Possibilities are Everywhere

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you buy a new car you start to see that care everywhere? The minute the idea of Brand X is in your mind, Brand X cars are passing you on the freeway, next to you in parking lots, and everywhere in between.

I feel like the same is true for my word of 2018.  The last 3-4 books I’ve read have had the word possibility in them multiple times. I’m binge-watching a show (because it is a long weekend and today was my dedicated lazy day!) and what do I see? A quote that reminds me of not just possibility, but also my supporting phrase, “adventures that stretch“.


Quote as seen on my TV 


In past years, I have not noticed my words showing up literally all around me. In fact, I had to work to bring mindfulness and rejuvenation to light in my life. Challenge was a little more present in the world last year, but possibility is really taking it to a new level this year.

This makes me wonder:

  • Have I selected a word that means more to me this year?
  • Am I anxious for something new, and am therefore paying more attention to the world around me?
  • Am I yearning for something?
  • Is this just about timing?
  • Am I ready to see every new possibility that is coming my way?

Just a few thoughts as I stretch myself on this long, lazy day.

Enjoy your weekend!  Take care of yourself, others, and your community this weekend in honor of the legacy that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left behind.


Possibility 2018


My Word of 2018


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What I Read in 2017

I love to read! Some days, weeks, months, or years I find more time to read than others.

When I was a teacher, I used to hang a blank chart on my classroom door every August. Every time I finished a book, I would add it to my chart. This was a great conversation starter with my students and colleagues, and my students often recommended books to me (and vice versa!).  I also kept a reading journal for years, as a way to improve my own teaching of reading and writing, and to jog my memory when I couldn’t remember a particular book.

I got away from that habit for a number of years. However, when I began blogging, I realized that it was an easy way to keep track of my reading habits. In 2015 I read 44 books, which was great considering my initial goal was to #read15in15.  My goal for 2016 was to beat my 2015 record, since I love to compete with myself. In 2016 I read 69 books, and I kept track of my reading experiences throughout the year.

My initial goal for this year was to beat my record from last year. I missed that goal, but I’m happy with what I did read.  Thanks to an 8-day cruise in December, I was able to read a lot in the last month of 2017.

  1. Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham (audiobook)
  2. The Together Leader: Get Organized for Your Success – and Sanity! by Maia Heyck-Merlin
  3. The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
  4. 1984 by George Orwell (audiobook)
  5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  6. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook – What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce Perry  and Maia Szalavitz
  7. The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  8. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
  9. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  10. Without Annette by Jane B. Mason
  11. The Search for Baby Ruby by Susan Shreve
  12. Best Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
  13. Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel
  14. Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
  15. Bionic by Suzanne Weyn
  16. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audiobook)
  17. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
  18. Night School by Lee Child
  19. Golden Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #27) by John Sanford
  20. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  21. D.C. Dead (Stone Barrington Series #22) by Stuart Woods
  22. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  23. Unnatural Causes (Stone Barrington Series #23) by Stuart Woods
  24. Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
  25. Severe Clear (Stone Barrington Series #24) by Stuart Woods
  26. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  27. Social Leadia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd
  28. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace by Ron Friedman (audiobook)
  29. Collateral Damage (Stone Barrington Series #25) by Stuart Woods
  30. Unintended Consequences (Stone Barrington Series #26) by Stuart Woods
  31. Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
  32. Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith E. Glaser
  33. Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman
  34. The Cove by Catherine Coulter
  35. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  36. Break Your Own Rules: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking that Block Women’s Paths to Power by Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt
  37. The Girl Before by JP Delaney
  38. Doing Hard Time (Stone Barrington #27) by Stuart Woods
  39. Standup Guy (Stone Barrington #28) by Stuart Woods
  40. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
  41. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
  42. Lovers at Heart (Treat Braden) by Melissa Foster
  43. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown (audiobook)
  44. Shift This! How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom by Joy Kirr
  45. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (audiobook)
  46. Carnal Curiosity (Stone Barrington #29) by Stuart Woods
  47. Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
  48. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  49. Cut and Thrust (Stone Barrington #30) by Stuart Woods
  50. The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn


Here’s hoping to more great reads in 2018!

