Be open

There has been so much that’s happened within the past week or so that I don’t even know where to begin. How can I begin to explain it all?  So much love. So much kindness. So many miracles. How can we even begin to thank everyone? As I wrote in Dr. Savage’s card, there are no words to describe all the gratitude. No words can do this experience justice. Yet, on my walk today, the message that kept coming back to me was ‘be open‘.

How did all of these miracles transpire? Because we are open.

How do so many people care? Because we are open.

How did Brody make it through that surgery twice with no deficits? Because we are open.

When you allow your heart to split open , which I can promise you it does when you are a parent of a child facing something life-threatening, it can turn cynical and shut good out. Or, it can become so raw that you allow all the good to seep in because you know you need it for healing. The prayers, be open. The hugs, be open. The truth, be open. The fear, be open. The victories, be open.

brain surgery2

When we first learned that his stubborn tumor had decided to start growing again after a couple years of stability, I just couldn’t believe it. How could a child who is exhibiting no symptoms and has this amazing life need another risky surgery? If he had to have another surgery, how could we ever become so lucky twice? Knowing more and more brain tumor families, we are now brutally aware of challenges that can come with a growing brain tumor: chemo, radiation, hydrocephalus, shunts, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, depression, and the list goes on and on. Would God spare us twice? I decided then to be open. There is no limit to good in the world or miracles that occur so I opened to the belief that he would be ok yet again.

Was I scared? YES. Was Brody? Not until 5 minutes before surgery began and I will never forget that moment of utter fear, heart split open again as Bo, Brody, and I cried together before they wheeled him away. I begged God for him just to be ok. Please let him wake up. Please let him be able to breathe on his own. Please let him to able to swallow. Please let him talk. Please let him run again. These are real risks and really scary feelings.

I’m not ashamed to say that we are not very religious people. I cannot quote scripture and I don’t read the bible daily. I don’t feel bad that we don’t attend church every week. And, I wasn’t even baptised until I was an adult. But, those are traditions that don’t always reflect a person’s true soul. What I am is a deeply spiritual person who believes in the power of God, prayers, love, and light. I believe in action over word. I believe in good over evil. I believe in having faith when it doesn’t make sense to. I believe that when we quiet ourselves, God speaks to us. I believe in miracles and can give testimonials all day long about what I have witnessed with Brody.


Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them. @chellyepic

  • Massive amounts of people, even people we don’t know, reaching out to pray for us and offer encouragement, favors, and hugs
  • Brody not being scared and living a normal life weeks up until the surgery
  • Dr. Savage being in Knoxville and operating on our child not once but twice (*she’s a true angel)…while having a one and half year old and being 8 months pregnant!
  • Dr. Savage being able to resect all the tumor this time
  • The first night in the PICU, his nurse being “Anna H.”
  • Brody waking up, talking, and being able to stand all within the first 12 hours
  • Brody getting out of PICU in less than 24 hours
  • Brody having the will and determination to get up and get moving so quickly
  • Brody coming home 4 days after this surgery when he predicted he would be in the hospital 4 days
  • Brody not taking any meds just a week after brain surgery

I know there are many, many more examples of the power of prayer and love but you get the point! When you are open, good things can happen. Not only does this apply to brain surgery but to life. Be open to change. Be open to new people. Be open to new experiences. Be open to being a better person. Be open to giving. Be open to forgiving. Be open to loving.Very true!

To all our friends and family who were open alongside with us, thank you. Brody’s recovery is a testimony to all the good in the world.  Good surgeons, good friends, good family, good food!, and good prayers. Your hearts were open along with ours and it’s healed us. Don’t wait for brain surgery to be open to love and miracles! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, friends. Thank you, family. Thank you.

post brain surgery

The above was taken TODAY when Brody met his friends for lunch on the last day of school. He came home and has been playing Fortnite (surprise, surprise) with some of them all afternoon too! Just incredible, as Nana would say.

The morning of the surgery, I played this cheesy song at 5:30 am (Bo loves me, wink-wink!!). I had been hearing the words for weeks and I kept thinking, “whatever it takes, ’cause I love the adrenaline in my veins. Whatever it takes, ’cause I love how it feels when I break the chains”….. That same day, Anna says Mrs. Sitzlar played the same song in her PE class!


