Tagged: Courage

Strong Like Me

strength

I exercise. My doctor told me to. More specifically, he told me to eat less and move more. It’s good advice. So I do.

Anyway, sometimes my kids exercise along with me. In particular, my five-year-old son imitates every move I make during my daily routine. He grabs hold of my resistance band as soon as it leaves my hands, he pumps his arms up and down with a gritty growl and a stiffly crinkled face, almost masking the glowing smile plastered on it (but not quite).

He’s thrilled to do it. He drops down for push-ups and sit-ups. He stretches and runs in place, and he breathes deeply through it all.

Then, he looks up at me with a profound and piercing pride and exclaims, “Look daddy, I’m strong like you!”

Strong like me. Indeed.

The kid will no doubt face his own challenges, and those challenges will test and teach him, however, even with life’s innate guidance along the way, he will continue to look to me as a model of strength (and/or weakness), whether he knows it or not. It’s part of the deal with kids and parents. They observe what we do through critically reflective lenses.

They do the same with all influential adults in their lives. They’ve got eyes on grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. Therefore, it’s equally important that we relentlessly consider what we do through critically reflective lenses as well.

Strong like me.

He’s built how he’s built. He’ll have the capacity to endure his amount of struggle and tolerate his amount ache, but he’s actively seeking to be strong like me.

An awesome responsibility, and one that gives me pause to think about what kind of strong I am, and what kind of strong I’m capable of being.

Am I strong enough to truly learn from mistakes?

Am I strong enough to check and regulate myself emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually through any and all challenges?

Am I strong enough restore myself to a place of focus and calm when I’m not?

Am I strong enough to hold back from crying when it isn’t really that bad?

Am I strong enough not to when it is?

Am I strong enough to hold on?

Am I strong enough to let go?

Am I strong enough to restrain my strength?

Am I strong enough to unleash it?

Am I strong enough to understand the type of strength I would have my children develop if I could simply will it into them?

Am I strong enough to continuously work toward that understanding with every breath and every step along my journey?

I happen to believe that among the greatest strengths we can possess is the strength to persist.

Linus reminds Charlie brown, “It’s the courage to continue that counts,” not only because of a connection to comedic irony within the context of their Peanuts adventures, but also because there’s some important truth to it. At the very least, it’s worth considering.

Parents, educators, leaders, adults of all sorts, what kind of strong are you? What kind of strength are you modeling for the benifit the children you serve?

When I think of my children becoming strong like me I don’t think of them running long distances or lifting heavy weights.

When I think of a strength legacy I prefer to think that my children, and all of the children I serve, will ever-increasingly have the strength to persists through ever-increasing odds, be they physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise, and that something I’ve done, or will have done, will meaningfully impact that strength in them, even if only vaguely.

While I relentlessly fear the real and human possibility that I could fail in that mission, the fear is balanced by an equally relentless internal assurance that I will never give up trying not to.

Strong like me.

I’m continuously learning, growing, and hoping to one day understand exactly what that means for the incredible children I serve, and how I can contribute every bit of myself to the effort of making it so.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on my way with hope, faith, and all the strength I can muster.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

3 Ways To Practice Forgiveness, 2 Reasons To Consider It, & 1 Disclaimer

Near Seems Bigger

Do you ever have moments you’d like to return? Have you ever thought better of an action or a decision and wished you could step back in time? Is there an occasion you can recall in which bringing your best would have been wonderfully effective, but instead you brought something else?

Have you flopped? Have you failed? Have you disappointed yourself? Have you disappointed someone else? Has something like this happened to you? Has it happened repeatedly? If so, congratulations! Not only do these circumstances represent powerful opportunities for learning and growth, but if you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, I can verify with a high degree of certainty that, like me, you’re a human being; a flawed but extraordinary thing to be.

