Monday, December 23, 2013

158th Post - Waiting (Virtual Advent Tour 2013)

There is no better reason to revive my blog than today's participation in the 2013 Virtual Advent Tour. This has become one of my most treasured Christmas traditions. In 2010, with tears streaming, I wrote about Christmas memories of my Omie. 2011 was the joyous account of sharing my well worn 'Christmas Story' picture book with Iyla and Isaac, two of our grandchildren. Hard to believe that 2012 has already fast forwarded to 2013.

Christmas 2013 will forever be remembered as 'the Christmas of waiting'. To-date, our daughter, Courtney is 10 days overdue with her first baby. Clearly this young one has a schedule of its own, not unlike the rest of this ever-growing clan. Our Christmas season has been tentatively scheduled around the impending arrival of grand-baby #10. Papa and Grandma's little apartment is bursting with travellers from afar here for the arrival of @BabyBolen. (yes he/she has their own twitter account - don't ask!)

In an attempt to keep this growing, active family entertained with something other than laptops, iPads, iPhones, Androids, TV etc. the birth of a hopefully annual Christmas tradition was born: a trip to Stanley Park for a ride on the Christmas Train.  

To quote 6 year old Cambria,

"We've GOT to do this again next year!" 

Here's a picture walk. Keep in mind these were all taken with an iPhone, on a moving train. We spent the late morning, early afternoon exploring, but can imagine that under the night sky, the lights must be spectacular. 

Santa & Friend
Rudolf the Red Reindeer
Santa's Workshop
Waiting for the train
Here it comes
Sitting in the front
Loved the theme
     Completely in the moment      

Our plans don't end with the Christmas Train: there is Christmas day at Irmgard's (who at 79 is experimenting with a new stuffing recipe); Christmas in Vernon; Christmas in Kelowna; Christmas with Grandchildren - Iyla, Isaac, Megan, Josh, Sarah, Matthew, and Levi.

As I get older I continue to work on embracing the moments, being present in the now. Life is often a complicated busy with more of 'doing the life' than 'living the life'. I enjoy this week of year, the in-between work and Christmas day. I don't always get it right. I still mess up plans (like communicating the right time to meet very pregnant Courtney and Derek at Stanley Park), but I'm getting better.

In keeping with the Charlie Brown theme at this year's Christmas Train,
 I leave you with Linus.

Merry Christmas. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

157th Post - Break Time

It's time to make it official. I'm taking a break from this version of Better is Possible. You may or may not know that I've been cheating on this first born BIP with a second - more work-related blog at...gulp WordPress. Here's the link if you're interested. Better is Possible (the work version)

I'm not shutting down this blog entirely because I hope that when retired from School District work, I'll come back home to my favorite and first Better is Possible (wow did that even make sense?).

I continue to follow friends I've met through this blog - you're all neatly organized in my Bloglovin account. I follow, yet neglect to comment. Bad Blogger am I!

It's my hope that this version of Better is Possible will be that old friend that I come back to and it's as if no time has passed. Could be wishful thinking on my part, but that's the wish I wish for now.

Take care and thanks for being my friend.

Monday, September 2, 2013

156th Post - The Butterflies are Alive and Well

Do you have them? Are they swirling in your belly? Are they taking nose dives so grand they wake you during the night? If your answer is yes, you're probably an educator in the fore-night of a new school year.
This 'day before school starts' never fails to sneak up on me with its plethora of feelings. Excitement, awe, fear, joy, anticipation...they converge in a circular pattern that interrupts sleep with that one last idea of an I must do.
How do you prepare your home away from home for another new beginning? Heading into my second year as a school-based administrator I'm feeling the weight of responsibility: the desire to greet returning staff with enthusiasm; the need to welcome new staff with a confidence that assures them they've made the right decision in joining us here at 'our home'.
It's been a particularly busy two weeks.  Days have been filled with doing all those necessary things required to have the school ready for another grand opening. It's exhausting, but it's GOOD exhausting.
Tomorrow our doors open wide to receive the hundreds of students we proudly call ours.
After a few minor tweaks today - that front bulletin board needs to look more inviting, we are as ready as we are going to be. Yet, there is perhaps the most important detail of all to attend to. Me. Am I ready? Have I taken the time to be still, to capture my thoughts, yes all those swirling ideas; to grab hold and ground them long enough to still myself.
More important than all the doing we've done, is the necessity for us to be present. Fully present. It's our presence that brings that 'magic ingredient' to a successful first day. Our interactions tomorrow will set the foundation for the rest of the year. I need to listen to the each response when I throw out greetings. I need to make eye contact. I need to connect. I know I won't get to everyone tomorrow, but I want to be sure that everyone I get to knows I am glad they're back at our school. I want them to know they are welcome here. I want them to know they are cared about; they are safe. A tall order for day one.
So how do I do it?                                                                                                                                       
 I stop doing just enough to be.
I reflect on the goodness of my life, my whole life, not just my job. I breath, I slow down - which is easier said than done. I connect all the parts of me that together make me my best Carol. In short, I consciously do what I need to do to ground myself. This grounding brings me to a place of gratitude, joy, and ultimately peace. The combination gives me strength. Strength that will need to be replenished over and over throughout the school year. 
And those butterflies, they're alive and well. A beautiful reminder of the possibilities that come along with a new school year.
Best wishes to all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

