Category: Health & Wellbeing

The Perfect Time to be Nice


We were at the playground, deep into a game in which I was an ogre, our 6-yr-old was my ogre kid, and the big brothers (9-yr-old and 11-year-old) were humans we were chasing. The goal was to catch them so that we could eat them for dinner. 

We were having a blast, running up and down playground structures, jumping, sliding, climbing poles, swinging on ropes, and growling. 

The engagement was high and the excitement was palpable. It was one of those games, where every once in a while a bust of energy shot through you and you burst into high speed. We were at if for two and a half hours before something interesting happened (our 6-yr-old can most often be counted on for something interesting – the others too, for that matter). 

The big brothers were several yards away, on the top of a hill. They were taunting us with some general, “Na, na, na, na, na’s” and their fingers were in the shape of “L’s” on their foreheads. Enough was enough for the kid ogre.

He turned to me and said, “They’re being so mean.”

Even thought they were just playing, he felt it. It was a game, but he felt sad that they were being so mean. Instead of crying, pouting, or quitting, he said, “This is the perfect time to be nice.”

I asked him what he meant by that. He explained. 

Now that we know what it feels like when someone isn’t nice to you, we should be nice to them, so that they don’t have to feel that way. He suggested that, instead of running after them, trying to catch them and eat them for dinner, maybe we should try to get them to be our guests for dinner, and eat vegetables.

The suggestion didn’t sound as fun to the big guys, so we compromised. I would still chase them, trying to catch and eat them, but my ogre kid would try to convince me to befriend the humans and become a vegetarian. Still fun, and we still got to pretend that someone was in danger of being cooked and eaten – a favored play theme among my kids.

We stayed a while longer and continued to have excited fun. 

Later that evening came to me with a big smile (that he was attempting to conceal) and said, “I had a lot of fun playing today.”

I said, “So did I, buddy.”

He said, “Ya, it was a really special time.”

My heart melted. We hugged. I would have liked for that moment to last forever, but as you know, they don’t (one of the reasons I write about them).

Here’s the thing…he’s was so right. When people are not being nice to you, it may actually be the perfect time to be nice to them. It’s healing. Even if they don’t appreciate it in the moment (or ever), it’s healing for you.

Najwa Zebian said, “Today I decided to forgive you, not because you apologized or because you acknowledged the pain you caused me, but because my soul deserves peace.”

Being mean is toxic. Being unkind is uncomfortable and stressful. Being hurtful is frustrating, and it diminishes well-being for both the hurtful and the hurt…both end up hurting.

Being kind is freeing. Being pleasant is elevating. Being friendly uplifts. Being nice is…well, it’s nice. 

We should be nice. In fact, anytime, and all the time, may be the perfect time to be nice. 

Thanks, buddy – you always know just how to deliver the message I need, in the moment I need it. I love you and I love learning from you.

In it together for the kids.

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

Just a Random Person in The World

Our 6-year-old was asking me about Dr. King, as he frequently does. He asked me if he could watch the “I have a dream” speech. He watched, and listened intently, and then he turned to me and asked, “Daddy?”

“Yes?” I relied.

He said, “Daddy, Dr. King is special.” 

I agreed. 

He went on, “Daddy…because I’m white, I have…what is it called?”

“Privilege,” I reminded him.

“…and that’s not fair,” he quickly added.

“No, it’s not,” I agreed.

He contemplated that for a moment. He’s a thoughtful kid. He pointed to the statue of Buddha we have under one of the trees in our yard and said, “…and he was special, right?”

“He was,” I agreed.

“Why,” he asked.

“Well,” I told him, “he was a prince who gave up all his money and power to spend time teaching people to love one another, to live with peace and compassion, and to give to those in need.”

With a bit of a head nod, and slightly under his breath, he uttered, “Wow.”

“…and the president with the big hat?” He continued.

“Abraham Lincoln?” I asked.


“What about him?”

“Was he special?”

“He was,” I said.

He shook his head in what looked like frustration, to me. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I want to help people. I want to use my whiteness to help people,” He said. I believe he meant privilege.

“You can,” I told him.

“But I’m not special,” he informed me, “I’m just a random person in the world.”