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My Word of 2018

happy new year

Each year, for the last three years, I have spent time in December reflecting on what I want my word for the new year to be. I go through a five-day journaling course provided by Susannah Conway. Not only does the practice ground me journaling, which I love, but it also forces me to reflect on my personal and professional goals and my aspirations for the upcoming 365 days.

Rather than set resolutions, I try to choose a word that will give me focus on a variety of goals and aspirations for the year.

In 2015 I chose mindfulness and it was exactly what I needed.

After a rough year physically, I chose rejuvenate in 2016 to help me heal.

2017 was a year of challenge and I loved the push it gave me personally, professionally, and as an active citizen and seeker of social justice in our world.

As I began my reflection for this year’s word, I was focused on five potentials. One of the activities you do with each word is to define what it means to you and look up the dictionary definition. When I wrote my own meaning of these five words, one particular word kept popping up over and over again. But as I got to the final day, I still liked two of the words from my original list along with that sixth word that kept popping up.

One of the gifts of this idea, is that there is no right or wrong way to select your word (or words or phrase) for the year.  This is a personal activity meant to guide my own reflection.  Therefore, I decided I wold find a way to incorporate all three of those words into my 2018 focus.

My word of 2018 is… POSSIBILITY.  The supporting words to help guide my year of possibility are… ADVENTURES THAT STRETCH.

Possibility 2018

I look forward to all that this year will bring and to a year of possibility.  If you have a word or focus for 2018, I’d love to hear about it and your process in the comments. I plan to blog about my word throughout the year, so stay tuned to see what adventures stretch me!

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Another Year of Blogging- 2017

December is often a time for Top Ten Lists, reflections, and preparations for goals and aspirations for the new year. I like to use this time to reflect on what I blogged about and what I want my blog to become.

Two years ago I picked my favorite posts from 2015. Last year I created a mini survey about my blog stats for the year. This year I am updating that survey to capture more about my blogging habits for the year. Feel free to play along in the comments!

My favorite blog topics this year:

  • Challenge Check-ins (my word of the year)
  • Time Management for Leaders Series
  • Building Capacity

My most read blog posts from this year:

The month in which I published the most posts:

  • January – 6 posts!
  • May, September and October tied for second place with 5 posts!

The top countries where my blog readers live (outside of the US):

  • Philippines
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia

The reasons I keep blogging:

  • for my own reflection
  • to share my learning
  • to keep track of what I read
  • I love writing!

Blogging goals for 2018:

  • Keep reflecting!
  • Keep writing!
  • Keep reading!
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Tell Me More

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and I’m still thinking about an idea that she discussed related to conflict.  In her book, Brown cites conflict research by Dr. Michelle Buck. Buck uses the term “conflict transformation,” saying that it is about “creating deeper understanding” that requires “perspective-taking.” This is different from our typical view of conflict resolution – where one person usually wins or both people feel like they lose a little when they find a compromise. 

The idea of conflict transformation includes rethinking conflict as a way to get to know someone’s perspective on a deeper level.  When most of us are in the center of a conflict, our fight or flight instincts kick in and we either prepare to stand our grand and fight or we run away from the conflict. Buck’s research advises us to transform a conflict by saying one simple phrase… “tell me more.”

By asking someone to tell you more, you will learn their perspective, why they believe what they believe, and it might often help you come to a more natural place in your conflict. It also allows you get to know the person on a deeper level.

