Picture Explanation

I realized that I posted something without explanation. The image in the header of my blog is not my own. Yet, it still has significant meaning. I can’t help but explain so the appreciation can be shared.

Ten years ago, I gained a new guardian angel. My beloved grandfather, Robert Hendricks, passed away, somewhat unexpectedly. I wasn’t prepared. I’ll never be prepared. Yet, I was able to capture some sincere last moments with him that I’ll treasure forever. This photo is a symbol of one of those shared moments.

See my grandfather and I spent lots of time in conversation. He was always heartfelt and his perspective was always valuable to me. From this, I treasure the last conversations we had. One of those were about the rigid climb of going up a mountain. He wholeheartedly wanted me to paint a picture representing the challenges and rewards of climbing a mountain. Now, I have not shared any time on the mountain with him, yet he was an avid skiier and a well-respected Ski Patrol member (and leader), so being on a mountain was part of his being. Considering this, I listened with my whole being about what he wanted me to paint. Some of his last words to me were how he wanted me to paint the mountain as sharp and rigid because life is hard and hard to get through.

Yet the most empowering description was the vividness of what it’d look like when you got to the top. He wanted it to be colorful and radiant. “The most beautiful thing you’ve seen- because it’d be worth the climb.”

The purity of this conversation will not be lost, as its treasured in my soul. Every time I see a radiant picture (such as above), I feel a connection to my guardian angel. Thank you Grandpa Bob. You are a part of my whole-being and I hope to make you proud in my living. May you be enjoying the radiant beauty from the climb ❤

Possibility in the “Pivot”

Before reading this blog post, I must give some background information. The post below was composed in February of 2017 (yes, 3 1/2 years ago). I was teaching fourth grade and had begun diving deeper into the journey of better understanding the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on our youth. It made me reflect and explore the educational system. Below is my initial reflection (2017) and current time response (2020). Enjoy. 

First and foremost, basketball has always been a part of my life. I played youth basketball through high school ball. To this day, it brings me stress-relief to go shoot hoops and hear the ‘swish.’ It is an exhilaration for me and at the same time it brings me peace. Comparatively, I connect it to my passion in education. I was inspired by my own educational experience thus wanted to provide the same for future youth. I was committed to the hard work necessary to achieve the ‘swish’ in my career. The exhilaration, the peace, the PROMISE it gave to me. Again, I am incredibly grateful for the gift of my heartfelt passion in education. And then comes the “pivot.” Don’t lift one foot, protect the ball, swivel, look for the open player, execute. Often times successful, other times not. Yet the goal remains the same- score points. (or induce a foul so you can potentially earn more points)<– that in itself could lead to comparison to the politics in education.

Image result for basketball and education

Speaking (or writing) from my heart, I am over-the-top happy and honored to be a teacher. I am grateful for the natural drive I have to be the best I can be for each child and family of my class. I want to provide the best opportunity and enriching education to each of my kids. If they are looking for a hug or someone to listen, I’ll give them that first. Sometimes without that- they won’t hear a thing I teach them. Again, this is why I find it to be an honor to be that someone for that someone who I believe is going to be that someone for someone else someday.

Yet- I am sincerely concerned about our educational SYSTEM. There is such a strong disconnect between the decision makers and the practitioners. Without getting too political (because that’s not my thing), I am really worried about the knowledge base of the leaders (of policy and funding) that are making decisions that greatly impact the leaders of our future America. Our kids.

I’m going to try my best to not make this a RANT-page, but I feel deep in my heart concerned about the health, happiness and dedication of our kiddos as well as the impact it has on our future and the career of education itself.

And this leads me to the BIG question; HOW CAN WE FIX THIS?

As stated above, I have heart but so does everyone else. As an optimist, I have hope. As a realist, I hold worry and deep concern. As an educator, sometimes the day determines what I feel more of- hope or concern. Today I hold one more than the other. It’ll be your job to guess (or infer) based off my writing for today.

I sat down to write today because common sense thoughts kept floating through my head and through great conversations, I felt the need to see the words concretely put together for me to see….. maybe to create an action plan or simply to make sure that I was being clear in my thoughts. Who knows, maybe I’ll achieve both- clarity and action. Thank you for baring with me as I conceptualize both.