155th Post - BIG Huge Sigh...

Summer Holidaying is Over. 

This one was faster than ever.
<insert great big sigh coupled with arm stretch>

In point form here's a catch up of 
some of our summer activities:

  • Replaced septic system with a brand new state of the art Waste Treatment System
  • Re did (actually my reverend is still doing this) patio deck which was ripped out to get to the old septic tank. 
  • Learned more than I ever thought I'd learn about Waste Treatment
  • Learned we have very good dirt
  • Planted grass from seed and it's growing!
  • Celebrated the engagement of my youngest step son and his fiancĂ© Jennifer
  • Had our first ever gathering with all our grandchildren - all nine of them
  • Starting planning for the birth of grandbaby number ten who should be born sometime in December 
  • Spent a glorious four days in Parksville with my daughter, daughter-in-law, ex-daughter-in-law, granddaughter Cambria and Baby Luka
  • Walked miles on the sandy shores
  • Learned about Sand Dollars 
  • Reminded about Tides
  • Read, read, and read some more
All in all it was a wonderful vacation. One of my best yet. 
Now, it's back to work.

Contemplating the goodness of God.
 His direction, His blessing on my life.
I purpose to Lean In to his Grace,
Rest in His Peace.

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith." 
Hebrews 12:1-2

Thanks to Gwen Smith for a fresh inspiration!

It's been a while, but if you're still with me, welcome.
Until next time,

Saturday, June 22, 2013

154th Post - People Matter

It's happening again. It's June; the end is nigh. We race at break neck speed heading towards a grand finale! Then we fall to our knees, hands held high in victory, gasping for air, before we collapse in exhaustion. Or perhaps that's just me.
There have been many successes. Many things to 'roar about'. There's the usual working together as a staff to create our 'action plan for learning'; the expected sharing of professional ideas. I read some fabulous, spot on report card comments. I witnessed a willingness/desire to not settle for the status quo. If moving forward is success, then we have met our mark.
But I'm thinking, those are the easy things. Truth be told, my fulfilment was found elsewhere. It came in these seemingly small yet very LARGE moments that reached the core of heart.
A few examples:
A young student riddled with a lack of impulse control, calls out with what could only be described as unbridled joy, 'this is my BEST day EVER!'  This after an indoor bike parade, because Sports Day was cancelled due to rain. Talk about making lemonade. 
The 'Hi, Mr. Perry, are you the Vice Princess?' (And yes, I was Mr. Perry all year to this youngster)
Many Kindergarten, pre-K,  and Grade one spontaneous hugs - usually from a running start.
The ever-so polite young man, who didn't walk by me without asking how my day was going. And then waiting for an answer.
Library helpers asking for extra time to help. Just because they like books. Wow!
Sitting with grief, along side students who have experienced loss that would cripple adults. Later praying that these young souls hang on to hope; that their future will be filled with possibilities in spite of the chaos they live in now. 
Staff loving (mocking means loving, right?) my PA announcements. 
Laughing until we cried, with staff and students.
Witnessing the restorative action of forgiveness - at all ages.
Sharing the contagious excitement with a group of students as they celebrate a classmate's great work...'Mrs. Perry, look at the book he wrote, it's awesome!'
Mary Gordon, the founder of Roots of Empathy says that 'Love Grows Brains'. I smile as I write this because that surely has been my experience. Love and relationship. We're not a perfect bunch, like most schools, we have our weak spots, our 'room for improvement' areas. However, we also have strong relationships, between staff, parents, and students. We are getting better at wrestling down our differences respectfully and accepting new ideas with humility.
As we enter into our last week with students and staff, I am celebrating the work we collectively have done. We mindfully live the truth; Better is Possible.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

153rd Post - Grandbaby #9 Has Arrived

With much celebration Luka John has arrived.
Born on Sunday, April 14th 
to my middle son Landon and his wife Brittany. 
He's a beautiful, beautiful baby.
Baby Luka  has captured my heart.