What followed was a discussion about passion, drive, intention, faith and vision. I so deeply want to help him understand that he’s capable of whatever he puts his mind to, and that in fact, that’s part of what his privilege affords him. He will have opportunities to pursue his dreams that others won’t, and if he dreams of helping others gain privilege, he can focus his energy in that direction and achieve great things. 

I want him to understand that we are each special, and that we don’t need an audience of millions or the presidential seal to effect change. 

If his wish is to be an agent of kindness, compassion, and progress in this world, he can be just that…one person at time, by treating everyone he comes across in ways that lift and value them. 

He may never receive accolades for his work in this area, but I want him to know that if he does the work, if he does it with and open heart and an open mind, accolades won’t matter, because he will be changing the world for the better with every step he takes.

All of us, even the great ones, are just random people in the world…and all of us, even those whose voices don’t stretch across vast distances, when we think and act in special ways…we are all special. It takes every one of us, in every space, to bring light into darkness, and to fill our world with love.

I’m proud of the kid. At 6-years-old, he’s already thinking about and living his dream (whether he knows it or not), and wow is he special!

In it together for the kids.

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

It’s What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Taught Me

Yesterday I was sitting in the parking lot of Panera with our three boys, waiting for a mobile order of bagels and cream cheese, when Joe Cocker came on singing the Beatle’s “With A Little Help From My Friends.” I was so excited to share that experience with the boys. It was exhilarating to know they’d be hearing this song, sung in this way, for the first time. What a cool experience! Pure passion. Music capable of jolting you to another place. Awesome.

The screen in my car shows pictures when it plays songs. A picture of Joe Cocker came up. He was sweating and contorted. He was singing his heart out in his signature style. Our 11- year-old looked at the picture and did a double take. 

He said, “I did not expect him to look like that!”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “I didn’t expect someone who sings like that to look like that.”

And from the back of the car, our 6-year-old calmly reminded us, “It’s not important what you look like…it’s only important how you treat people.”

We all stopped in our tracks and looked at him. I turned the volume down a bit. We stared at him for a moment with comforted, proud smiles on our faces. 

He shrugged his shoulders, raised one eyebrow, and said, “What, it’s what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught me…you know, it doesn’t matter what people look like, it matters how we treat each other.”

We all smiled. He got a round of high fives and “attaboys.”. I couldn’t stop smiling, and neither could he.

In 1967, when the Beatles were putting out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was speaking about seeing “the enemy’s point of view” so that “we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.” Dr. King was teaching us how to see beyond appearances, how to listen to one another with open hearts and open minds, and how to seek to understand one another so that we can fully understand and realize our best selves. 

I wonder, at that time, in his infinite wisdom, as he dreamt about a better world, might Dr. King have been envisioning my 6-year-old son, these years later, hearing, holding onto and sharing his prophetic ideas as they continue echoing over and through the decades? I like to think he was. Now, more than ever, I like to think he was. 

It was wonderful to share a profound moment with the boys yesterday…it didn’t turn out to be the moment I was anticipating, but it turned out to be one that I could only have hoped for…and dreamt about.

In it together for the kids.

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

Challenging Catastrophes

The other day I was running late. These days have been extremely long, so I get less time to spend with the kids. I decided several weeks ago that if I was going to be working most of the time, my life would be more in balance if I could at least say “good morning” and “good night” to my crew every day. I’ve been doing some morning work from home (and sometimes sleeping in a bit) so that I don’t have to leave before the kids wake up.

On the “running late” day, I had a meeting that was the same amount of time away as I was. If I got into my car just just as the coffee finished dripping I might have made it, but as you might guess, one of the things that tends to happen when I’m running late is increased forgetfulness. 

I was half a mile down the road before I realized my work phone was still on the kitchen counter. I needed it. So, I resigned myself to being late. I made the next turn-around and headed home.

What a bummer. My heart rate went up and I was flooded with frustration. I don’t like being late. It felt like a really big deal…a catastrophe even. But being late isn’t a catastrophe, it’s a challenge…if that. 

Here we are in a global health crisis, with a foundational layer of catastrophes surrounding each of us, and I’m letting my blood pressure go up because I’m running a few minutes late. There are many things we can latch on to as catastrophes throughout each day…things that simply aren’t.