#brodystrong         #beopentomiracles    #friends      #faithoverfear     #whateverittakes




We live in a time and culture that’s intense. As a parent, a citizen of the United States, a neighbor, and even an employee, there is pressure. Pressure to perform. Pressure to look perfect. Pressure to be perfect. We see it on commercials, in magazines, and in social media. How many Rodan and Fields friends do you have? We want to stay looking youthful, while making more money, and proving that we are valuable. It’s a hard game to keep up with!

Our children are not immune. If your child attends a public school, then much of the spring is spent preparing for the big T-cap/ TNReady tests. They practice taking tests. Why? So, they too can perform and get those scores high enough so teachers can prove that they also are performing. Students need to get into honors’ classes in school so they can get into more honors classes. Kids need to earn over a 4.0 to get into the right college so they can rush on the lead the perfect life. We live in a competitive society and we start young!

Why do we have such high rates of mental illness and suicide in this country even among the affluent? Since 2007, suicide rates for adults in Tennessee went from 13.7 % per 100,000 to 16.2% in 2016 according the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. Even more disturbing is that suicide rates in youth ages 10-24 went from a rate 7.39 in 2005 in Tennessee to 10.25 in 2016 according to the TN Department of Health. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the national rates have been steadily increasing as well according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We have to ask ourselves why and reflect on best parenting and self-care practice in order to turn this trend around.

The intensity and expectation to perform makes both youth and adults feel inadequate. We feel stressed and we barely have time to slow down and think about best practices. Rushing around, leaving little time for true downtime, neglecting our emotional health, and taking on too many tasks is not producing the type of society we can be proud of. In fact, we are a pretty dysfunctional society if you compare stats to other developed nations. Working in a school and seeing the changes and increasing mental and behavioral health needs, even just within the last 5 years, we can see that kids are stressed.

We are taught that we need perfect. We recognize honor roll students. We hyper-focus on data and testing at a very young age. We celebrate being involved in the most extracurriculars. We want medals. And, we value superficial qualities like clothes, shoes, cars, money, and beauty. And, it’s reinforced over and over again on social media. We are taught to want to look different. Hair dyes, skin products, lotions, make-up, diet products, clothes, shoes, jewelry, shiny things….the list goes on. Many pockets of society are living with a superficial sense of security.

But, based on what we are seeing in schools and what’s happening in our society, we may need to reevaluate the meaning of true self-worth while we still have time to influence our children. We don’t need to be perfect, look perfect, or even act perfect. If anything, we need to relax a little more, have a little bit more fun, and maybe just be a little more imperfect.

It was March 25, 2015 that I had a mind-shift. We went from being a pretty typical American family to having an 8-year-old being diagnosed with a brain tumor 3 years ago. Life came to a screeching halt, and it’s never returned to what it was. And while our brain tumor battle isn’t over and it’s a source of unwanted stress, Brody’s brain tumor was a game-changer too, and in a good way. There are many moments from that spring that I will never forget, and many I wish I could! But there a couple moments that are burned in my brain and that changed me as a person and parent.

The one thing you really want going into brain surgery is for your child to come out breathing. You just want them to be ok. The first moment of absolute clarity was seeing Dr. Savage after the 9 1/2 hour surgery. My husband and I both bear-hugged her when she told us he was awake and talking! Then, walking into the waiting room where our family was the only group left, I burst into tears. When my mom asked what was wrong, I sobbed that I was just so, so grateful. I have never experienced such tears of absolute joy and relief. So, first, being grateful for those around you is really the only thing that matters. The ones we love, our relationships, are truly the only things that matter in the end. If we lived every day showing love and appreciation to these people, we would all live more fully.

Another moment of clarity was coming home for the first time from the hospital. I was rushed and I remember pulling into the driveway in our nice neighborhood where most neighbors have meticulous yards and landscaping. Our small yard was overgrown and needed to be mowed….and I didn’t care. I realized looking at the dirty house and long grass that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t important. Suddenly, all the random stuff that we normally give time and value to wasn’t important at all. Who cares about the long grass, the floors I want replaced, and the dog hairs in the corners? We just wanted Brody to be able to come home, to be able to run again, and for the tumor to be benign. When your child is sick or in the hospital, you suddenly don’t care about those surface-value things.