I use the phrase “tell me more” or “say more about that” in coaching conversations. Coaching is often about listening closely, and once you get someone talking, you want them to keep talking.  When we talk, we often solve our own problems, realize our own mistakes, and discover new ideas within ourselves. If I am in a coaching conversation with a teacher or a new administrator, I begin with an open-ended, reflective question. This usually provides the space for my coachee to open up about his practice. But after he feels he has answered the question, he will often look to me to for confirmation. Instead of adding my own thoughts, this is the perfect time to say, “say more about that”. This simple phrase gives my coachee permission to keep talking, keep reflecting, and to address his own challenges.

Whether in a conflict or a coaching conversation, I encourage you to use the phrase “tell me more” to provide someone the open space they need. You will both benefit!

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The Value of Reflection

While reflection might not seem like a relevant topic for my Time Management for Leaders series, stay with me for a moment!

One of the ways in which leaders often lose time, or get sidetracked, is when everything is done at the last-minute, forcing you to make split-second decisions.  Some of these decisions end up being the wrong ones, which then causes a leader to have to backtrack, apologize, fix problems, or spin their wheels.

When we take time to pause and reflect, we give ourselves time in the future. A simple dictionary definition of reflection is “serious thought or consideration”. I know that when I take the time to thoughtfully consider something now, it saves me time (in mistakes, errors in judgment, or just feeling rushed) later.

In a not-work-specific example, I am currently reflecting on what my word for 2018 might be. Each year around this time, I begin a journaling activity designed to help me select a word that will represent the coming year. Knowing that this word will be a focus for 365 days, I take the process seriously and I don’t rush to pick the first word that comes to mind. For anyone interested in this task, I use the materials created and provide by Susannah Conway. I want to select a word that will help provide me direction both personally and professionally.  My previous words have been:

  • 2015- Mindfulness
  • 2016- Rejuvenate
  • 2017- Challenge

Bringing us back to the topic of Time Management for Leaders,  I encourage leaders to practice this important phrase:

I’m going to have to think about that and get back to you.

This is something I learned to say as a Principal, when it felt like people were constantly coming to you, expecting immediate decisions, about 150 times a day. Some decisions are easy and can be made in the moment. Other decisions should never be made without serious thought and consideration. A leader needs to distinguish between the two, and learn to take time for reflection when it matters.

For more thoughts on how leaders can built-in reflection as a habit, from A to Z, feel free to visit my Abecedary of Reflection.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about reflection in the comments. And stay tuned for what my word of 2018 will be!


Time Management for Leaders Series

Calendar 911

No More Inbox Ailment

Making Time for Classroom Visits

Organizing Resources to Share

Working with an Assistant

Taking Time to Build or Strengthen Relationships

Good Leaders Don’t Do It All Alone


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A Year of Challenge

My word of the year is challenge. In January I wrote this about the focus this year:

Here is what challenge means to me and what I hope it will bring in 2017.

  • Professionally, I want to challenge myself to continue to expand my skills and grow as a leader
  • Personally, I want to challenge myself as a writer, to get more focused on writing a book and using my writing as a form of action
  • As a citizen, I feel we will face many challenges in the coming year and I am ready – I feel like these challenges will be a call to action and I’m prepared to take action

In September I reflected on how challenge had manifested itself professionally, personally, and as a citizen. Since that post,

Professionally, I have challenged myself:

  • to serve in a formal mentor capacity.
  • facilitating new experiences, such as our district’s creation of a new mission and belief statements  as well as teacher leadership opportunities.

Personally, I have challenged myself:

  • to slow down! After an unexpected leg injury, I have spent the last month in a walking boot, forced to slow down, ask for help, rely on others, and develop more patience.  This was a big challenge for me, but I feel stronger for having lived it!
  • my book has a few more pages written, and a new outline, but it’s been a challenge to get refocused on that after the injury.

As a citizen, I have challenged myself:

  • to continue to communicate with my government representatives about my beliefs.
  • to take a greater interest in educational advocacy through various organizations.

I continue to appreciated that challenge was the right word for 2017. I haven’t thought about a new word for 2018 yet, but I am looking forward to that process in the coming weeks.


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