The 3 Ways:

1. Forgive Yourself. Do it. You can thank yourself afterward. Forgiving yourself is a boon for maximizing the learning and growth of which I speak. It’s not always easy. Not for me anyway. Sometimes you’re not forgiven by others, and in those cases it’s especially not easy. But still, do it. Don’t forget. Don’t overlook. Don’t dismiss. Just forgive, and then, reflect with intention. Don’t repeat the same mistakes too many times; a few will do. Be strong in your resolve to make positive progress. Focus on your core values as you reflect. Enlist strength to defeat frustration. Never give up. Try to remember things that are near can seem bigger than things that are far. Down the line you might even wonder why forgiveness was needed in the first place. Still, I would suggest that it might be.

Think about what might happen if you make strides with each opportunity; even tiny strides. Do it. If you don’t like it or see value in it, stop. But I think you will. If you already do it, keep it up, even and especially when it’s most challenging. Give yourself permission to stumble, and if you don’t catch yourself, to fall. All the while, remember that you’re brave, strong, and in every way capable of bringing your best at every turn; dark, light, or otherwise.

2. Forgive Others When They Ask For Forgiveness. Grudges are bad. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone along the way, but don’t waste time obscuring your positive progress with extended negativity. I believe most people are well meaning. Like us, they stumble and they fall. Give the benefit of the doubt, maintain optimism, consider that good intentions abound, suppose that pain could be the root of hurtful behavior and that sadness might be the foundation of insensitivity, and then use those considerations to exercise compassion in the face of frustration. Take an apology as an invitation to support someone in learning and growth. Give them that gift.

3. Forgive Others Before They Ask For Forgiveness. Why wait? If you agree that forgiveness is a positive thing you might consider carrying some with you all the time. A reserve, if you will. Even a bit of “just in case” forgiveness can go a long way. Most people mean you no harm, and those that do are typically seeking to gain power over you. Dissolve that possibility. Don’t be harmed. Be strong. Have resolve. Again, stick to your core.

The 2 Reasons:

1. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For You. When you practice forgiveness in any of the ways listed above you open yourself up to a world of possibilities that tends to be stifled by the opposite. Again, forgiveness and apathy are wildly different things. When you forgive the humanness of any given situation and the human being within it, with the understanding that we learn from bumps on the road, you stand a chance at paving the section of road you just stumbled on. Pave it. You bring your best when you seek do so. You enhance the world when you bring your best.

2. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For Those You Serve. Speaking of enhancing the world, we are all servants. I mostly speak to parents, educators, and organizational leaders because that’s my wheelhouse, as it were. When we offer forgiveness we model forgiveness. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We should be teaching those we serve, especially the children we serve, about the power of forgiveness and we should support them in learning to exercise it themselves. Practicing it might just be the best way. Besides, it feels good to be forgiven. It promotes confidence and suggests value. Confident people who feel valued contribute great things to the world.

The 1 Disclaimer:

1. I Could Be Wrong. It’s a human thing. My thoughts and ideas on this and all other topics of which I think, speak, and write are inexorably tainted by my limited capacity to understand the complexities of this world and inescapably skewed by the experience I’m having within it. In other words, this stuff might work for you and it might not. It’s really just food for further reflective thought.

So, if forgiveness isn’t currently a part of your paradigm and you decide to consider it on the basis of reading this post…and, if doing so isn’t effective for you…please forgive me, or not. I already have.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Thankful Thursday: YET [Your Extension Ticket]

Celebrate Progress

In last week’s Thankful Thursday post (My Personal Paleontologists) I mentioned the power of the word “yet” in learning and growth. This week I decided to isolate the word and shower it with gratitude of its own because I continue to see that power contribute so mightily to my own positive progress and to that of those I serve.

Yesterday I watched my determined five year old spend almost a half hour attempting to leap across a muddy riverbed from one bank to another. He stood looking at the mud, the water, and the tall reeds, saying, “It’s too far…I can’t do it,” followed by the bust of a smile on his face, the exclamation, “Yes I can!” and a backed-up run to the edge where he repeatedly stopped mid-stride, going through the same process over and over until the much anticipated launch.

He performed the “run up and stop” at least two dozen times before launching himself over the edge (albeit hesitantly), catching the toe of one shoe on the opposite bank, and sliding clumsily into the mud. He looked up, and through gelatinous, vibrating, crocodile tears he informed me, “I can’t do it,” and then he sniffled, took a breath, and added, “yet.” My heart smiled. My face smiled. We hugged. A great hug. He asked if we could come back tomorrow and keep trying.