My initial thought (and theme) to this post was developing a recipe for a great educational system. Ya- that was over optimistic! Haha! I have always held the belief that the leaders making decisions for the kids  are considering all the barriers our students, teachers and families are needing to overcome. Yet, as I further in my career, I realize how they are unable to know if they are not EXPERIENCING it themselves, or that the “LAYERS” are so thick and deep and ever-changing, it has become weathering to best understand, so they’ve given up or turned a blind eye.

————————————– 3 1/2 years later…————————————————————

Wow. Since writing this, I have had the honor to have a position change (became an instructional coach for 2 years) and then a position shift (due to double levy failure) and now taking a year of leave (due to Covid). Life has DRAMATICALLY changed for me during this window of time, yet I have more HOPE in some ways and still CONCERN in others. I’d like to elaborate on both.

First, I must CELEBRATE the focus of EDUCATION right now. Social Emotional Learning and the mental health of our kids has become more of a focus in education decision making (policies, practices, curriculum design). For this reason, I am incredibly grateful for the whole child, whole school, whole community shift. With the Social Emotional Standards, Multi-Tiered-Systems-of-Support, Positive Behavior Interventions and Relationship-Focused Behavior Response, we are setting up our kids for lifelong success.

Yet, Covid has DEFINITELY raised a brick wall barrier to overcoming some challenging Social Emotional and Developmental needs. Though I believe that putting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs FIRST and Bloom’s Taxonomy as Secondary Support (and/or integrating the two)- our kids will be ok. As stated before, I believe we will have innovators, creative problem solvers, resilient, and independent hard workers. Yes, in the future we may need to strengthen our social skills and our collaborative problem solving capacities, YET, that is possible. Let’s lift each other up, stay connected in creative ways, be honest about how we are feeling, check in with each other, and embrace the history changing journey we are on. Here’s an article on potential great technological impacts on education and our youth for the future.

maslow's hierarchy of needs five stage pyramid

With that, I also need to remain honest about my concerns. Its incredibly hard and uncomfortable for me to still remain concerned, yet I am moreso then ever. Having the gift of being able to collaborate with leadership and consult decision making and actively engage in problem solving protocols, I have only gained respect for the PEOPLE leading the way in education. They are committed and are truly working from their heart when doing the hard work. They want the best outcome for all of their stakeholders. Yet, this is where the educational system becomes the barrier. More times than not, the ‘politics’ or the ‘language’ or the ‘fragility’ make an impact on moving forward with valued work. For this reason, I still remain concerned about the system itself.

YET- this is where my HOPE comes in! The impacts of COVID response may be a blessing in disguise. Change is hard. Radical change is CRAZY hard. Engaging in HISTORICAL change has a PROFOUND impact. Therefore, we are being exposed to the inequities, the systemic challenges, and the hardships of the out-dated educational system. This excites me because we can now advocate, innovate, design what we’ve always known to be best for our youth. Neuroscience and Education are working together like NEVER BEFORE. (and yes, this is a MAIN reason on why I’m kind of twitterpaited about the potential shifting in practice). Also, think of the technology skills that we ‘never had time’ or ‘not enough resources/money’ for that are being developed at an exponential rate?!?!? Who knows what’s going to come out of this time. Great things in the end. It can only be great things. (I know that’s hard to believe RIGHT NOW, but we must nurture and celebrate the innovation of these ‘new times’). 

Our educational system was designed during a time of very different societal needs. It has made little adaptations to reshape based off our current societal needs. Our teachers and leaders have radically changed what ‘school looks like’ in the last 6 months moreso than it has in the last 39 years of my life (and longer). Let’s celebrate the “pivot” that our educational system is making. Be ok with it’s lack of perfection (its shaping up to be one of the greatest historical changes in educational history). Contribute your voice with positive intent (be aware of your emotional response: be passionate but be respectful). And from the bottom of my heart- please continue to advocate for our basic needs to be met (emotional/physical safety, food, rest, relationships) FIRST, then provide meaningful learning opportunities. Continue to give GRACE as we strive for GRIT. Here’s some information about the current “Every Student Succeeds Act” yet my question is: how do you see/experience this at the local level? Is it implemented equitably?

As we are all 6 feet or more apart, I encourage you WHOLEHEARTEDLY to seek SERENITY during this time. Be empowered by the possibility of NOW. You are a part of HISTORICAL change. Feel empowered by this gift of being validated in focusing on putting your HEART into your work and not so much HARD into your daily work. You can demonstrate CARE first and not CURRICULUM. The learning WILL happen when you commit to empathy and social emotional needs. 