The thing is, when we’re calm and confident we’re better for everyone around us. When we’re patient and thoughtful, those we serve and serve with benefit. Energy transfers. Heightened, negative attitudes and behaviors deteriorate well-being. We all know that, and with some focus and dedication, I contend that we are all capable of brining positive energy to any situation, even if we have to shift from impulsive negative energy. Breathing, and focusing on breathing tends to help me. Listening, too. When I listen instead of talk, I tend to be more thoughtful. 

As I pulled back up to the house I noticed that my wife was at the door, and our 6-year-old was waking across the porch with my work phone in his hand. This was not a catastrophe, this was an opportunity to get another hug from my kid. 

There’s actually a term for creating additional crisis during challenging times. The term is “catastrophizing.” We catastrophize when we assume the worst, and when we do, we bring crisis energy into the cultures in which we live and work. 

So, here’s the deal, when we feel our blood pressure going up, when our hearts start beating faster, let’s take a step back instead of a step forward. Let’s challenge the notion that we’re dealing with catastrophes. Let’s consider that any given catastrophe might actually be an opportunity. Every challenge is a chance. It really is. 

Some of these catastrophes are absolutely real, and it’s also real that when we approach critical situations with calm confidence, we are more likely to achieve positive outcomes. We can influence the culture and climate of the spaces we occupy in positive ways buy challenging catastrophes instead of finding them in places they really don’t belong. When running late is actually an opportunity for another hug, it’s a gift, not a catastrophe…and truly, every challenge is a chance – we should work hard to take them when we can.

In it together for the kids.

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

Have a Bad Day

I’m blessed.

I’m a husband and I’m a father.

I’m a son, a brother, a nephew and a friend.

I’m an elementary school principal.

Together with my wife, my family, my friends, and my colleagues, the days of my life are dedicated to the service of children. For that, they are purposeful, reflective, and inspired by a steadfast belief that each generation is meant to be, and to do better than the one before it.

I’m a human being, and because of that, I have good days and I have bad days.

Currently, like you, I’m living through  an extended crisis. 

It’s a brand new year, though. So, I’m supposed to be my best self, at least for a while. Right?

A few days? A few weeks? Months, maybe?

I’m supposed to start the year off strong. A new beginning.

I’m supposed to be tolerant, not frustrated.

Patient, not restless.

I’m supposed to breath through challenges.

I’m supposed to be resilient.

The problem is, I’m having a bad day.

Instead of getting to bed at a reasonable time last night I binge watched Survivor: Heroes v. Villains. So proud of that fine decision making and stellar time management (as my six-year-old would say, “I’m being sarcastic.”)

I got my second wind sometime after midnight, proceeded to toss and turn for while, and then began the long, arduous process of becoming a colossal grouch.

January 1st…colossal grouch. So much for a new beginning.

Bravo, big guy.

I spent the morning distant from my family, short in my responses, brooding, and completely unproductive.

Another proud admission: I began the day with a lavish pity party for myself. One for the books.

It was a hot ticket party, with an all star guest list. Everyone knows I throw the best pity parties, and so they all showed up.

Guilt and frustration were sidled up to the bar laughing over stories about my awkward early twenties. Contempt was flirting with anger at a table near the dance floor. Self-righteous indignation was at the podium, relentlessly roasting self-awareness, who was close to tears at the coat room counter fumbling for his tag so that he could get out of there as soon as possible.

Foolish pride, resentment and misplaced aggression were whispering, smirking, rolling their eyes and shaking their heads as they combed over what was truly a tremendous dessert buffet, popping mini cream puffs into their mouths and loading their plates with all sorts of the most fashionable designer confections you could imagine. Very trendy…and delicious, too.

Grumble was doing karaoke, but no one was listening.

I was failing. Starting the year failing.

The first thought that came to mind as I began recovering from the pity party was that I needed to be stronger…that I was stronger. Why couldn’t I pull it together?

My second thought was about the extreme privilege underlying everything I do and everything have. I felt disgusted with myself. How could I be feeling so down and being such a baby about it? Pathetic.