I was so proud. I told him I was. He was curious about why I was proud of something he “couldn’t” do, why I was super excited about something he “didn’t” do, and why I was gushing with genuine enthusiasm over a flop in the mud partway to a goal.

We talked about how he tried something that scared him. We talked about how courageous it was. He talked about how courageous he is. We talked about his resolve to keep working on it in the face of the flop and how that stick-to-itiveness is, and will continue to be more important than any prize he could ever want. We talked about how his growth mindset literally makes the world is a place of limitless possibilities.

We discussed the effort and the mental fortitude he demonstrated. We celebrated what he did do. We agreed that the accomplishment was in the trying and that the key, no matter how many times he falls in the mud, is that he keeps trying.

It was the same when my oldest finally rode his bike without training wheels. He woke up one morning and told me that he would be able to do it by the end of the day. It took a while too.

As kids learning to ride bikes do, he spent several determined hours counting pedal rotations and finding balance until finally it clicked. It clicked, as it does with bike riding, in the exact instant that he realized he could do it. It happened on the foundation that he was employing his “yet” each time, with the courage to continue along the way, safely wrapped in the faith and the knowledge that it would in fact happen.

It’s the same click we feel repeatedly as we courageously break through any of the many barriers and face the multitude of challenges that we do in life. It’s the possession of a “yet” that makes it possible.

Today is great. We should be grateful for each today. But we must understand that it doesn’t all happen today. That said, we must remember and appreciate that only some of it happens today, some of it happens tomorrow, and some of it will happen a long time from now.

In school and at home we must model faith and enthusiasm for the possibilities to and with regard to the children we serve. We must instill in them a sense of pride for the strength they demonstrate when the engage excitedly in the process. We must celebrate their efforts, their courage, and their progress along the path. We must remind them that they each have unlimited extension tickets and that can always access them with courage, even and especially in the face of fear. We must help them understand and believe in the power of “yet.”

Thanks “yet.” I appreciate you and I deeply value the hope and inspiration you bring to my life & to the lives of those I serve.

Happy Thankful Thursday (on this lovely Friday)!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Thankful Thursday: Her

Her

My wife and I have three sons and we love them each. We’ve shared a lot of thinking about the connection that each of these most important people have to our hearts and our souls. For my part, I love them each with matching strength but in distinctive ways. They’re each unique and therefore my relationship with each of them is unique as well.

The big guy is cerebral. We spend lots of time thinking things through. Our second born is curious. We spend lots of time wondering about and exploring stuff. The little guy (who’s actually not little at all) is a love bug. We spend lots of time snuggling.

Then there’s her. I love her too. Big, big love.

Talk about unique. My daughter is three-years-old and as tough as they come. She’s also as sweet as they come. At three she’s already mysterious, complex, dichotomous, and remarkable. She’s everything I can imagine a person being all wrapped up into one little bundle. She’s very little in stature (outweighed by her one-year-old brother) and gigantic in personality. She shocks us regularly with her astonishing sophistication and she frustrates us regularly with her intensely strong will.

A vibrant, happy, and insightful imagination stands on one end of her profoundly defined personality and rock solid character while a refractory and deliberate mischievousness stands on the other; both ends yielding amazing outcomes and both laden with intense and powerful exuberance. A cornucopia of wonder and awe-inspiring individuality swirls, alive and active in between.

She’s playful and she’s stubborn. She’s as kind and loving as is possible but when so moved she’s capable of imparting anguish-inspiring provocation on her unguarded brothers. She’s smart as a whip and silly as a penguin (penguins seem silly to me).

An enigma in many ways, she’s incredibly easy to love. Also, because of her I have an exceedingly important job.

It’s my job to help her understand how to respect herself, how to respect others, and how to make sure that others respect her as she moves through life. Sounds pretty straightforward. Turns out, it’s not.

