Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1

NOTE: As I was about to move my home office, I read a post by a friend who suggested those of us in a coaches group post pictures of our home office.  This was motivation to get crackin’ and make things look good. Or at least, better.  A day later, Jess Lahey and KJ Del Antonia were chatting on #AmWritingWithJessandKJ about their lack of workspace, reminding me how lucky I am to have a space and how needy that space was for some love.  So the move and requisite purge began with a little kick in the pants from these three friends.


At last count, four bookcases in my office and one in the basement. Stacks around the house and stashed in tote bags and baskets. About a dozen bankers boxes with children’s books.  After our fire in 2005, one of the movers said, “Lady, are you a librarian or something?”  “Nope, I am the Trifecta. Teacher. Parent. Reader.”  He didn’t get it.


We replaced dozens of the books lost in the fire.  A decade later, I have SO many books – Kids’ books. Teacher books. Grown up books. Picture books. Well-read books. Unopened books. I am now trying to part with some of them, because… well, I really do not need all of them and they need more love and care than I can give.  It’s more emotional than looking at a scrapbook or photo album, perhaps because I never managed to keep either of those.  I AM really good at keeping books.   Continue reading “Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1”

Family Manifesto


The word manifesto comes from Latin, and it connotes something that is very clear and conspicuous. Merriam-Webster defines it as a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about defining family in Ways We Want Our Family to Be, asked Who Will Your Family Be? and defined the 8 Traits the Wonder of Children blog focuses on.  Now it’s your turn.

Coming off the holiday of love, why not channel that love for your family by taking some time to put it into words, define your priorities and top traits, and outlining how you want your family to be?

I’ll make it easy.  I’ll go first in just a bit. I’ll also give you DIY Guide. It’s a cheat sheet with three easy steps and five thought-provoking questions to get you moving ahead.


All I ask in return is that you subscribe to the newsletter, and consider sharing on your social media networks or with like-minded friends.  I won’t share your info (of course!) but I will send you the DIY Family Manifesto Guide.
Now I’ll go first.

In our family, what we do, how we treat others and how we view the world matters.  We are each unique and gifted. It’s our challenge to share our gifts with the world and to accept the gifts of others. We need the time and space to know ourselves and the courage to share what we know, to learn from others and to offer the world what we can. Our job is to find what and whom we love, and to work diligently to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We need to see the joy in this work and our relationships and to remain positive even during those times when we cannot always do what we love.


Everyone brings different experiences and struggles to the world and into our lives.  We can never walk in anyone else’s shoes, so it’s important we try to be free of judgment and be willing to accept the perspective, needs or gifts of others. We must stay true to our values and ourselves. This may mean speaking up again intolerance, unfairness or bad choices, and again, being honest.  This includes respect and openness to the views and needs of others or taking action when needed. We willing to help solve problems, rather than to blame or wrestle with anger over inaction.


We must recognize the good in our lives and the grace whatever higher being you believe in has bestowed upon your life.  There will be many in our lives who need our help, from a warm smile to our time to help them to our efforts to make them breakfast or donate something material.  Life is challenging and requires us to work hard. Sometimes we can give 85%, but often we must give at least 100%.  Conserve energy and put it towards what is most important but do those things required of you (such as taking out the trash) with the same sense of dignity and care.


We can’t always be together; it’s natural to spend and time apart. Stay connected. Check in to say hello and mean it when you ask, “How are you?” Be present or be absent, but not both at the same time.  Know what each person enjoys and do your best to enjoy these together. Sometimes being together is more important than what you do together. Be willing to listen, say, “I’m sorry,” or otherwise make reparations when you mess up or are wrong. It will happen to each of us. We all have bad days. We support each other through those and it may mean putting someone else’s needs or desires before your own. That is called being gracious.


We take care of the spaces we share so we can be together. Wake each day grateful that we are privileged inhabit this earth together and be happy or thankful for the same as each day draws to a close. Our time together may be long or short, so our daily interactions must be rooted in love. Say, “I love you” and remember that love is a verb.


So there it is. Do we live this every day?  Heck no!  We’re flawed humans, but we get up each day willing to try and try again.

Over the years, this has evolved as we have grown. Start simple. Get input from others. Post it where you can see it. Read it. Discuss it. Be it as best you can.

Now it’s your turn. Subscribe to the newsletter and I’ll send the DIY Family Manifesto your way. Share your love with your family. Share this post with your friends, won’t you please?
Take care,






8 Traits

8 traitsv2

The past few posts have focused on defining family but in a broader sense, this blog is about what we model and instill with the children in our lives and the lessons we learn from each other. A huge part of raising and working with kids is keeping in mind the end game.  That doesn’t mean being wedded to a certain outcome (soccer star, valedictorian, Ivy-League college) but more a general sense of the values you want to instill and the kind of person you hope this little person is and becomes.  While much of development is dependent on temperament, health, experiences outside the home, parents and caregivers are the first teachers and often, the most significant role models.  