Proud daddy with less than one hour old Luka

Grandma Carol (me), Mommy Brittany, Grandma Nancy 

Cousin Cambria was captured as well

My dear friend Ruth - Landon's 'other' mother.

Nothing quite like holding this newborn.

Papa Jim holding Luka safe in his arms.

That's it for now. 
Until next time.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

152nd Post - Choices

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. - Carl Jung
Turns out this crusty old gal has become rather reflective. Amid all the chatter surrounding 21st century learning I keep coming back to these basic questions:
What is it we want the people in our buildings to learn?
At the end of their time with us, what is the take away?
Not a simple question as demonstrated by the myriad of blogs, articles, and books on the topic. It's messy. Messy in the way a delicious meal is messy. An array of flavours dripping, blending, stimulating our taste buds until we groan with pleasure. So what does this have to do with education?
I tend to be a dreamer. Dreaming is good in terms of choosing the end result, but dreaming alone doesn't get you there. As I shift from dreaming to reflection I've become curious about the 'how-to' in allowing the people in our buildings dream room - not to be confused with the ever-present daydreams. More-so, I wonder about moving those dreams forward into a tangible, measurable reality; for staff and students. So what does this have to do with choices?
Choices are inevitable.  Some good, some better, some best. Some not so good, and some harmful.
Years ago when teaching grade 7 math we had a very clever young man in our class who showed us a new way of doing division. He came to the chalk board, demonstrated, explained, and with great confidence proved to us all, especially me,  that there was another way to get the answer.  He was 12. He made a choice to get to his end result a new way. Choices!
Consider the many things our students choose daily:
  • what to wear
  • what to eat
  • who to play with/hang out with during breaks
  • do their work
  • follow instructions
  • be kind
  • ask for help
...the list goes on. We often take for granted that our students know how to choose well. They simply choose not to. I agree with Ross Greene in his premise that it's more of CAN'T than WON'T. Our challenge is teaching the skill of stopping and considering the outcome of their choices. They have options.
Mental Health considerations aside, most of our students, even the highly impulsive ones can increase their capacity in good choice making. 
My provisional answers:
What is it we want them to learn? At the end of 12-13 years what do we want them to take away? 
As they end their K -12 schooling I want my students to have experienced enough 'good stuff' that they are compelled to keep on learning. I want them to know how to find the information they need to solve problems.
I want them to have learned the skill of  choosing to be kind.
I want them to have good memories of the past 12-13 years. I want them to know that there are options; they have the resources within themselves to move dreams to reality.
I want them to know how to get up if they fall. I want them to have left their options open but if they've burned some bridges along the way I want them to know that they can find a new road to travel. Think detours, not dead ends!
I want them to know that asking for help is often the wisest option. I want them to have the courage to ask. I want them to know how/where to access help.
I want them to have the courage to stand against what the majority is doing, if that is what their heart is telling them to do. I want them to have learned how to challenge, with respect, the status quo/'the way we've always done things' thinking, even when faced with resistance.
Most of all I want them to know that although life is messy, painful, and sometimes overwhelming, they can go on. They can make that choice!
The skill of making choices; benign, good, or better, when mixed with hope brings endless possibilities. It blends the ingredients that together make life delicious.
Above all else, better is possible.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

151st Post - There is No Shortcut.

There is no easy way to say this so I'll just say it, "There is no shortcut". Whether it be parenting, teaching, administrating, leading, coaching...whatever you've signed up for, if you want success, it's a 'both feet' commitment. If you want better, than it's got to be a giant leap off of that frightening or exhilarating cliff. Anything less is a disservice to the young souls who enter our doors on a daily basis.
These youngsters - and yes 18 year olds are still youngsters! often start their school years with hope, expectation, and trust. Of course there are those who come with a quiet desperation that this 'school thing' will provide a safe place, a place of acceptance, a reprieve from chaos.
This past week the video "To This Day" written by Shane Koyzcan has been making its way around the internet. The almost seven minutes are well worth watching. I suspect the majority of us can relate in some way to the message.

It is a heartfelt plea to pay attention.
To be aware.
It's not all pretty, nice, and kind in our buildings.

Our own school experiences impacted us. Some of us got through unscathed, others not so much. If it happened to us; if it's still happening now, we need to pay attention. There is no quick fix. There is no shortcut to 'better'.

This is going to take a heart change. It's about relationships! It really is. And relationship building takes time and comes at a cost.