I’m finding that I was a much better parent before I had the kids. I knew exactly what to do. Now, I’m often working things out in the moment, and questioning whether or not I’m working them out well at that. She seems ok so far. Thank goodness for my amazing wife. Still, my job remains fundamental and uniquely mine.

It’s critically important that I hold her accountable for high standards of self-awareness and compassion, along with a value-driven approach to living in consistent, loving & kind ways. It’s essential that I teach her how to stand for her core values and for herself as she moves through what will no doubt be a lifetime of challenges and triumphs.

It’s possible that she’ll learn to expect, and even more notably accept an analogous brand of love and affection to the brand I offer and model (some would argue that it’s probable and even likely); she’s watching me and shaping her understanding and expectations of how people should treat one another simultaneously. My interactions with her mother, her brothers, her extended family, our friends, my dedication to personal and professional pursuits, my interests and concerns, my thoughts and ideas about living, learning, and leading, my trials, my victories, my decision making, my thought process, my strengths, my weaknesses, my achievements and my missteps. Even when I’m not aware, she’s watching.

At the risk of coming off as self-important I will now boldly suggest that with regard to her I am in fact a fundamentally important fella. In my estimation, having her in my life makes my life more significant than it would have otherwise been. To that end, I’m operating devotedly to make it so that the sum of the next several years turns out a result reflective of the best of my capacity for supporting this little girl, who I’m told will be a big girl, a teenager, and then a young woman even sooner than I’m able to piece together how it happened.

I love my boys. I understand my noteworthy responsibility to do right by them and I’m devoted to that as well. For today however, I feel a strong pull to express my tremendous gratitude for having been gifted the opportunity to be a part of my incredible daughter’s life, along with the connected duties that accompany that opportunity.

As educators and parents we must think well enough of ourselves to be the role models we know we can be. We must always expect ourselves to deliver the highest standards of love, kindness, and care to the children we serve. When we stumble, as human beings do, we must forgive ourselves, reflect though a lens of our core values, and press on with renewed strength and the concrete knowledge that our every move matters.

My only hope is that her life is filled with boundless joys and overloaded with wonders even beyond her unimaginable imagination. Is that too much to hope for?

Even and especially through the innumerable challenge we will both undoubtedly continue to will face together and apart, I am eternally grateful for her…miraculous, remarkable her.

Happy Thankful Thursday (even though it’s Friday)!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

I Don’t Know: Understanding via a Lack Thereof

Imagine

I heard the most fascinating story yesterday through an interview of a fifty four year old woman, Kim, who self-discovered her Asperger’s Syndrome and then got a brief glimpse into a world in which it didn’t stifle her ability to read social cues.

Researchers exploring a method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) showed Kim a video. In the video a woman answered her door to find a man standing on the other side with a bag filled with DVD cases. The man handed the bag to the woman and said, “Here are the DVDs you lent to Roger,” followed by, “He asked me to return them to you.”

The man suggested that the woman take a look in the bag and examine the state of the DVDs. She did. She opened each one to find that nothing was inside. The bag was filled with empty DVD cases. After a few moments the man asked, “Is everything alright?”

The woman replied, “Oh yes, everything is just fine.”

The man then asked, “Would you be willing to let Roger borrow your DVDs again?”

The woman replied, “Absolutely…without hesitation.”

Kim reported that after watching this interaction she was very impressed and somewhat surprised by the woman’s reaction. She told the interviewer that she thought the woman in the video was uniquely forgiving and generous.

Then came the TMS. The researchers delivered a series of precisely targeted magnetic pulses into Kim’s brain with the aim of stimulating key areas in the hopes that it would enhance her ability to read social cues, a standard reported deficit in people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kim recounted that it did. She told the interviewer that she was shocked upon watching the same video again after the TMS treatment.

The woman in the video did not seem forgiving or generous this time. In fact, she was clearly upset. Kim described high levels of sarcasm in the woman’s responses that she could not detect previously.

When the woman said, “Oh yes, everything is just fine,” she meant, “No, everything is not alright…can’t you see that Roger has taken all of my DVDs?”