My third thought was about forgiveness. I could linger in this, or I could forgive myself, pull myself up, and get on with things. After all, new year or not, this is really just another day, and as I mentioned above, some days are good and some days are bad.

There’s a researcher named Dr. Marciel Francisco Losada who suggested that high performance and well-being can be associated with a positivity to negativity ratio of 3:1. If that’s true, Maybe we can maintain high performance and well-being by seeing that our good days outweigh our bad days 3:1. We can’t avoid having bad days. Maybe we should simply accept them, lean into them, live them, forgive ourselves, and chart them to stay in balance.

The way I see it, there are 365 days in a year. Actually, that’s not just the way I see it, that’s the way it is. If we can make sure that about 245 of them are good days we might be doing alright. That leaves 120 in the bank of potential bad days before our performance and wellbeing are impacted (in theory).

No one looks for bad days. We don’t want to feel down, lonely, lost, hopeless, unfulfilled or disconnected. We don’t want to be frustrated. We don’t want to let people down or contribute to their stress or hurt. That said, there doesn’t see to be any avoiding that sometimes we will.

Even as an eternal optimist, I wonder if we’re setting ourselves up for increased suffering and disappointment if we aim for 365 good days in a year. I wonder if leaning in, accepting, being reflective, and taking stock of our bad days could be a path to growth, to high performance and to wellbeing.

Either way, I’m starting this year out with this message to the incredible people I’m blessed to be living this life with: have a bad day. Have 120 of them if that’s the path you’re on. Try to keep it around or below that number for your own sake. No matter what happens in any given moment, and for what it’s worth, you won’t be letting me down or hurting me.

Forgive me for bad behavior in my toughest moments. I’ll do the same for you. We are truly in this together. The ups and the downs make us who we are.

It’s a beautiful, terrible, confusing, and inspired world. Even on a bad day, I’m as excited as every to be taking steps forward in leaving my legacy, whatever it may be, for the next generation in the year to come.

In it together for the kids.

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

Complaining About Long Walks With Puppies (and other things you might consider trying to avoid)

Like many others, we got a COVID puppy. Leo (the puppy in question) is a 40 lb, 7-month-old beagle, chow, chihuahua, terrier mix (according to the DNA test), and unlike our two 14-year-old long-haired Chihuahuas (6 and 8 lbs), he needs to go for long walks every day. So now, along with the multitude of other stuff I don’t always get to in a given day, there’s that. 

Even as I issue a complaint about “having” to go for long walks each day with a puppy, I understand how ridiculous that is. I suppose there are many people who would love to be “burdened” in this way. In fact, it’s actually one of the great joys I’m fortunate enough to be able to experience. 

Currently, there are 6 people and 4 dogs living in our house. Occasionally, I use that fact as a sympathetic plea, but really, I may be one fo the luckiest people around because of it. All this canine and youthful energy, for all the momentary frustrations it beings, fuels me in very positive ways.

I’m an optimist…a naive one at that. In earnest, I believe there’s a positive path forward in every situation. I see every challenge as a chance. Through my lens, opportunity surrounds us all the time. More visible in moments of clarity, and hard to recognize in moments of struggle and confusion. 

Along with being an optimist, I’m a human being, so I do go down negative paths when tough emotions get the better of me. It’s what human beings do occasionally. Even an optimistic view of overcoming tough emotions leaves us treading negative paths some of the time. No one’s perfect, lease of all me. Forgiveness, determination, and grit come in handy for just that reason. So does intentional positivity. 

Even when I’m not functioning and/or presenting at my best, much of my time is spent in reflection on how to make positive progress as a husband, a father, and educator, and a community leader. 

In this moment, we’re all entrenched in trauma. The impact of this global health crisis has been incredibly powerful. It’s caused us to have to live in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise imagined. A silver-lining view brings to light many positive outcomes with regard to learning, development, and innovation, but that silver-lining view is more accessible to some that others. 

I continue to return to the notion that one of my mentors shared with me some months ago, “We are all in the same storm, but we’re in different boats.”

Even as I suggest intentional positivity and recommend the following exercise, I have to recognize that it will be easier to engage in for some than it will for others. Specifically, people of color and others from marginalized populations are impacted in ways that I can’t even imagine as a middle-aged white man. 