It’s important to spend time thinking about what you want to model and instill, and to know that this may change over time.Each family will grow to have it’s own unique blend of values and priorities. This may include a range of other big and small ideas, such as:






The foundation for building a connected family and children who learn to navigate their world with confidence, empathy and a willingness to accept challenges are based on eight traits explored on the blog.  They are:




Love of literature/communication



Problem solving

Resilience & resourcefulness


These are eight traits, among many, that are the foundation upon which strong families are based.  It also shares stories of a wide range of children in the classroom where these traits are nurtured and contribute to both the child’s development and the school community.  Each of these traits helps give rise to confident, caring and engaged children who learn to advocate for themselves and people and issues important to them, as they learn to be self-reliant and motivated thinkers and do-ers in an increasingly complex world.

With two emerging adults – kids that are late teens and early twenties but not yet fully adults – it’s easier now to look back on how we raised them.  There were definitely periods we were far too bleary-eyed or stressed to consider the big picture! Over the past twenty years, our ideals and values have shifted as circumstances and needs changed.  We faced challenges and many joys, but throughout these halos and hiccups, there are many values and traits that we clung to and strived to model and instill.


Over these same years, as I worked with children from ages three through thirteen, I was fortunate enough to work alongside dedicated colleagues who shared similar values and commitment to what we modeled and expected from our students. Beyond my own two offspring, I saw hundreds of kids from various backgrounds learn to navigate school and life with courage and integrity, learning from their mistakes and growing.  What’s most important to me as a person and my family can be summarized:


  • We must have the courage to be both creative and empathetic in our lives. We must listen to our hearts and the people around us. Everyone and every situation have something to teach us when we listen.  
  • Communicating with others orally, in writing, in our body language and our actions are essential in this world.
  • Literature has much to teach us, as well as an ability to help us escape from the world, explore new ideas, and connect with others.  
  • Life isn’t just about work; it’s about play and joy, too. Play is essential for big people, little people and all people, so we need time for authentic play that allows us to do something we love with no  purpose.  
  • Whether in play or work, we will need to problem solve, often. This requires looking carefully at the situation and trying new things. We will fail, and we will succeed, and we will learn.
  • To navigate our relationship and our world, we will be called upon, again to be brave, as we develop resilience and resourcefulness. Life will be complicated and messy and rewarding. We have to jump in the game and give it our all.  
  • As a family, we need to support each other as we take this journey, honoring each other, being open to the possibilities, holding each other accountable as we celebrate the failures and successes of our individual and collective growth and contributions to the world.

Our most important job as parents and caregivers is to raise children who learn to be self-sufficient, competent, caring and willing to contribute to the world – a world we cannot know right now, but can only give our very best effort to raising good kids who will go out and do good in their own ways.

What’s most important to your family or for you to model and instill in the children you work with?

Ways We Want Our Family To Be

281167694_7cba89cabd_oIn the last post, I shared a glimpse of how my family  hit the reset button after a very stressful period. Even some of our friends who helped us through that phase were surprised by some of the details.  Indeed, when you are slogging through the mud, it’s hard to examine or talk about that trek.  A decade later, that murky path and the route we took out of that mayhem is transparent.  What we learned, and what many families learn as circumstances slowly or rapidly provide a reality check, is how we define ourselves.   


 We were never one of those couples who had a 6 month, 1 year, 5-year,  or 10-year plan. Maybe we had a 6-month plan and even a fuzzy idea of the long-range plan. But really, how many couples put family and work obligations on hold long enough to really engage in the kind reflection and  long-range planning?  (If that’s you, then big cheers to you!) We thought it was a good idea, but never had our act together long enough to take action. We were pretty much about getting through the day, the night and perhaps, the week ahead. Continue reading “Ways We Want Our Family To Be”

Lessons from Bear Grylls and Maria Shriver

Ponte Vecciho
Ponte Vecchio

In the summer of 2008 we lived in the Oltrarno, the “other side of the Arno” in Florence, Italy.  It was a radical lifestyle change that required us to shuffle up 92 steps to our flat, hang our laundry from window frames to dry, prepare dinner on two burners and live without the internet except for the 3 hours the bar downstairs opened. We collectively got by with limited Spanish-speaking skills and, even more, limited Italian we had, with few English-speaking companions to help translate.

With two middle schoolers and two multi-tasking parents, it was a welcome change of pace, where we vacillated between tourist and locals. We learned never to touch the produce in the market without wearing gloves and how to order Gelato and say thank you. We saw ruins and art and museums and the wider variety of human beings than we saw at home. We learned to relax, reconnect and to be less concerned with feeling safe while being more adventurous. We also learned to love Fiats so much so that years later, I continued my Italian romance with my own tiny little car.

We often had to be creative in our entertainment when we were not soaking up the local culture.  Legoes, card games or a nightly stroll were our stand-by. Watching the Tour de France, infomercials or American Idol in Italian provided some language practice and a lot of laughter. In this pre-smart phone and Kindle days, we did have a few TV shows and audiobooks we’d listen to at bedtime, all crammed into our double bed, craning our heads to soak up what was playing on my husband’s laptop. We squirmed at Bear Grylls’ bug-eating, ice-picking, cave-digging adventures. We giggled what felt like an overly idealized graduation speech in Maria Shriver’s audio book “Just Who Will You Be.”  But as it turns out, both of these narratives helped shape our lives as we began to rebuild our family, post-deployment and post-house fire. Continue reading “Lessons from Bear Grylls and Maria Shriver”