When she said, “Absolutely…without hesitation,” she meant, “Not in a million years!”

Kim was stunned. In that moment she realized that she had been moving through the world with a blindness of sorts. She thought about her inability to maintain positive relationships and her confusion over the same. She expressed relief in finally understanding that her interactions with people have been marked by a distinct inability to recognize “appropriateness” in communication.

She talked specifically about kindness. She expressed a profound shift in thinking about it. She realized that when people are unkind to one another it’s not necessarily because they’re mean people. She thought about the possibility of a primary source of unkindness and that the unkindness itself could be a side effect.

She recalled being bullied as a child and instantly forgave the perpetrators, suggesting that they may have simply been trying to bond with one another, not fully (or even partially) understanding the impact their bonding had on her.

Through TMS Kim had but a momentary glimpse into a world in which she could recognize, understand, and interpret social cues. The effects were not lasting. Furthermore, the researchers cautioned that the treatment remains unreliable for this application. They strongly warned against its clinical use expressing that a tremendous amount of research and exploration lies between these experiments and a practical, safe application…if one should ever come to be at all.

Kim expressed that she’s not disappointed. She told the interviewer that the experience, while brief, was momentous and profound. She said that it left her with a critically important view of a world that has always been acutely confusing.

Kim is a successful physician with a thriving practice. She’s achieved much in her life so far and is only part way along her journey. However, she’s consistently been on the outside of what most of us seem to understand as acceptable social norms.

Well meaning and kind, Kim has struggled significantly to build and maintain relationships. By bravely risking what I can only imagine would be a terrifying paradigm shift, she now knows a bit more about why.

Kim’s experience has me wondering about how I see and function. Is my worldview the same as yours? Is each of ours different? As we try to communicate with one another, how often do we miss the mark? How about the people we serve? What within our daily messaging is well received by students, parents, colleagues, spouses, kids, friends? What is misperceived and subsequently potentially damaging?

I can only conclude that exploratory leaps of faith with open minds, while scary, are very likely boons of positive progress. What if I’m not hearing what I think I’m hearing when I hear it? What if I’m not saying what I think I’m saying when I say it? If perception is reality…what if we each perceive the world in a unique way? Even if slightly, imagine the ripple effect and the impact on relationships.

I believe that the great majority of people are driven by kind hearts and hope for positive pathways. I think that incorporating a mantra of acceptance not fully knowing stuff with the connected act of consistently seeking to enhance my knowledge might help deepen my understanding of the social world in which I live and my productivity within relationships as a result.

My aim is true but I’ve seen that even the softest wind can shift the pathway straightest arrow. I’m amazed by Kim and truly grateful for having had the opportunity to see through her lens, if only for a moment. Let’s listen really carefully to one another’s stories…it can only help advance our collective vision of a peaceful and productive planet. Let’s imagine that the world might be different than we currently perceive it to be, if only slightly, and if only because it truly might be.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Thankful Thursday: Restoration

A Bit of a Break

I recently wrote about the “Zones of Regulation” in a post outlining a philosophical base and a program structure built on the foundation of restorative practices used for social-emotional learning and growth in the school community I serve and subsequently in my home.

Regarding both my role as a parent and an educational leader I continue to gain increased confidence in restorative practices with each passing day.

I’ve been a restorative kind of guy for as long as I can remember. It’s basic. When things heat up I take a break.

I use the term “heat up” to signify a spectrum of heightened emotions beginning with slight (including mild excitement in the form of frustration, impatience, resentment, etc.), which can happen at varying degrees of intensity relatively frequently in the busy worlds of parenting and educational leadership, and ending with intense (triggered by unusually stressful events or toxic situations), which fortunately happens quite infrequently.

Each “hot” moment is a challenge and a chance. Each one is an opportunity to exercise restoration, and in doing so to increase restorative strength.

Restoration is the act of moving from a state where emotional strain has the better of you to a state where you have the better of it. It’s making your way from emotion-veiled thinking (and the potential for connected action) to clear, core-value driven thinking (and the reasonable assurance of focused, core-value drive action).