I wrap up this reflection with a song. Bon Jovi wrote a song to inspire us to do what’s right during the current times. Let this speak to you. We got this crew!

DO WHAT YOU CAN Written by Jon Bon Jovi (edited)

Here’s the song performed on YouTube:

Tonight they’re shutting down the borders

And they boarded up the schools

Small towns are rolling up their sidewalks

One last paychecks coming through

I know you’re feeling kind of nervous

We’re all a little bit confused

Nothing’s the same This ain’t a game

We got to make it through

When you can’t do what you do

You do what you can

This ain’t my prayer

It’s just a thought I’m wanting to send

Round here we bend but don’t break

Down here we all understand

When you can’t do what you do You do what you can

Our kids sit home in isolation

TV news is always on

When you can’t do what you do You do what you can

This ain’t my prayer It’s just a thought I’m wanting to send

Round here we bend but don’t break Down here we all understand When you can’t do what you do You do what you can

Love your neighbor and your friend Ain’t it time we loved a stranger They’re just a friend you ain’t met yet We’re gonna get through this together

Until I see you once again When you can’t do what you do You do what you can This ain’t my prayer It’s just a thought I’m wanting to send Round here we bend but don’t break Down here we all understand When you can’t do what you do You do what you can

Comic Relief.

I find myself slightly handicapped when it comes to humor and wit. Therefore, I hope that you’re not anticipating laugh-out-loud-humor, but rather start-your-day-with-a-smile read. 🙂 Nonetheless, I was inspired to sit and write as I found humor in the time-and-place of my current situation. Enjoy. (Take a sip of coffee, take a deep breath, stretch a little, smile)

Here is my current setting (what surrounds me as I compose this post):

  • 8 am on Sunday morning
  • Coffee in hand (blue agave syrup+plant-based creamer+chocolate coconut collagen)
  • Sunny and currently 64 degrees
  • Golf course: Tee box: Hole #7

As I sit here reading my inspirational book, (The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey) I am amused by the responses from the golfers as they tee off. They can’t see me as I’m sitting on my deck (as I sit far enough off the course), yet I hear all of the things. Here are some of my notations:

  • Jesus is our Savior (but not always of your golf game ;-))
  • When you yell at the ball to get in the hole, it will not listen to you no matter how assertive you may be
  • Yelling at yourself does NOT improve your game (and throwing your club doesn’t help your score either)
  • Trees are NOT your destination (I hear more trees being hit than grass)

For these reasons, I find comic relief in the pattern of behavior and language. Now- not all passing golfers display these patterns, yet this morning, the majority do. Is this a temperature check on the mental health of our community? Oh. Of course I’m going to go there. 🙂 Social Emotional Status Check.  Function of Behavior Assessment of Golfers. Haha..

Either way, I am grateful for the gift of the morning sun, talking birds, light breeze, warm coffee, and good reading (and entertaining golf-gaming).

If you’re inspired to go for a round of golf today, feel free to release the stress you have held captive (we all have it bottling up), but in doing so- please wave and say hi, talk nicely to yourself, limit the tree impact, and find humor in your experience (laugh at the outcome of your hit- don’t get mad at the ball- it did that because of you). 

Enjoy your coffee. Thanks for sharing the experience with me. May it bring a smile.

Image result for golf smile

Dopamine over Cortisol

Looking back at my almost 39 years of life, I’ve truly experienced a lot of ‘major events’ in history. Yet, there has been no time like now. 9/11. Iraq War. Those were incredibly impactful things as it changed a lot of people’s lives (including mine). Yet, I feel like the COVID crisis has ripped open systematic problems and has radicalized our lives, thus pivoting a lot of practices.

We wonder the level of impact on our youth. Yet their resiliency depicts their capacity to overcome. What if these kids become the most adaptable, innovative, imaginative workers of our time? They will definitely have stellar technology skills which leads me to believe that we have new technologies unfolding in the youth that are seeking resolution to everyday problems. #goodtimetoinvestinouryouth

Yet I am equally concerned about the impact on the social-emotional development of our already-troubled children. Technology has been a blessing as well as a curse. It changes the growing brains and rewires our chemical reactions to what brings us meaningful feedback (what causes the release of cortisol (stress hormone) or dopamine (happy hormone)). The concern this creates for me is two-fold. One- engagement: will students be able to truly engage in their learning when delivered from the same resource they seek entertainment? Secondly- if we are providing engaging lessons that release dopamine (like video games do), are we conditioning our youth to continue to seek reward through technology engagement? (Watch this video for a great summary) Yeeks.