And lastly, there was one, just one goal, Brody set for himself before his big surgery: he wanted to be able to run again. He didn’t say that he wanted to run track and finish first , play soccer in high school, or finish a 10k. He just had that one goal, to be able to run again period. (Interestingly enough, and unbeknownst to him, many children are not able to run again after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in the cerebellum. So, being able to run again was a really important goal that he intuitively set for himself. ) And, Brody was able to run just a few, short weeks after his surgery, not fast but a jog through the yard one foggy morning. Tears filled my eyes as his simple wish was granted. (And, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Brody continues, at age 11, to not only run but run really fast in track and soccer.) So, really our goals don’t need to be over-the-top and we should let our kids set their own goals.

While we, as parents, want to witness our children excel or even stand out, maybe just running is enough, regardless of how fast they’re going. Sometimes, we are the ones to get caught up. Sometimes, it’s the adults that add the pressure when our child just wants to run. It’s especially hard to check our behavior if it’s something we are passionate about, but our children don’t need the added pressure of having to perform in school or sports. Just let them set their own goals and take some ownership. When we take over and tell our kids what hobbies they should have, what place they should finish, and even what grades they should make, it can cause an internal conflict. Kids can’t always live up to our expectations. So, what can we expect?

I think we expect them to be the nice kid. Keep it simple because so much of life is out of our hands. When we try to be perfect, we will be let down because we are inherently imperfect. With so many things in life out of our control, our manners, our attitude, and our behavior is something we can do. Being nice, showing kindness, practicing gratitude, and giving forgiveness is something everyone can do and feel good about. These values don’t go out of style. And, they will matter in the end because we don’t have to be perfect to be nice.

nice kids



The Best Valentine’s Gift

Love is a hard word to describe, and even harder to live out. When you’ve been in love, you know it!  You experience a type of euphoria that’s addictive, yet not sustainable. But, love can come in many different forms and parts of speech! It’s a noun, a verb, and even an adjective. The love that’s sustainable is an action, and if you’re a parent, you understand this type of unconditional love.

There is nothing like the love and connection you form with your child. You’d do literally anything for them. Jump off a bridge, throw yourself in front of a moving car, or sprint into a fire. Hopefully, you’ll need not do any of the above but loving our children is the single most important thing we can do as parents.

Why? Because children who feel loved are more secure, more empathetic, and more likely to love others. Humans who feel loved can lead productive lives and overcome obstacles. People who feel loved may live up to their potential because they don’t have that voice in their head that is critical, doubtful, or cruel. If we don’t feel loved, there is a void.

We love our children when we:

  • tell them they are loved
  • teach them right from wrong
  • forgive them
  • recognize effort and compliment them
  • tell them they are appreciated
  • hold them accountable
  • pay attention and listen to them
  • know when to help them, and when to make them help themselves
  • accept them 

That’s hard enough to do! However, when thinking about how we best can love our children, the foundation is loving ourselves! It doesn’t mean sacrificing the needs and wants of others to get what we want; that’s self-serving.  The best way to love others and sustain a healthy, loving relationship is to be the best person, and subsequently, the best parent we can be. We cannot fully love others if we don’t love ourselves. Yes, we’ve heard this for years from Oprah and self-help books when referring to romantic relationships but loving ourselves will help us be loving parents. People who don’t have their own lives figured out and are searching for happiness externally cannot fully love another. First, we must love ourselves.

If we aren’t being honest with ourselves, then we aren’t modeling how to be genuine, truthful people. If we aren’t practicing kindness and patience within ourselves, we cannot expect our children to practice good self-care. If we don’t take time for our passions, then our kids don’t get to witness joy and strength from the people they admire and look up to. If we don’t believe or even hope things will get better, our children don’t witness the power of positive thinking. If we don’t protect ourselves, emotionally or physically, then our children don’t feel safe and protected. As parents, we must remind ourselves that our children are watching. They don’t usually acknowledge that they care or even always respect our decisions, but they are taking it all in. 

To fully love others, we must first take care of ourselves. So, let’s revisit the list above and this time, let’s decide to do these things for ourselves. Before we fully and actively love someone else, we need to remind ourselves to do the same for ourselves. Make the ‘them’ a ‘myself‘ in the list. We will be happier parents equipped to give more to our children. By loving ourselves unconditionally, we will unconditionally love others too. And, that is the greatest gift.