The exercise is called “Opposite Behavior.” I learned about it through my study of Positive Psychology. Here’s how it works:

  • Recognize when you are feeling a tough, or negative emotion
  • In that moment, stop what you’re doing
  • Think about the action you’re about to take (i.e. sadness may cause you to withdraw, anger may cause you to snap at someone, etc.)
  • Consider the opposite behavior of the one the tough emotion is propelling you toward (i.e. engage instead of withdrawing, perpetuate and act of kindness rather than snap, etc.)
  • Reflect on the opposite behavior, write it down or speak it to yourself
  • Do the opposite behavior
  • Reflect on if, and how doing the opposite behavior impacted your emotional state (in theory, you should feel a shift from negative to positive) 

Easier said than done, but with effort, doable…and in my experience – worth a try. 

Living through a pandemic isn’t easy either. However, I truly believe, with the right tools, strategies, and mindset, we can manage it in positive and growth-producing ways for ourselves and our children if we’re intentional about how we respond to challenges as they come our way.

Yesterday, our oldest son took the long puppy walk with me. We turned in places that led us away from home instead of toward it. We stretched that walk out as far as we could, talking, laughing, and bonding as we went. He told me he was glad to have had that time together. I was elated. 

What a treat. 

What a blessing.

What a fortunate person I am to “have” to take long walks with puppies.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and extremely optimistic about the way forward. 

In it together for the kids.

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

What Keeps Me Up At Night

I was walking with our 11-year-old at the Zoo yesterday. He said, “Daddy?”

I said, “Yes?”

He said, “What if aliens use the same words as us, but they mean something completely different?”

I didn’t need to ask for clarification…he went on before I could,” I mean, like, what if the word ‘want’ means ‘pickle’ to aliens, or what if the work ‘play’ means ‘book?’

His voice began to shake a bit, his energy level lifted, and his shoulder and arms started oscillating up and down, and back and forth.

He continued, “…and, like when they say that no two snowflakes are the same, that’s impossible. There have been so many snowflakes. It just ins’t possible that none of them are the same.”

He took a sharp breath and kept going, “…and if aliens do use the same words as we do but the means something different, they wouldn’t be able to understand anything we’re talking about. They might think we’re saying something different than what we’re actually saying. It would be so confusing!”

He started to make that face you make when you feel like crying but you’re not quite there. The kind of face you make when you’d like to be there…when a good cry might be just what you need.

He went through a series of equally interesting and unique diatribes on a variety of seemingly unconnected subjects before taking a deep breath, looking up at me, and letting me know, “That’s what keeps me up at night.”

Then, he said something I didn’t expect.  It was just about the most obvious thing he could have said, and I’m not sure why I didn’t expect it, but I didn’t.  He said, “…and I’m really tired of COVID.”



Surprise, surprise…our 11-year-old is tired of living his first year of middle school without having seen the inside of an actual school.

He’s tired spending time with his the top third of his friends’ heads from six feet away.

He’s tired of living every waking moment trying to start the next phase of his physical, emotional, social, and spiritual life surrounded by his mom, his dad, and his three younger siblings.

He’s tired of wondering if he’ll get sick.

He’s tired of so much being so far out fo his control. 

Or, maybe he’s truly and deeply concerned about the possibility that us and aliens seem to have no hope of ever understanding one another. Yah, that’s probably it.

They may not be telling us exactly what’s on their minds in every moment.

They may not know.

It might not always, or even ever end with, “…and I’m really tired of COVID.” 

It may not matter.

It may only matter that we take whatever time we can to be there. 

We can’t relieve our children of the inevitable hurt they’re going to suffer repeatedly over the course of their lives, but we can be there to listen as they process. We can make clear that we care, that they are not alone, that even challenging is also a chance, and that sharing emotions represents a really healthy kind of strength.

Listen. Make time. Genuinely listen. Value, celebrate, respect, model, guide, and validate. 

Kids of this COVID generation may turn out to be the most resilient human beings in history. They may be the ones to actually be the change we want; the change we need.

Heck, they may learn how to communicate with aliens. 

We can help them with our hearts, our minds, and our ears.

Funny thing, when we do…it helps us, too.

In it together for the kids.