As I continue working to enhance my restorative practice and impart a utilitarian understanding of the same to those I serve I find myself particularly grateful for the human capacity to restore.

What are your primary core values? Do you ever find yourself sliding away from them in thought or action? If so, how do you pull yourself back? How do you focus? How do you restore?

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Mrs. Burp

Kids Can

I was walking in the hallway the other day when a kindergarten student ran up to me with pure excitement painted all over her face. She was practically jumping for joy. This was a child who could hardly contain herself. She was enthusiastically looking to get my attention. She had some very important information to share. I could tell.

As soon as I saw her coming my way I was struck with a jolt of excitement. Turns out the stuff transfers. I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to tell me.

Once she was close enough she shouted, “Mrs. Burp!” At least that’s what I heard. Even though my name is Mr. Berg, Mrs. Burp works almost just as well (when it’s coupled with good intentions, that is).

I didn’t suspect that there was a person named Mrs. Burp walking just behind me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was shouting at me. I smiled. Levity mixed with transferred and still relatively mysterious excitement. Good Stuff. Now I was really keen on discovering what the hullabaloo was all about!

Truth told, I couldn’t say with great clarity that “Mrs. Burp” is actually what she said. Also, if it was, I couldn’t be sure if it’s what she meant to say (sometimes kids words don’t come out exactly as intended).

Here was a kid extremely eager to get my attention. She might have been thinking “Mr. Berg” and as the thought traveled from her brain to her mouth on a thought-train riddled with anticipation it could have simply come out as “Mr. Burp.” Regardless, we can assume that she meant to say “Mr. Berg.” Again…and after all, her energized message was targeted squarely at me. That much was clear.

Actually, so much more was clear, even before the message was delivered. Therein lies the moral of the story (one of them, that is): Sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say.

Before I knew what was going on I knew that something wonderful had occurred. I knew that this student was going to recount the wonderful thing.   I knew that we were going to share a moment of celebration. I knew that the next part of our interaction was going to strengthen our partnership in teaching & learning.

With the same zeal that accompanied “Mrs. Burp” she shouted, “You have to see my thinking!”

This six-year-old directed my attention to a bulletin board on which she and her classmates had used sticky notes to respond to a third grade team’s collaboration on “leadership” and “growth mindset.” They took it upon themselves (with some guidance from both teachers albeit) to adorn the third graders’ board with their thoughts post-production, thereby extending and sharing in a foundation of collective thinking on the two important subjects.

She didn’t want me to see her “work” or her “project” or her “sticky note,” she wanted me to see her “thinking.” Therein lies the moral of the story (the other one, that is): Kids, even the youngest among them can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

I was thrilled that these incredible teachers and students had been so clearly making collaborative growth the focus of their attention that to the point that it had become the bedrock of their learning paradigm. I was proud that the “Mrs. Burp” kid lived it out with me in that moment. She trusted me to enough to share her thinking. I’m excited that she’s learning in an enthusiastic culture of thinking at our school; more good stuff. She was my teacher in that moment.

So, sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say and kids, even the youngest among them, can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

It’s fun as an educator and a parent to think that there might be no end to the learning and the growing we can each experience over the course of a lifetime, and that there might be no limits to the potential within each of us for the same.  Fun and exciting!

Live, love, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best!

Always

Always

Not many things are certain in life. Mysteries abound. Each step involves some degree of risk. It’s good. Life is exciting. Within the challenges and the triumphs we face exists the essential learning that drives us forward. Through the ups and the downs interwoven into life’s fabric is excitement.

There is one certainty in my life however, and it’s a certainty on which my courage and strength for the rest stands. My wife is the most solid and compassionate partner I could have ever imagined. She is an unbelievably amazing spouse and an overwhelmingly remarkable mother.

This astonishing woman and I have four children. Our oldest is six, our youngest is one, and those two sandwich three and a four-year-old siblings. Our house is a whirlwind of noise and motion in any (and every) given moment. It’s a joyful whirlwind of noise and motion, but a whirlwind of noise and motion nonetheless.

