,
season by season.

And while we haven't ever had a child with Auggie's health challenges,
we do have children like him.
Children who face adversity.
Children whose families struggle.
Children whose lives really challenge them.
They deal with difficulties like 
which result in increased worry, anxiety, and stress.
And that's without a disability or syndrome to manage.
Imagine being taunted on top of that
for things you could do nothing about.
I couldn't catch my breath when Auggie was being teased.
I found myself frustrated, incensed even,
that the school didn't do more to intervene,
that Auggie had to suffer in silence.
And then I felt relieved that despite her own difficulties,
Auggie's sister stepped in to assure him that, no matter what,
they would always be each other's friend.
Because everyone wants to belong to someone.
No one wants to go it alone.

I'm so thankful for the friends who refused to judge Auggie at face value, 
those who looked deeper to see instead the gift his heart held.
And I'm glad that the school finally addressed the bullying behaviors and said out loud that it was not okay, that how we treat each other matters, 
that empathy, compassion and kindness matter.

Do you know which three traits that bully averters have in common? 
Self-regulation, optimism, and hope.
Sounds like Auggie and his friend Summer.
If you're weaving this novel into your curriculum,
author Trudy Lugwig has some awesome suggestions {here}.

Click the image to buy these stickers.

I left the movies this afternoon feeling Wonder-full
because, in the end, kindness came to the rescue.
It won.
Because when we choose kind, 
we'll always be right.

That might be why we're called human kind


Seeds Of Compassion, Kindness & Care

Today I'm excited because one of our teachers made this beauty for me.

It's true, you know, about kindness being contagious.
Look at the homemade cards that came in today's mail,
from Bridget, a school counselor in IN, and her school family.

I joyfully added their school to our kindness map.

Doesn't this just make your heart smile?
We are so grateful for all of these seeds of kindness
and we promise to harvest them all and pay it forward.
Click the image for freebie printables by Shannon.
One of the seeds on our map comes from the author of 
one of my favorite (new-to-me) titles with a fairness theme.

Do you know about Fair Is Fair by Sonny Varela?

Click the image for a You Tube read-aloud.
Fair doesn't always mean equal. This is the picture perfect tale to help our learners understand the difference between equality and equity. In this story, the animals don't understand how it can be that Zookeeper loves them equally if she doesn't feed them equal amounts? 

After trying to figure that out and in an attempt to make it more fair, Hare, Giraffe, and Elephant decide to take matters into their own tummies and equalize their piles of food once Zookeeper leaves. And as you can imagine, Hare and Giraffe can't possibly eat all of the food on their newly-portioned piles and their bellies are full while Elephant is left wanting (and needing) more. Food is getting wasted while Elephant is wasting away. Now that's a problem. But will it help them understand that fair does not always mean equal?

Click the image for more goodness from Sweet Blessings!

Check out this fairly-new book; 
it'll be a fantastic addition to your character collection.

Need some intriguing ideas for enriching this read-aloud?

What is your favorite way to teach this tricky concept?

We are thankful to the Varela family for sharing this treasure with us and for supporting one of our families that was flooded. Life isn't always fair, but it is easier with generous people planting seeds of compassion, kindness and care.


If Picasso Painted A Snowman

Today I'm excited because we have new neighbors, which means I have made a new friend. His name is Asher and he's this feisty little superhero who has totally stolen my heart. Yesterday when he came by, this is how it went:

Asher: Hello. Whatcha doin'?
Me: Picking weeds.
Asher (without giving it much thought): Boring!
Me: What?
Asher: I said Boring!
Me: Have you ever picked weeds before?
Asher: Boring!

I kept on picking weeds and before I knew it, he wanted to know which ones were the weeds. We had a fun little convo about weeds as we filled my bucket together before he announced that he had to go back to his painting. 

As he scurried off, he yelled, See you tomorrow.
I felt like I was in elementary school again.
And I secretly looked forward to this afternoon.

Speaking of painting, here's the second reason I'm excited. On the afternoon of Claude Monet's birthday, this soon-to-be-celebrated masterpiece arrived.

I'm super pleased to introduce you to If Picasso Painted A Snowman 
written by Amy and illustrated by Greg Newbold ...

Click image to read more about it.
... because it is absolutely picture perfect.

In this newcomer, an incredibly adorable little hamster takes us on a gallery walk through the way it imagines that famed artists would paint their snowman. Each one is better and more spot on than the next. I shared this title with our new Art teacher and she instantly fell in love. It gave her the idea to make a list of all of the books that she would recommend to her budding artists.

Click image for a review and check which artist this represents.

I especially like the glossary of sorts in the back of the book with bios of all of the artists that are creating a snowman in the text. On the final page, an invitation for the reader to paint his or her unique interpretation of a snowman.

Check out this precious portrait of a snowman.

It's clever. 
It's creative.
It's intriguing.
It's interesting.
It's enthusiastic.
And it's engaging.

And I predict it'll melt your holiday heart. 


Kindness Is Free; Freedom Is Not

Happy Veterans Day 2017.

I woke up this morning thinking about Ray Joseph.
He was one of my students years ago when I worked at Clear Creek High School; he was away at college when 9/11 happened. Shortly after that attack, Ray Joseph got the "call" to service as he reflected on the plight of the children in Iraq. 
He told his parents he could come home and do college later.

Ray Joseph lost his life fighting in Iraq to keep us safe and free.