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

4M’s: A Focus Strategy for Grace and Understanding Through Trauma

Trauma brain. We don’t necessarily walk around thinking about how we’re several months into a global health crisis with an end that’s hard to see. We know it, and we feel the impact all around us, but we don’t think about it all the time. 

One of the cool things about the human condition is that we’re adaptable. We submerge ourselves in whatever reality we exist within, and to some extent, we make it our normal; our “new normal.”

If you’re like me, you didn’t imagine that these days, weeks and months after COVID 19 emerged, we’d still be so significantly embedded in a world of mitigation. I didn’t specifically think we wouldn’t be, it just didn’t cross my mind. I was taking it one day at a time, and through my foundational lens of optimism, I imagined best case scenarios every step of the way. I still do.

The fact is, optimism and all, like everyone else, I’m experiencing trauma.

Another cool thing about the human condition is that we are resilient. I’m lucky. I haven’t had to endure an unbalanced amount of trauma over the course of my life so far. That, along with the fact that I’ve been privileged, loved, and provided countless supports from the time I was I child, has enabled me to build enough resilience to feel relatively comfortable sorting through this traumatic situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I have ups and downs. I’ve experienced a range of emotions. Sometimes I’m my best self and sometimes I’m disappointed with my words and actions. Sometimes my presence is comforting to those around me and sometimes I catalyze heightened anxiety by pushing too hard for a purely positive tact or falling out of balance. 

That leads me to the 4M’s strategy. It’s about grace and understanding. It’s about remembering that we’re not alone, even in relative isolation. It’s about the indelible, universal truth that when we think of others with gratitude and empathy, when we exercise compassion, when we seek to understand ourselves and those around us, when we give with hearts, and when we stay present, we create enhanced spaces for individual and collective well-being.


We all make them. When you do, breath through it. Get your footing. Remember your humanity and the humanity of others. Give yourself the grace of forgiveness and don’t allow judgement to weigh you down. After all, judgment is usually perceived more than real, and even when it’s perceived as real by the sources, it tends to be a phantom perpetuated by fear and frustration…a misstep in and of itself.


We have the power to stop time. It takes a great deal of practice. Admittedly, I have a long way to go in refining my mindfulness practice. That said, I have felt the calming impact of a truly mindful moment. I’ve experienced the release of unnecessary burdens by way of connected breathing and the letting go temporary distractions. Think of time when a wave of tranquility washed over you. Seek that feeling as frequently as possible. We are suffering in many ways, however, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Senca, and, “You drown not by falling into a river but by staying submerged in it.” – Paulo Cohelo. 


What are you about? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? We’re each living a mission. Educators muster the strength to move through space and time so that we can make a positive impact on the lives of the children we serve. That’s our mission. In times like these, it can help to turn to the mission frequently. It can provide strength and inspire courage.


Time seems fluid, but really, if you choose to view it this way, it’s a series of moments. The benefit of a “moments” world view is that we can utilize stops and starts to our advantage when it comes to well-being and positive progress. With missteps, mindfulness and mission in mind, we can take things one moment at a time. We can celebrate a series of triumphs and we can face a series of challenges. We can forgive ourselves for stumbles and keep moving forward with the knowledge that we have as many more tries as we need to get things right. 

Remember, practice makes progress. No strategy is perfect, nor will any work for everyone. During this uniquely challenging time my hope is that exploring the 4M’s strategy might help you take steps in whatever direction you’re looking to go in. It’s helping me. 

In it together for the kids!

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

Ride While Crying: A Focus on Resilience Through Trauma

This is hard.

It’s hard in a strange way.  I don’t always realize how hard it is.

I sometimes find myself engaged in the following reflexive Q and A:

“How are you?”

“Doing good.”

“How are the kids?”


I understand that there are many families challenged in ways that our family can’t even imagine.

I know that we live with privilege , and that experiencing a global health crisis is different for me and my family than it is for many others. I understand that it doesn’t always feel hard for us because we have everything we need, and if we think need something we don’t have, we can either get it or live without it. Joyfully, even.