Because in every relationship there is a risk of rejection. Rejection hurts. 
In my early career as a music specialist, I had many opportunities to connect with students; more importantly students connected with each other.

Music brought a calm to young hearts. 
Music forced us to pay attention, to be mindful. 
Together we created beauty 

- ok maybe not in Beginning Band...that wasn't always beautiful.
Decades later, we have some hard evidence to prove the importance of what many teachers always knew;
we must slow down, 
we must pay attention to things around us, 
we must listen and feel,
WE must be present.
Education can not just be about the peripheral, it has to acknowledge, no, it has to connect to the internal. I am growing weary of the never ending discussion about what kind of devices we should buy/use? What programs we simply have to implement? This one works! This one doesn't!  THIS way is the BEST... Oh the judgement. Oh how we still protect our teaching silo. To what end? 
What matters is how we connect our students with their inner strengths.
What matters is that we know our students and use that knowing to ensure their needs are being met.
As I walk through the halls of my schools, and hear the sounds of learning; yes there is a sound and it touches my heart.

As I look into classrooms and bear witness to the engagement between teacher/student; student/student, my heart sings with gratitude.

As I witness relationships building, I have hope that we are meeting the needs of our youngsters, that trajectories can change.

We are teaching them to connect with their hearts because WE are connecting with their hearts.
Then sings my soul. Better is Possible.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

150th Post - Family Day means Nothing to me!

Our long awaited BC Family Day long weekend has arrived.


Almost everyone ~ young & oldish ~ I've talked to lately is exhausted, sick, or both. How did we ever get through February without this holiday? My plan is to do nothing that I don't want to do. No 'have to's this weekend. Speaking of 'have-to's' there certainly have been a host of those lately. In the rush of things to do, I am thankful for some time to do nothing.

That's it. Nothing more to say. In the absence of profound wisdom from me I leave you with this thought stolen from my friend TT...

Easier said than done.

Enjoy the weekend wherever you are. If you're a fellow BC'er, Happy 1st Family Day Weekend.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

149th Post - What Paradigm?

We're being told endlessly that the paradigm is shifting.
Education is not what it was, the road map has changed, the paradigm has shifted, it's different, it's new, it's confusing.
What has been lacking is a definitive declaration of where we are now. What is the 2013 educational paradigm? Hues have been followed by cries of, 'tell me, show me, enlighten me'; the response being a mishmash of ideas leaving many of us with the echoing plea: please define "The New".
Before I could take my rant any further a clearer understanding of paradigms and how they shift was in order. So thanks to Google and YouTube I found my explanation. So THIS is how a paradigm shifts. Apparently our ideas, strategies, theories, et al, have been revised enough they no longer fit in the old container? My head nods in agreement. Ah yes...but container? That can't be. And then the light flickered. Perhaps there is not just one paradigm in education, perhaps there are many. Perhaps there are so many, there really isn't a paradigm at all. Radical. Maybe.
As I observed our students playing during recess while on duty this week, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I tried picturing my grandchildren out on our playground. Would they feel safe? Would they feel happy? Would their needs be met? Then it hit me, and not for the first time; parents trust us with their precious children, most send their hearts along with their offspring. There is no way to take that lightly nor is there one right way, one single paradigm that can contain the complexities of what we are called to do, to be, in order to meet all the needs gathered within our buildings.
If the paradigm is indeed a container mine must be:
  • strong enough to withstand crisis,
  • resilient enough to never give up,
  • deep enough to hold all the resources required to match a variety of diverse needs,
  • beautiful enough to capture the imagination of our charges
  • human enough to have room for humility, joy, acceptance, and love.
It could be my resistance to being labelled; to pigeon-hole education that has me rejecting the notion of a paradigm shift. Once again I come back to relationship; with staff, with students, with parents, with the DLTs of our districts.  If we must have a paradigm those will be mine and together we can be assured that better is possible.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

148th Post - OneWord

One Word 365


Yup that's my word. Enough. 

As in...
    I've had enough.
    That's enough.
    I don't have enough.
No not quite. 
More like...
   I am enough. 

Yes that feels better. 

As 2013 comes into focus: above me, below me, behind me, and in front of me, with its attempts to envelope me with pain, joy, urgency, immediacy...
As I am nudged to the edge with whispers of you can't, you won't; whispers increased to shouting if I dare to turn my back on them. Through those times my challenge will be to rehearse my word, believe my word...ENOUGH!

I am enough.


Not a word based on empty faith. A word anchored to Him.

It is enough this glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. (Adapted from Colossians 1:9,10 The Message)

I know that I am enough because I am in Him. And He is is more than Enough. 

Because of Him I am enough.