Happy Valentine’s Day! XOXO




It’s been awhile, my friends. As I warn against, this past month has been a whirlwind and I felt like my head was barely above water for a couple days there leaving me less time than I like to pause. But now that the Starry Night race is over, I can take a minute to reflect and give thanks for all the good in the world.

grateful heart

Many of you were there with your children, spouses, and friends so you know what it felt like. There were around 75 more registered runners than last year, including the fun run. There were more spectators, more brain tumor survivors, and more buzz than last year. This event is definitely growing, along with an energy that is contagious.

Because of this event, we are making new friends and reaching new families. It both amazes and inspires me to see strangers show up with no personal connection to brain tumors, yet genuinely wanting to help. If you give people a chance to be good, they are good. This community is generous, loving, and supportive. Whether is was being a sponsor, donating money, registering for the race, taking pictures, working a table, or buying a t-shirt, you showed up. (And, are still showing up.)

This is such invaluable lesson for our children, giving back whether it directly impacts you or not. We best teach empathy when we SHOW empathy. When we are true friends, we show our children what friendship looks like. When we volunteer, we show our children the power of doing. When we give encouraging words, we show our children that words matter. When we push on even when we hurt, we show our children that we can all do hard things with the power of love.

A mother named Lisa contacted me months before the race. She reached out because she lost her son, Cody at age 13, to brain cancer. She wanted to not only run in his honor but also to help. You may have seen her dressed in a super man costume because he loved super heroes. She had his picture on his cape. From the moment, she emailed me, I felt a connection. From the moment I met and hugged her, I felt her energy… loving, good energy. Strong energy. Courageous energy. Her son lost his battle on earth. If only the outcome had been different and he had more time. Yet,  she’s still showing up and keeping him alive. Love doesn’t end. lisa

Neither does hope. My hope is that we can prevent other mothers from losing their children to this deadly disease. When we take a tough situation and make something good out of it, that’s hope. There’s hope in knowing that we can still do good in face of something horrible and hard.

When I last blogged before the race and envisioned something I feel so passionately about, I pictured these signs. I passed the torch to Bo and he designed them. They were better than I had imagined and tears welled in my eyes when I first saw them. This is what it’s all about, pressing on for those kids who are still fighting the fight. Continuing to remember and love those who have not been so fortunate. Those children are the reason we ran. And after the race, many, many runners commented on those real faces of children we now know. Real kids who didn’t sign up for this race and some who truly cannot run but they are the warriors fighting on.


As I went to Ijams on my day off after race-day, I went on yet another run to collect any remaining signs and thoughts. Like before the race, I was alone but with music as I reflected on what the race had meant this year. As I got right to the end of the trail at the turn-around for the 8.5k, I approached a steep hill (that I know runners cuss me for) and this song came on when I saw the sign above. (I encourage you to listen below as you read and think about what difference you are making.) Again, tears rolling down my face.

You are my brothers and sisters. We are in this life together, and TOGETHER we do make a difference. Many families and individuals made a point to say thank you and offer encouraging words. I cannot say thank you enough for fighting for Brody and all those children you now may have seen and met. Or, even for those we haven’t met. This is love.

There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

For as many evil, unhappy, or unkind people and diseases there are in the world, there is still more good. Hope shines through even the darkest of times. Thank you for giving us hope.

Be Kind

On a day like today, or any day really, there cannot be too much kindness. How can we have a grateful heart? Practice being kind. Say kind things. Do kind things. Think kind things. Look for kind things. Just be kind.

It was 2 weeks ago when some girls at one of my schools were not being so kind. The fall drama was amping up as the honeymoon is over. In fact, many 9-10 year olds that I know have been looking for trouble so I’ve had no trouble with getting business! (#schoolcounselorbusiness!) When this has happened at one of my schools and I’m feeling a negative climate, I think it’s best to focus on what’s going right and not what’s going wrong. I mean, for real, we can complain all day long but watching for someone doing something right is lot more rewarding and fun.