My kids need food, and cloths, and permission slips, and book orders, and play dates with their friends, and friends to have play dates with, and diaper changes, and snuggles when they’re scared or hurt, and care when they’re sick, and lessons on courage, and opportunities to practice being courageous, and a set of core values, and opportunities to practice decision-making and action-taking that match those core values, and redirection, and discipline, and understanding, and boat loads of attention, and lot’s of love.

They need endless and unwavering love. They need love that thrives even when they’re loud or defiant. They need to be embraced by genuinely loving arms even when they smell funny. They need to have resolutely loving shoulders to bury their little faces into even when those faces are overrun by gobs of gooey snot. My wife joyfully meets these needs and so many more. Always.

Our kids each need to know that they’re valued and they need to be able to explore their unique and authentic voices. They each need to understand what it means to be a part of our family and a member of our community. They each need to know themselves as individuals while also maintaining special connections to one another, to us, to our extended family, and to our religious and cultural foundations.

The list goes on and on. There is truly no end. My wife’s demands as a mother are inconceivable to me. I don’t know and couldn’t comprehend all of what she does or half of how she does it. I often find myself dumbfounded that the wheels keep turning. She makes it happen.   She always makes it happen and she never drops the ball. We have everything we need. We have everything we could ever want with the possible exception of cookies before dinner (an sometimes we even have that).

My wife is tireless and unstoppable. She won’t be deterred when it comes to her family. She is always there. She is always holding it together. She is always just what we need. Always.

On top of all that, this woman is breathtakingly beautiful inside and out, and she’s energized even through what I can only describe as intensely exhausting daily commitments. She makes it look effortless. Her strength is the scaffolding for my learning and growth, and any successes I ever experience are as a direct result of her support, encouragement, and dedication.

There is really nothing I can do to honor her enough on this Mother’s day or on any day. I can only remain thankful that she chose to partner with me on this mysterious and incredible journey. I can only work to match her resolve and try to find every opportunity to show her how much she is appreciated, by me, by our children, and by everyone who’s life she touches with her generous, authentic, and extraordinary loving kindness.

Trough my trials and with all of my faults I am indeed truly blessed. I am truly blessed to have this beautiful woman to share my life with and to love endlessly. Always.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Every Challenge is also a Chance

Challenge and Chance

As parents and educators our primary concern is keeping our children safe. Along with safety we spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for our children’s success in life. Sometimes the two of those concepts seem at odds. Actually, if you dig in, I would suggest that you might find they’re not.

This morning my three older children (6,4, & 2) were playing a game that involved pieces just small enough and just large enough to be choking hazards for my youngest child (1). So, while his brothers and sister played this game he was bound to a high chair. He was miserable.

We tried to distract him in every way possible. We made silly faces. We made silly noises. We dances silly dances. We offered him a variety of food. He screamed, he cried, he threw the food. Nothing would satiate this poor child. All he wanted was to play with his siblings.

We were confident in our adult-knowledge that he could not play this game. It involved manipulating the little pieces with a small plastic tweezers. We “knew” that he could not do that. We “knew” that he would try to eat the pieces. We “knew” that he could choke on the pieces. Therefore we were doing everything we could to make it so that he couldn’t and wouldn’t play the game. It turns out what we “knew” wasn’t exactly true.

Sometimes it’s important for parents and educators to think out of the box. Instead of always protecting children from life’s challenges it’s important that we provide children with safe opportunities to be in challenging situations. As parents and educators we should consider looking at all challenges as simultaneously being such opportunities.

In my own life, looking bath on my path, I can clearly see that every single challenge I’ve experiences has also been an opportunity for learning and growth. When I’ve reflected on learning and growth and subsequently shifted my thinking and/or developed new skills sets, that learning and growth, born out of challenges, has enhanced my life. Even challenges that have caused me discomfort, triggered fear, or produced hurt have only made me stronger and pushed me toward becoming the best I can be (still becoming by the way).

I believe that children become better at grappling most effectively when they’re given opportunities to grapple and challenges to grapple with. Every challenge is also a chance.