See the source image

I want to ensure to empower our youth to explore and be curious about the physical world and how it can provide powerful ‘dopamine’ releases. Yet I also want to encourage our tiny human beings to develop innovative and creative solutions to world (or everyday) problems. As educators, we must commit to developing more real-world integration into our lessons. #fieldtripsathomeeveryday #interviewsomeonespecialvirtually #buildempathythroughinteraction

By golly, I feel like I could engage in some rich discussion about how our world is changing as we experience collective shifts and build new ways of building relationships and resolutions. I am honored to be a part of this history change, yet I am challenged on how I can meaningfully contribute to the ‘new world problems’ and the innovative opportunities that are unfolding. As I continue to engage in deeper thinking and navigate new perspectives, I know I will be called to action where my heart and mind align.

Image result for Heart and Mind Quotes

For now, I remain encouraged by collaboration. Having the opportunity to engage in complex conversation with coworkers, explore new topics with close family members, navigate tough decisions and have crucial conversations has only made me closer to others and better understand myself.  In truth- I have learned more about myself, my family, and my friends because we’ve been able to collaborate (virtually or socially distanced) as we’ve been making sense of the new times. For this reason, I am incredibly grateful for the person I’m becoming through this challenging, life-changing, historical time.

Though we each hold worry (our amygdala is hard at work!), may you find peace in conversation and collaboration. May new opportunities arise to strengthen relationships, perspectives and life direction. May you feel more empowered than overwhelmed. May you feel embraced more than isolated. Together, we can change the future. Our youth can be a strong example of our choice to invest in them. The future will be bright, its just uber hazy right now. Coming together (in whatever way is safest), will strengthen our future and help inspire new things to grow.

We've Got This Quotes

For my dear educators (parents included as we are partners now), hold this true to your heart in your planning for your resilient pedagogy:

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I believe in YOU. I believe in our YOUTH. I believe in our RESILIENCY. Let’s commit to find creative ways to release more dopamine than cortisol!

 

2009/2010

So, I’ve been stirring about sitting down and writing during this time. Among the other things I’m composing, reading and researching, I came across a token from the past. Over 10 years ago, I had started a blog that I COMPLETELY forgot about. Therefore, before I compose anything new (don’t worry.. I’ll have another one coming soon), I’d like to share my FIRST blog from 2009/2010… the first year of my marriage ❤

https://whoawuhhsmith.blogspot.com/2009/ <– here it is ❤

Uncertainty.

To begin with, I’m straight forward uncertain on how this blog will unfold. I appreciate the pureness in thought and the craft of composition, therefore, we will see how this unfolds in one sitting. I hope it is cohesive and creates reflection and inspiration as intended.

If life were linear with identifiable mile markers, would we find value in our everyday happenings? We’d know what was coming next, so we’d just let it unfold right? Good or bad… it’d be coming anyhow.

Yet, life is not certain. The events that unfold in our lives are mostly products of our choices right? Key word: MOSTLY. Yet, the more I live life, I’m understanding how to navigate uncertainty.

I’ve always thought of myself as RESILIENT. I’ve overcame some difficult things. Though because I can demonstrate the power to overcome, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to difficult endeavors. For heaven’s sake, I may have passed the test in knowing how to overcome, but I don’t want to necessarily apply that skill on a routine basis. Thank you for your confidence in my strength, yet let’s be real, I want a vacation. 🙂

So recently I’ve explored some of my fear-based responses. Identifying that I am making decisions in fear of a potential future unfolding sounds foolish, yet we do it all the time (and yup I’m guilty for engaging in this practice). Yes, there are rational reasons for choosing to NOT do certain things, YET by understanding what’s led to that decision, allows for a holistic decision. We are wired to protect ourselves and those we love, so we try to lessen the risk of potentially harmful outcomes.

Yet with these protective practices, are we able to navigate our life in developing our whole selves? What’s a healthy dose of prevention? How do we navigate life and receive the growth, grace and gifts as we should embrace?