So when I was invited to moderate a Twitter chat this morning,
I chose the topics of service and sacrifice, gratitude and grace.
It was a riveting discussion and idea swap; 
click {here} to thumb through the transcript.

On Monday, we'll celebrate World Kindness Day.

It is a day set aside for people to set aside their differences from one another and just be kind. There are so many ways that we can be kind and we know we don't need a special day to lavish people with kindness. It can be as simple as smiling to someone on the street, holding the door opened and greeting someone as they enter the room, or sending a bouquet of flowers to an old friend, just because.

To help you get inspired and spark a brainstorm session about how you can be kind on this World Kindness Day, our friends at FTD have rounded up 30 kindness quotes to encourage you to spread the love.

Look at this beautiful bouquet of insight and wisdom 
they kindly shared with us. 

May we always remember
that kindness is always in style,
it knows no calendar,
and it costs nothing.

Click image for source.
And may we never forget that 
our freedom is not free.

Click image for my post at Prosigndesignco.com about service and gratitude.
When you see a Veteran or a serviceman or woman in uniform,
stop what you're doing and extend your hand,
look them in the eyes, and express your gratitude.
You'll both be glad you did.

Let's make every day Veterans Day.


Sprinkling Sunshine, Mindfully Self-Regulating

 Today I'm feeling grateful because my friend Amy stopped by
to sprinkle sunshine with this thoughtful treat,
an ornament, to help me remember.

You see, Amy's one of my Poolside Peacemakers backup singers,
one of those fabulous five who joined me on stage in DC
to lead the singing of You Are My Sunshine800 voices strong.

Her visit made my heart happy,
not because she came with a present (although I love it!)
but because of her presence.
I thrive on connecting with friends,
on stepping into their stories,
and on sharing mine.
It's what experts are talking about when they say
we are meant to be relational.
Thank you, Amy, for being sunshine.

Speaking of relationships, our work helping learners understand how to make and keep friends, to cultivate healthy relationships 
to manage our feelings effectively 
and to maintain self-control
is super important.
Then along comes a superhero book to help them do just that.

Super George and the Invisible Shield, written by school counselor and children's author Laurie P. Mendoza and illustrated by Texas artist Cheryl Frances, invites us to step into into the story of George, a young superhero whose anger soars when he is teased by his peers. They call him King George, Curious George, even Georgie Porgie. And yelling at them to stop isn't working. In fact, the more he yells, the more he finds himself in trouble. With the help of his grandmother and inspired by Super Knight, a television superhero whose superpower is his invisible shield, George learns how to take his power back while he mindfully self-regulates and comes to his own rescue to protect himself from the frustrating behaviors that bother him. Click {here} for a few freebie downloads.

Check out this super new title, then cape up and enjoy watching your superheroes unleash the power within as they learn how to activate their very own 
invisible shields.

Click the image below to download this free shield template
and encourage students to write a verse about their shield strategy.

Then follow up by sharing this clip with your older learners and lead a discussion about dominant, aggressive behaviors courtesy of this role play with 
Brooks Gibbs.

What are your favorite ways to teach students 
to sprinkle sunshine and to mindfully self-regulate?


Making The Most Of Every Moment

Happy November. 

Today I had one of the best surprises ever, when the call over the radio "Come in Mrs. Gruener." brought me to the front office to find my new friend, Houston, and his sidekick Kelby from Character Strong, here in Friendswood to pay me a visit and see my school.

He brought his ukulele and we had an impromptu jam session.
His visit made an ordinary day extraordinary
and I was left so incredibly happy and grateful.

Then I got this big envelope from WI, filled with fall foliage from my friend Jo that is forever preserved. So thoughtful.

Their kindness has reminded me that 
it's the little things that mean the most. 

Before we head off to Friday Night Lights,
check out these new titles I've recently added to our shelves

to promote, stretch and nurture mindfulness.

In this Gabi Garcia tale, Esperanza finds herself being a good friend and showing kindness to others but forgetting to befriend and be kind to herself. I especially connect with the pages in the back that the author dedicated to self-compassion and self-awareness, so important to readers of all ages.

The beauty of this Susan Verde treasure drew me in from the very moment I saw the cover; page by page I couldn't wait to devour mindful experience that is I Am Peace

I give myself a moment. I take a breath. 
And then I tell myself: It's alright.

Enjoy the guided meditation at the end to put an exclamation point on this gem.

This newcomer by Antoinette Portis is simplicity unleashed.
The young narrator is experiencing life as it comes
and savoring every second as she discovers new favorite things.

This is my favorite breeze.
This is my favorite leaf.
This is my favorite hole ... because it's the one I am digging.

It just begs its readers to get working on a list of their own faves.

This title speaks for itself because it was written
by a group of fifth grade superheroes.
It is chunk full of brain research and mindfulness resources.
Start with a body scan and take it from there.
Check this one out; it'll help you relax and restore.

Henry is a hurricane; can his big sister help him manage
using meditation and mindfulness?
We look, listen, feel, and smell.
Prepare to fall in love with the story of this stormy little lad; the author's notes in the back will help you help kids like him increase compassionate awareness and self-regulation.

Kate DiCamillo's newest offering interests me because it's basically a wordless story with eye-catching illustrations by Jaime Kim.
I'm drawn to books without words because of the challenge they present to our readers. Start with What would you say if you were to write this page? 
So much room for feelings interpretation in these pages;
use this la-la-lovely pick to inspire emotional literacy and hope.

What titles do you use to promote
making the most of every moment?

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