So, I gave the girls a kindness challenge. They choose to meet at recess to make a plan to recognize others for being kind. They write simple kindness reports and distribute kindness cards to those who are ‘caught being kind’. Then, the person who practiced the kind deed gets a prize from me. So, really they are choosing to let others be rewarded, which isn’t always so easy for kids. But, they are my “kindness ambassadors” so I think they are kind of proud to have this responsibility. Not only that, I believe that they are getting some intrinsic reward too. It feels good to be good and to tell others they’re good!

I found many, many ideas on my fav, Pinterest. Here’s this week’s list that not only am I sharing with my school girls but I also shared with my children. be kind.jpg

Now, why is this one written on? I encouraged and challenged Brody and Anna to also complete 12 of the squares on this chart when I printed it yesterday. I even said I’d give them a reward if they did it. Anna was anxious to start. She asked several clarifying questions. And, she started yesterday, as you can see.  She’s on it! She’s so on it that this is what I just found on my pillow. (#meltmyheart!)love letter.jpg

Do I write about this to brag on my sweetest angel? (kind of!;) But, I really thought I should share because with some kids, it’s this easy. Ask for kindness. You too can reap the benefits! You provide the prompt and then the kindness spreads.

Am I making them do this? No…and Brody hasn’t done a thing about it! But, I think just talking about what it looks like to be kind helps build empathy. Just encouraging a random act of kindness can excite some children. And, giving freely pads the heart, making us less hardned.

When there is so much sadness and hurt in the world, there is also a lot of little things, amazing things happening too. Look for them. Ask for them. Encourage them. And, reward them. This is a grateful heart.

My #1

1Every child deserves to someone’s number one. Every child needs to hear they are loved, feel adored, and be given hugs before bed. Every child deserves to have someone read them a bedtime story. Every child wants to hear they are good at something. Every child not only wants these things; they need it. It’s something many of us take for grated. It’s something many of us do for our children without thought.

“You’re my favorite boy in the world. You’re so smart. You’re such a good girl. You are so responsible. I love you…..”

These are things I say to my children every day because I mean it, and they need to hear it. They need to feel it. And, many, many children are not feeling like they are anyone’s number one.

The list of children that I spent time with this week is long. And when I think of a commonalities, there is one depressing theme. Many, if not most, of the children who had angry outbursts, who had a conflict or made a bad choice, or asked to spend time with me are lacking one or both parents. They are abandoned and feel unwanted. Their parents have different priorities.

They’re in jail. They’re on drugs. They have a new boyfriend. I’ve even had children tell me that they have new kids now. They have a new family. How does that make a child feel to have their parent care about something or someone more than them? It leaves a void. They feel incomplete. They feel insecure. And, they are longing for attention.

And, they look for attention wherever they can find it. In PAC (in-school suspension), in conflicts, in rebellion, and even within themselves. I had a boy tell me at the end of the day that “he would never earn a reward from me” when he saw another girl picking her toy from my ‘joy jar’. “I’m stupid and I never do anything right.” This is not how children are supposed to feel when they are nine.

But, when your mom has left you, you rarely see your dad, and you’re scared of your caretaker, you feel lost. When your mom tells you that you won’t be seeing your dad anymore, you feel sad. When your dad is in jail and you haven’t seen him since you were three, you feel disappointed. When your mother chose drugs over you, you feel angry. Children are hurting everywhere.

But, we can’t give up. We have to be the ones to love them. Maybe they aren’t our number one, but we can try to find them a number one. Today I checked in with a friend who is being raised by her aunt and uncle. She’s been with them for years now while some of her other many siblings are living with a drug-addicted mom and other family members. In fact, one of her brothers now attends the same school yet lives with step-mom and father. He was born addicted to drugs and the impact is huge. He is so delayed and almost incapable of functioning in school. Today, he didn’t want to leave his sister when he saw her this morning. Since they don’t live together and hardly see each other, he gets so excited to see her. He became so upset upon her leaving for class that he began screaming, “I want to kill myself” over and over and over again down the hallway. It was a blood-curdling scream. It was so painful to listen to so I cannot imagine how he feels. He’s in first grade.

But, this girl who shares the same mother and doesn’t have a relationship with a different father is doing great. It was her birthday today. And while she was understandably upset by the morning incident, her ‘Big Sister’ from the Big Brothers Big Sister’s program surprised her for her birthday. She’s been matched with this girl since first grade. Her Big Sister comes to eat lunch with her often. She takes her to do fun things outside of school. And, she delivers wonderful, fancy birthday presents to this one girl. She has made her her number one! She even asked her ‘little’ to be in her wedding this winter!