So a short anecdotal story: My mom and I had an amazing day together filled with great conversation and connection. We traveled to the Puyallup Fairgrounds and shopped our first Pinology market (can’t wait for the next). In our travels, we discussed life, love and all the things in between. As our time together evolved, we ran into people that we hadn’t seen in a long time. We ran into a couple of my friends that gave me giggles and smiles, as well as a childhood friend whom I haven’t seen in 25 years as well as my high school drama teacher (who was a change-maker in my life.) As the day came to an end, we both realized we were meant to be in the places we were throughout the day (sweet parking spots and chance encounters). Thinking back on this day, it makes my heart smile. I told Beau that it was one of the best days spent with my mom. Want to know why? I let things unfold as they should and I didn’t stress about the details (traffic, parking, weather) or worry about any UNCERTAINTIES. I let it be and let it unfold. Because of this, I feel more alive and enriched because of how I spent my TIME today. 

I share this short story with you to encourage reflection. Are there things in life that you wish were more CERTAIN so you can challenge yourself to grow or experience life? I am talking about the little things (not having a long line at the store/coffee shop) to the bigger things (health in the future). How might needing this certainty interfere with embracing the day and what it may bring to enrich your future?

I know life is short and we do our best to make good decisions to set up for a happy and healthy life. Though we are humans, and we make mistakes, thus life is not perfect. We strive to navigate our lives to develop our best ‘pathway to positive outcomes.’ We seek to understand so we can best respond to what life brings us. We build our strength (of mind and body) to help us overcome and be resilient. Yet, we need to remind ourselves to simply take a deep breath, let it be and let life unfold.

So I wrap this up by concluding by saying “that just happened.” I don’t have a profound premise to what initiated this blog entry (and it’s been 2 years since I’ve written!) so thank you for reading my reflection on the last thought of my day. I brought you into my reflective thoughts and took the risk of sharing them. 🙂 The process of composing this brought me joy, therefore I hope it created reflection and encouragement. 

As always, here’s a song in connection to the idea of this post. May you choose to “DANCE” when feeling uncertain and have the courage to see what unfolds.

This song reminds me of high school. I truly think this song was played at one of our Senior Year events and I remember crying. Therefore, it has true meaning to a time that I had in my life in ‘spreading my wings.’ 

 

“I hope you dance” by Lee Ann Womack

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some Hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider
Give the Heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
and wonder where those years have gone.)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
and wonder where those years have gone.

A Million Little Things

As a great friend reminded me, “the list will always be full, and it will always be there.” Yes, this is very true. Yet we determine the value and weight of the items on the list.

It brings me back to one of the best professional development trainings I’ve ever been to: Leader in Me founded in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Happy People (https://www.leaderinme.org/what-is-leader-in-me/). An essential tool to help “Put First Things First” was the quadrant of organizing priorities (https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-3.html). This tool forever changed my mindset on approaching the tasks of the day INTENTIONALLY.

Another fantastic practice that I’ve been inspired to participate in regularly is setting a daily intention. This mindfulness practice that was dearly inspired by Lyndsey Morris from Generation Wellness (https://www.generationwellness.com/). She introduced “accountability buddies” that you set daily intentions with and then share your gratitudes with at the end of each day. I’ve been doing this with two other friends (we call ourselves Team Marigolds) and it has allowed me to feel uplifted and reflective in order to achieve my goals.

These are all great things to remain mindful and intentional about my daily investments. Yet, achieving things off “the-never-ending-always-growing-and-multiplying-list” does not always provide the long-term fulfillment that life has to offer. I must always consider these things:

  1. By accomplishing _________________, am I building others up?
  2. When I invest my time into ____________________, am I inspiring myself to be my best self?
  3. Am I neglecting family and friends by focusing on _____________________?

Life is short. It’s going faster and faster as the days go by. Weeks are going so fast, it’s almost scary. Watching my 5 year old grow as a Kindergartner creates a humbling time awareness. Therefore, the ‘million little things’ that are going through my mind, things started-but-not-yet-finished, the laundry, the dishes and all the other things are far less valuable than spending time with those that I love.  Embracing the memories that unfold as well as the value of their presence should be the utmost priority.

But I wonder. That’s been my truth and has always been important to me, but DOING it has been hard to follow through with. Is it because of the LIST, or is it because of the ENERGY lost from doing things on the LIST? Either way, the cost of valuing ‘getting things done’ has a cost. I value my family and friendships far more than the small things on my to-do-list.