Shortly after doing everything we could to keep our little guy (who’s actually quite big) from playing the game he was pining over his siblings moved on. He didn’t. Eventually he got to it. But guess what, he didn’t choke. In fact, he didn’t even attempt to eat the pieces. Instead, he carefully used the tweezers to move them from place to place. I was amazed that he had the fine motor skills to get the task done. This kid looked at the game as a challenge and was determined to overcome it.

In hindsight I realized and remembered that kids can do amazing things when they’re given the opportunities and support to do them. I realized and remembered that anything is possible, even when it’s outside of what we adults think we know. I realized and remembered that every challenge is also a chance.

The children we serve, both at home and at school, are at various places along developmental timelines. Like us, they are neither perfect nor stagnant in their imperfection. Like each of us, none of them can or should be defined by any one decision or any one moment in time. Each of us is a work in progress.

With the safety and wellbeing of children in mind we must consider pathways to independence. It’s critical that we keep progress in mind along with the idea that pushing through challenges with mistakes as catalysts to successes is going to best equip them with the tools they need to be happy, independent, and successful throughout their journeys…even thought it ain’t easy. Some would argue that nothing worthwhile ever is.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Even When You Can’t Be Certain…Be Positive

Doing what makes you feel good
A story about a study. I recently read a study in which the researcher told some people that a new drug was found to have a 70% effectiveness rate. Those people expressed positive thoughts and feelings about the drug. The same researcher told some other people that the drug in question was found to have a 30% failure rate. Those people expressed negative thoughts and feelings about the drug.

After that the researcher reminded the first group that a 70% success rate is the same as a 30% failure rate. They shifted their expression of thoughts and feelings to the negative. She then reminded the second group that a 30% failure rate is the same as a 70% success rate. Their expression of thoughts and feelings remained negative. No shift.

The researcher repeated this experiment with multiple controls and repeatedly found similar results. It’s tough to shift from a negative to a positive outlook; a better bet is to start and stay positive.

Who cares? I guess it’s well and good to consider that starting positive increases the chance that you’ll stay that way, but so what? Is being positive helpful? What benefits does it provide? What about the perceptibly cathartic remunerations of the relentless venting that we all seem to enjoy so much? What about misery loving company? This is that part where scientific exploration gives way to personal opinion. You should stop reading if you have a weak stomach for soapbox oration.

My best work is scaffolded by optimism.

I’m decidedly stronger when I’m authentically joyful.

Decisions come to me with increased clarity during times of hope.

My integrated contentedness to world, work, and spirit is highlighted by happiness.

It feels good to feel good.

The reflections of a parent and an educator.  Sometimes when my kids get grumpy I defy them not to smile. “Don’t do it,” I say. “Stay grumpy,” I insist. I’m relentless until they fold. Like me, they want to feel good too. They want to enjoy instead of agonize. They want to appreciate instead of resent. They want to heal instead of hurt.

Again, it ain’t easy to shift away from a negative paradigm when you’re embedded in it, but if you feel like I do, if you prefer to live with hope and joyfulness, it doesn’t hurt to try. In fact, I would argue that it helps.

My experiences consistently tell me that it not only helps me but that it’s good for those I serve. Furthermore the more I’m able to recover and make that shift the more it’s not necessary. If I can make that shift and stay in it then the shift isn’t needed anymore. Recovery becomes regulation. The key is to press on and never stop growing. I can only imagine that I’ll be very old and very grey if I ever make it to a state of mind that negativity simply can’t crack, but at that moment I also imagine the old and greyness won’t bother me.

Our lives our challenging. The world is a complex and often confusing place. Our primary purpose is to make it better for the kids who are inheriting it from us. That’s why we do what we do. I believe that we owe it to them, and to one another to focus on hope and inspiration.

One of my mentors consistently reminds me that, “staying positive in challenging situations is not naive…it’s leadership.” What if we could always do just that? What if we could always do it at school, at home, when we’re with people, and even when we’re alone? What if? There are not many certainties in life. Every day comes along with countless challenges. Even so (and arguably, especially so), each moment is truly a gift. In what ways are you focused on making the most of it for you and for those you serve?

Live, listen, learn, lead…and always bring your best.