So when there are children who have had bad luck and received the short-end-of-the-stick, we have to find them a number one. A mentor, a school friend, a family member who steps in….someone who will treat them like they are the most important thing in the world. And even if we can’t actually find them a mentor, we make the time we spend with ‘our’ kids meaningful. When I spend time with a child, even if it’s 5 minutes, I really try to make them feel loved. They aren’t always the most loving kids but they can be when we show them how to.

At the end of the day today, I invited a boy who’s been abandoned by his mother to come help me with my kindergarten leadership class. I had to conduct a suicide assessment on him yesterday. But today, he wanted to come with me as I taught the sweet kindergarten students about ‘filling buckets’. He was so well-behaved in this class as he served as my assistant. A boy who is desperate to be loved and is feeling really depressed chose to spend his afternoon explaining to other children how to fill buckets and make other people feel loved.

Fill someone’s bucket today, and make a child feel loved. They all deserve it.


positiveIt’s back to school which means earlier bed times and bye-bye to summer. And while this is always a bummer, it’s also a really exciting time to be inside a school. The floors are waxed, the paint is fresh, and the schools are all themed out. Teachers are abuzz with who’s in their class and the children are smiling when they walk in those school doors. It’s a hopeful time of year.

This week has reminded me what the impact of just a few positive interactions can do, what just believing in another person can do. It’s why I became a counselor.

Now, you know I love Bearden Elementary school. I’m completely biased as it’s also my alma mater. But, I do choose for my children to attend there while they’re actually zoned another school. I do love it and think it’s a happy, little school.

But, I also have another passion and I couldn’t be happier to be back at Pond Gap Elementary School just around the corner. This was my first week back in the school. It looks a lot different with new paint and half a new school building (pretty amazing). It does look great.

But, more than that, it feels even better. My first day back, I was flooded with warm welcomes from the staff, even those I hadn’t met before. The positive attitudes are contagious filling the school with motivation and dedication. It makes working at a school so much more enjoyable when you feel like you are valued and belong.

Kids must feel the same way. Last year, I also worked with amazing, dedicated educators and a population of very polite, nice, and appreciative children at a very different school on a different end of town. But, it wasn’t Pond Gap. I really missed the children at Pond Gap and still thought of them. Every school is different and they aren’t all for everyone. Sometimes you just feel and do your best when you click at a school. That’s how I feel about Pond Gap.

This week, after the incredible staff, team-building meeting, I was walking down the hall and saw a familiar face down by the office. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since he was in first grade. He’s now going into 3rd grade. He’s a little taller but still has a winning smile. He squinted and did a double take before I called his name. Then, he broke into a sprint (breaking hallway procedure!) towards me. He gave me a bear-hug and we walked down the hall hugging. He couldn’t believe I was coming back.

And this afternoon, we had a meet and greet at Pond Gap. First, I ran into some familiar faces and got more hugs. In fact, one girl who was in a small group with me maybe 3 years ago, gave me my ‘building up trust’ hand signal with a big smile on her face.

Finally, I ran into a 5th grade boy who is now my height. This African American boy has the cool clothes and the cool 5th grade attitude too. I’ve also known him for years. After getting a hug from him (yes, a hug from a 5th grade boy!), he turned to a new student sitting beside him. As I introduced myself to this new boy, my friend chimed in. He said, “If you meet with her, it is ON.” I was thinking maybe he was telling him that you meet with me when you’re in trouble. (I’m out of practice with this lingo so I asked for clarification!) He grinned turning to this new boy and said, “You’ll go to her room, learn some stuff, and have FUN!”.

That’s why I do this. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t know every kid. I don’t make a difference to every kid. I don’t have success with every kid I work with but it won’t stop me from trying.

This year, both of my schools are filled with adults who are hopeful and full of kids who are ready to be loved on. Don’t ever doubt that you can be that person that believed in them. You can’t have too much kindness! I can’t wait to have more opportunities to teach, connect, love, and believe in these kids!




It’s the frenzied time of year where even making a quick trip to the store seems like a chore. Is it really worth it with all the traffic? Forget the West Town Mall exit. And, you couldn’t pay me to go to Turkey Creek. It’s nuts out there….like really nuts! People are shooting each other in road rage? What’s wrong with people!?