As the title clearly states, “A Million Little Things,” this communicates more than the to-do-list of all of the ‘things’ to do. It goes deeper. The show “A Million Little Things” clearly shows the complexities of just ‘doing the everyday life.’ It shows that even though you’re closely tied to those around you, it still doesn’t mean you know the daily struggles of those closest to you. Sometimes the struggles are disguised in their hard work and determination. They are happily distracted by their alternative focus. Embracing our struggles can be the scariest thing. Yet the most courageous. This is why it’s so important to love each other and accept each other through good and bad times. And honestly, simply by ASKING questions we can be more ATTUNE to each other. Be curious, be open, be YOU.

To tie the big ideas of this blog together, I think there are some key ideas to keep in mind as we take on the day we are in and the days we have ahead.

Let’s embrace the opportunity of today and the promise of tomorrow by being hopeful and optimistic.

Let’s celebrate our achievements and not grieve the incomplete.

Let’s be intentional. Let’s work to build positive outcomes. Let’s inspire others.

Stay connected to self and with the relationships that matter most to us by asking questions and being reflective.

In conclusion, I leave you with a song that truly communicates the MUST-DO’s on our to-do-lists that give the best lifetime investment and payback. Through all things, may we be humble and kind.

Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw

You know there’s a lot that goes by the front door
Don’t forget the keys under the mat
Childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church ’cause your momma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won’t be a waste of time
Always stay humble and kind
Hold the door say please say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
Don’t expect a free ride from no one
Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why
Bitterness keeps you from flying
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
I love you ain’t no pick up line so
Always stay humble and kind
When it’s hot, drink a root beer 🙂, eat a Popsicle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re goin’
Don’t forget turn back around
Help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

 

My favorite word is “Mommy”

Though sometimes repeated more times in sequence than I can handle, you can call me that all day long. It always brings an ounce of happiness and hope each time I’m called for. My heart is warmed each time she calls for me, whether it be for stress or in glee, her heart calls for “mommy.”

Yes, daddy is called just as strong, and I truly get shared joy as she asks for him to come along. I’ve dearly learned in the last few months, how to value thee. As I was to become another mommy to be- I had to let my a piece of my heart free.

Yet as I’ve grown and begun to better appreciate, I’ve healed and found my hope in life from my little descendant of me. My hope for tomorrow and what lies ahead is fragile and uncertain. The questions arise about what lies in the future ahead, but I mustn’t dread all that could be. For I truly have a precious gift of being called mommy.

I now better understand that this gift is not provided to all. There are no prejudice to who may or may not get the call. Therefore I feel the power, strength and warmth to hold hands with the women around me. We bring hope, strength and grace to all that we empower as we stand tall. We persevere, we support, we love.

Though it may not always be easy to do the above- it truly is in our heart of hearts to nurture and love. Because of these reasons, I cherish the honor of being called mommy, as I hold the gift to empower another with all things that the future can be. To greatness, to togetherness- to love.

Image result for mother quotes

Facing Failure

I do my best to demonstrate that I learn from my mistakes in order to become a better person, educator, wife and mother. In my opinion, seeking perfection is a fruitless journey.  I strive to inspire greatness in others and be my best self most of the time. I’m far from perfect but I’m happy with who I am. Facing a failure encourages me to do something different and better next time. My goal is to do my best to not make the same mistake again. If I do, I’ll try something different.

I surround myself with people that have the same mindset and perspective. I have a reputation of being positive and encouraging to those around me. I am happy to hold to that reputation because that’s what I want in my life and for those around me- true happiness. And from my perspective, true happiness is not perfection. We are not perfect. We mess up. We forgive. We move on. We do our best to make the right mistakes and learn together. Laugh it off, cry it out, move on stronger.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about the experience that left me speechless on Friday afternoon. Passing back the math trimester test to my students caused a breakdown that I never expected. In my 12 years, I never had this kind of response. The response from my 10 year olds SHOCKED me.

Let me provide some background. At the end of every trimester, we “check up” on how our students are doing in math. We assess them on the skills they’ve learned over that trimester. We compound three months of rigorous math work into one 7 page assessment. It took us about three class periods (60 minutes each) to complete. They worked hard on this test. You can see it all over their papers. They had a mostly-good attitude about taking it. I was encouraging (kind words and getting to chew gum ;-)), but it was still a test. And yes, text anxiety is real in kids. At 10 years old. It’s heartbreaking.

Before I passed out their tests, I explained to them (in a very comforting and positive tone), that they taught me so much about how I can better support them as learners. I explained to them that I appreciated how hard they worked as I saw it on each of their tests. I really wanted them to know that their effort mattered.