We’ve spent most of our moments enjoying time together over the past several months, feeing comfortable and secure, and being able to generate strength on the foundation of the “silver linings” lens we’re fortunate to see through and live within. I know that our privilege exists on the foundation of a void of privilege for others. I also know writing that sentiment won’t provide resources, security or health to the others in question, but somehow I felt pulled to write about that recognition of my privilege as a precursor to the following reflection, so I did.

One of my mentors puts our situation like this: same storm, different boats.

To whatever extent, and on whatever level, we are each living through trauma in this moment. We are each wondering when some normalcy will return to our world, for our children and for ourselves, and we are each hoping beyond hope that it will be sooner rather than later.

Our five year old learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels this summer.  One of his favorite British television shows refers to training wheels as “stabilizers” – so of course, we do too.

On the first day of riding without stabilizers he managed to slowly but surely plow head first into the giant cement base of a sign post. I watched in wonderment as his face ran in what seemed to be slow motion across the gritty cylinder. Unable to stop himself, he slid all the way to the ground, bracing himself with his head. It was fascinating and troubling simultaneously. Thankfully, thick skulls run in our family.

As he managed his way back up, untangling his legs from the bike frame along the way, hopping and shifting to gain balance, determined to reset, I noticed a gigantic alligator tear sliding down his reddened cheeks. 

I suspected he’d be ready to throw in the towel. I was wrong.

This kid, my strong-willed wife’s son, our adventurous explorer, the determined fourth child, looked up at me in earnest and asked, “Can I ride while crying?”

“You sure can, brother.”

And ride he did.

And guess what…he wasn’t crying for long.

Again, this is hard. Whoever you are, whatever boat you’re in…this is hard.

None of us have stabilizers for a pandemic.

Cry if you need to.  I have.  I’m sure I will some more.

But, ride while crying. 

We’re strong.  We’re courageous.  Individually and collectively we have the will to overcome, to survive, and to thrive.

We aim for joyful and balanced days, and a bright future for ourselves and our children…and our aim is true.

Have your good days and your bad days. 

Fall apart as frequently as you need to, but always put yourself back together – better than before.

Forgive yourself for stumbling.

Be ok with the mess of it all.

Build resilience.

Ride while crying.

In it together for the kids!

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

My 2020 Fifth Grade Commencement Address in Speech and Song

This past week I offered a commencement address honoring the first group of students I met as kindergarteners when I became an elementary school principal.

Needless to say, this is very special moment in time for me. 

I remember the feeling of being “the new principal.”

I remember feeling like I had a lot to learn about the job, and that I had a lot to learn about the kids. 

Caring for children from the age of 4 or 5 through the age of 10 or 11 is a different thing than caring for children beginning when they’re more advanced along their educational journey. 

Along with the families and staff who are my partners, I feel like I’ve played a role in raising these kids, and the truth is, I’m extremely proud of them. 

To be clear, I’m proud of every student I’ve met along this journey. 

Still, for these kids, I’m the only principal that they’ve had.

So this year, as I considered a commencement address, I sat and looked at the cabinet in my office which is lined with the handprints these 10 and 11-year-olds gifted me when they were 4 and 5-year-olds. 

I thought of their hands then, what their hands have done since, and what their hands, hearts, and minds are capable of doing now. 

I truly believe in the power of possibility, and I truly believe that these uniquely challenging times will foster a type of resilience that will manifest in positive world change generated from the hands, hearts and minds of this group of kids. 

So, in this year’s address I spoke some words from my heart, and remembering that music can deliver a message in alternate ways, I decided to sing as well. 

I sang a song that I wrote for all of the children of this generation. All of those who are engaged in any transition, moving from grade level to grade level or to from school to school, and in particular, for the four children my wife and I spend our days with, watching them thrive in an environment that completely shifted under their feet. 

Kids are resilient, and they learn how to grapple by having things to grapple with.

This generation of kids, at every level, are going to be sophisticated, compassionate, productive, and positive grapplers. 

As I watch the world go by with slow change in the rearview mirror and all around me, I have every bit of confidence that this generation will be the one to see our hopes and dreams of widespread peace, love, unity, inclusion and belonging fulfilled.

This is my message as I bid our fifth grade graduates a safe, joyful, and balanced journey forward. 

This is my message to all children. 

This is my message to anyone who’s interested.

In it together for the kids!

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