We have lost perspective. Sometimes we loose sight of what’s important. And while many say that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’, it’s often times not lived out. Jesus is the reason yet we are rushing around the mall? Jesus’ birthday is the focus but look at all my Christmas lights? ‘Put Christ back in Christmas’ but act rude to your co-workers, talk behind people’s backs, and complain about all the Christmas parties? We have lost sight of the real meaning of life, not just the season, when we get all wrapped up in all the superficial non-necessities.

Stockings, gift wrap, fancy bows, tacky sweaters, and that perfect Christmas card. It’s true that I am guilty too. Guilty of not being mindful. Guilty of getting sidetracked. But, thankfully, I have my children to help me get back on track.

Children are precious gifts. Messengers from God. Angels. Reminders of what is real, and true, and pure.

This week, as I walked down the halls of Bearden Elementary , I admired the fraction Christmas tree art and snowmen decor. So festive and fun the schools look this time of year! I paused outside of Anna’s classroom to examine the essays they wrote on “THE BEST GIFT”, the writing prompt. Some said the perfect gift was to pick up litter so the animals and earth aren’t hurt. One said a plane to visit friends and family. Some were about giving and many were about getting. Then, I saw Anna’s.


Now, does that not show what we have lived the past couple years!? And, does it not also show the biggest gifts in the world can’t be bought!? As Anna put it last night, it’s better to give than receive.

She’s not perfect. And, she can drive me cra-zy! But, she also makes me so proud. She actually makes me a better person. She inspires me. She is a gift.

Friends and family: they are gifts. Comfort: what a gift. Peace: another gift. And, health: is that ever a gift!?

The best gifts cannot be bought, indeed. It’s a Hallmark card and also from the mouths of babes! And, when it comes from an eight-year-old, it truly seems genuine. Be mindful, older souls, that we have some many great gifts every day, even if you never make it to the mall! Merry Christmas!

#heartofgold  OR  #santaswatching!

Hi! My name is Sarah and I like warm hugs!

I am literally on a high after a little delivery I made today. The Girls on the Run team at Bearden decided on not 1, not 2, but 3 community service projects this fall. One of those was collecting warm winter coats for children in need. I suggested Pond Gap, a school in which I used to work. It’s a Title-1 school, and the needs are high. The kids are colorful, a little nutty, but also so sweet! So, as we awoke to 20 degree weather and I bundled my kids up just to walk from the car into school, I imagined many little people waiting in the cold at dark bus stops this morning.  So,  what a better day to deliver these coats, hats, and gloves than today.

Since I hadn’t stepped inside those old school doors since August (when I went to sadly say goodbye to some students I had grown really close with), I drove there with a few butterflies imagining what it would be like to see some of their surprised faces. Sure enough, as soon as I entered the same, old building, I immediately saw familiar faces. Hugs were spontaneous and tight.

More and more classes began taking bathroom breaks and coming by the front stairs where I stood. And, I was greeted with more and more love and surprised smiles. A 5th grade girl whom I knew very well, hugged me and leaned in to whisper, “My aunt died. And, my dad is back in jail.”

Then, I went down to the lunchroom. The jumps out of their seats, the squeals, and more hugs made me know my time there was worthwhile. Even children whose names I didn’t remember stopped to give me a hug (and, yes, they did ask if I remembered their name!).

For a part-time School Counselor, we don’t spend every day with the same kids like a classroom teacher. We don’t get those “best teacher ever” coffee mugs, and really much confirmation that we are indeed worthwhile. Aims web data doesn’t measure it. And, sometimes, teachers don’t really even know what we do.

But, like my School Counselor colleagues, what I DO know is that we love our students. We spend time making a child feel like they are the most important person on this earth, knowing they might not get that love elsewhere. And, sometimes, if you’re lucky, that genuine, pure love is returned.

Today, I got a great gift. Those tight squeezes we exchanged are proof that meaningful relationships do matter (man, I miss those crazy kids!). Today, those awesome kids made me feel like I was an important person to them. Or, maybe I just really needed some bear-hugs! Either way, wow… hugs are healing and what a joy it is to exchange the same genuine feeling at the same time!



#warm hugs

#Love what you do. Do what you love!

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