And then they got their tests back.  It was like I gave them an uncurable medical diagnosis. Their heads went down. I had one go straight to the corner and refuse to come back to their desk. I had one student have a full on meltdown. I was shocked. Then came time for conversation. I compassionately asked them why getting their test back upset them. I got the reasonable response of “I thought I did better than I did,” but then I had a shift of response. One student got mad at me for putting a check mark to mark it as wrong and that I should have done a big red x instead. Another was big-tear-crying saying that he was going to be spanked when he got home. Unfortunately, it turned into a ‘family meeting’ on how we can support each other.

After having an emotional intervention, we were able to get better grips with how we did on our tests. The scores were not great, but they were willing to review their work to figure out what they did wrong. As we walked through a couple problems, they began to realize they made little mistakes and they could now articulate what they did wrong. We made progress; for most, but not all. I still had three students in big time shut down mode; two in fear of parental response, the other stuck in a negative self-talk cycle.

I’ve thought about this all weekend. I know my task is to continue to empower them and give them courage to work through difficult tasks and coaching them to be ok with performing less than expected. I”ll continue to remind them that it’s not a final judgement, its a piece of paper with problems to solve. They have so many tests ahead of them, I can’t help but worry about their educational journey if they’re already fear the outcome of their tests. In reflection, it also raises a lot of questions.

How have we created a generation that fears failure? Why are we expecting kids to be perfect? Where did this test anxiety come from? They’re fourth graders: KIDS. How can I encourage parents to put less weight on assessment outcomes? How can we create developmentally appropriate learning environments? WHY DO WE TEST SO MUCH IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL? 😦

All in all, I will continue to embrace my kiddos and tell them I believe in them. I never want them to give up because if they do, they may miss out on the greatest opportunities if they do not face their failures. We as a community of educators, parents and family members need to do the same. Kids look up to us and if for a split second they think we don’t think they’re capable of doing great things based on a TEST, we’ve failed them.

Let’s choose to empower and overcome. With great effort and strong support, we can do all things.

I don’t leave with a song this time, but a couple quotes. May you be inspired. Till next time….

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quotes about failed love                                                                                                                                                      More

Our 2017 Christmas Story

It has been a long time since I’ve sat down and written (typed) up my thoughts. A million of them bounce around in my head on a moment by moment basis. Therefore, I hope to remain focused in this blog. I can’t promise, but I can hope for the best.

As the 2017 holiday season is coming to a close, my heart is full and genuinely warmed by the experiences and conversations over the last month or so. I am surrounded by great people that have great perspectives and provide me true inspiration. I am extremely grateful for the people in my life. I hope you know who you are. If not, I’ll do a better job telling you rather than assuming you already know.

So, everyone has their own yearly Christmas story right? We all have things that are predictable and are the same each year, as well as get surprised by some great, and some not-so-much news and experiences. Either way, I’ve learned to embrace ALL things during the holidays as being part of our ‘Christmas Story.’ And for the good spirit in me and with my motivation to write (and while Bella happily plays with her new toys), I’d like to share a little of the 2017 Smith-Virnoche-Zecher-Sande-Blankenship-Hendricks Family Christmas Story. 🙂

————–2017 Christmas Story———————–

After an amazing Thanksgiving FEAST, my sister, brother-in-law, niece, mom and dad went on our 2nd Annual TREE HUNT. Baby Clara slept ok, not great (thus parents were in exact zombie-ish-new-parent-like shape) and after Beau took an early airport drop-off drive; our clan had a coffee in hand (or had consumed two before departure) as we set off to find the PERFECT tree. After we jumped in the back of the truck (some inside, some outside), we enjoyed the trip through the rainy, muddy hills to the corner of the lot where ‘the big trees were.’ Dad found one. Beau found one. We voted. We chose. After a good hand-saw-fresh-pitch smelling tree was hauled down to purchase, we were a little soggy, but happy with the selection.

Following our Christmas Tree Hunt, the tree remained undressed till the following afternoon. One-Step-At-A-Time. 🙂 Next was our 4th Annual Alderbrook Christmas Breakfast and Santa Pictures. We rented out the wine room and spent our morning together with Bloody Marys, Coffee, The-Best-Eggs-Benedicts-EVER, and French-Toast-Deliciousness, as we shared stories, prepared for Christmas and simply enjoyed time together. The Santa experience was flawless (which is worth celebrating! a 3 month old, a 3 and 4 year old=unsure outcomes in a lot of things: especially with Santa).

This year we started some new traditions that I look forward to continuing.  We had our 1st Annual Friends-Christmas get together hosted by the amazing Randolph Family in their beautiful home. I have not laughed that hard for a long time. The conversations and laughter shared was truly one of my favorite things about this holiday season. The Syran Wrap Ball. The Dining Room Conversations. The PERFECT little Mia. The Pure Happiness and Solid Friendships. I can’t wait till next year.

Next, we had our every-year-I’ve-been-alive (and more) Virnoche-Hendricks get together; Our 3rd Annual hosted by Brad and Christy. I snuggled Clara for a long time (made this aunt happy!) and had a change-the-world (of education) conversation with Bree and caught up with some family that I haven’t seen over the year. I always want more time spent together. I love you all and I look forward to more times spent together.

To jazz up our story, we had to go get a second tree because the first one we cut down was not taking water (even after fresh cut). Our family-trip-attained-tree was BONE dry. Therefore, we went to get another tree for Christmas and thru New Years. Yet this trip wasn’t so orchestrated. We packed our chainsaw, turned on the Christmas Music and drove 5 miles down the road to Hurd’s Christmas Tree farm. Our tree was chosen, cut and hauled out in less than 10 minutes. And it’s a beaut! 11 feet tall standing proudly in our living room. (After trimming a foot or so off the top as it attempted to be a Clark Family Tree.) The star was placed on the top and is decorated and ready to play the part.

Next, came MY 12 (and a half) Annual Smith-Sande-Blankenship Christmas Eve festivities. I love the traditions that hold for this night. Carols. Santa Claus. White Elephant (with a new twist this year) and the games that bring out the competition and the kids participation. This year the knock on the door from Santa made us all jump as we were singing our traditional Silent Night led by Grandma Bea. The new white elephant game may not have given us the ‘steal and deal’ that we typically deal with, but we all ended the night with a smile (and maybe with an off-the-wall calendar) and could laugh at whoever got the Toilet Bowl Coffee Mug (at least it came with shot or two of Baileys). 🙂 To top it off- we will always remember it being Bella and Paisleys first white Christmas.

Now for Christmas Day, Bella, Beau and I woke up in our matching footed onesies to ‘go see what Santa brought us.’ Bella was all squeals and happy-as-could-be about Santa eating her 3 cookies and the reindeer enjoying her baby-carrots. She treasured each gift and if it had a “B” on the gift tag (from Bella or To Beau included), she thought it was her gift. She had the true joy of giving the gifts that weren’t hers to us and her grandparents. She made me very proud for her humble and joyous spirit. We could all learn something from a child’s innocence.

After a delicious breakfast (breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls, fruit, bacon and french toast sausage), shared with Beau’s parents, we sat on the couch and played with our toys a little more (while Tim took a short post-breakfast-snooze). Bella started playing during this time and didn’t stop till almost 9 pm. She was in heaven with her imagination.

We stayed in our pajamas for as long as we could on Christmas Day (and can’t lie, I am trying to do the same today (the joy of holiday break)). After an afternoon refreshing shower, my lovely parents came over to unwrap gifts and to enjoy Beau’s (I-don’t-know-how-long-he’s-done-it) Annual Rib-Eye (and mom’s delicious Apricot Chicken). As Beau and I smothered the Rib-Eye in butter and seasoning, we turned up the music (thank you Alexa) and shared the joys of preparing for our feast to somewhat conclude our Christmas Day. Sitting at the dinner table, we shared some heartfilled conversations where I got to know my dad and Beau a little better from what they shared.

I think we all got a little closer over this holiday season. I feel like my friendships are stronger, my family is closer as we experienced the true holiday spirit of love and laughter shared together.

The days in between then and now, a lot of things have unfolded around us. We pause to honor those that have faced loss during this time. Our family sends our best wishes for peace and renewal. We cherish each other and memories made together more so because of recent loss around us.

As my dad clearly shared; it really is a wonderful life. We must embrace the joys and not fester on the struggles or losses. We must overcome by seeing the greatness in all things.

I conclude this lengthy post with another attempt to inspire by a great song. I hope these lyrics touch your soul in the same way it has mine.

May it be an enriching, joyous 2018! May you find joy in all things.

What a Wonderful World
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world