Six Days

Conscious Discipline® Advanced Institute

I spent 6 days at the Advanced Institute last week.  Yes six days from
8:30 AM-9:00 PM each day.  It’s intense, rigorous; the vortex.

Each year an exclusive group of practitioners gather to dig deeper into the structures, skills and powers of Conscious Discipline with Dr. Bailey. This immersive, high-engagement experience is only available to Conscious Discipline practitioners who have demonstrated a mid- to senior-level knowledge of implementation.

It’s my third time to attend, my second time as a helper.  It’s intense, rigorous.  Oh I’ve said that already.

Some say that a picture is worth a thousand words so here goes with the pictures.

My Table Family

Table 6 Rocks
We arrived not knowing each other and left as a family!

Conscious Discipline®

Jessica and Dr. Bailey
Understanding brain states!
Jessica and Dr. Bailey
Understanding brain states in ourselves and children.
Jessica and Dr. Bailey
Playing with Dr. Bailey
Jessica running through the tunnel of encouragement.
What a thrill to run through the human tunnel.
On top of pole
At the top of the pole.
Jessica on Top of pole
Getting centered
Taking a leap of faith!
Keep your eye on the ball.
Calling on everything in me to get on top of that pole.
Getting to the top
Dr. Bailey sharing wisdom.
I touched that ball.
What a thrill!
I did it!
I really did it.
Becky Hugging
The victory! The hug!
Ending ceremony
Our ending ceremony committing to keep the light shining.
Jessica and candle
Jessica expressing appreciation for Dr. Bailey’s inspiring work.

It’s About The Connection

Mom’s Birthday  

It’s my Mom’s Birthday on November 11.  Her tombstone reads 1915 but she was really born in 1913.  This is a fact that is known by all of the family but that’s not the point of this story.  She would have been 104 years old this year, 2017.  She did not like to be asked her age, it wasn’t polite and she certainly detested being called an “old lady.”  It’s a Southern thing.

The Video

On May 9, 2013 this video was launched by Conscious Discipline®.  I Love You Rituals-Your Guide For Meaningful Connections.  It was Mother’s Day.  It was the first Mother’s Day after my Mom’s death.  And there it is!  I called her Mom instead of Mother!  There’s the story and the connection is actually caught on the video.

The video with my Mom and me was taken 3 years earlier by Michael, 2009.  It was her 96th birthday and she was on a dementia ward.  It took me 2 years to hand the video to Dr. Bailey, creator of Conscious Discipline   This video documents the first time I EVER felt a connection with my Mom.  Connection is totally different than love.  I looked and looked at that video reliving that moment for two years.  I began to rewrite the story of my Mom and me.

The Old Story

Your perception from the video is that my relationship with my Mom is just “so very sweet!”  Well let me set you straight.  That was never the case. Oh, she certainly “loved me” and I “loved her.”  Each outfit I wore in High School was perfectly matched with gloves, shoes and purse.  My Mom was the extraordinary seamstress.  She could see a “Bobby Brooks” outfit that I liked and whip up that outfit for me in less than a week.  I hated it.  I wanted the label.   She just didn’t get me and it felt like she didn’t even want to get me.  I got a job at the local store to buy the “Bobby Brooks” outfit.  There’s the solution.

In 1969 I came home feeling absolutely devastated.  My boyfriend had asked a friend (or so I thought) out on a date.  I shared my heartache with her and her response was there were dishes to be washed.  That was pretty much the moment that I vowed never to share any of my problems with her.  I went to college 6 hours away and have never lived less than 8 hours away.  Geography is the solution.

There are many more stories but I believe that you get the gist.  I coveted something different with my Mom.  I never could quite identify what that something was but it was like a hole in my heart.  I saw what other friends had with their Mom and I wanted it so very badly.  I wanted a Mom that I could come to, share my problems with and get some empathy, some understanding.  My solutions were much the same as hers; ignoring through geography.

Mom’s Story

My Mom grew up on a farm in Mississippi.  Your typical farm with cows, pigs, chickens and mules.  Your typical farm with rows and rows of corn, peanuts and sugar cane.  Your typical farm with an outhouse.  Her mother made all of her clothes.  My Mom’s Mother put her 5 sisters through college; teachers and nurses, yet both her daughters did not attend college.  They were poor, yet rich.  That’s the short story!

The New Story

So I began to rewrite my story with my Mom in 2009 after feeling the connection with my Mom.  I believe that she did the best that she could.  I think that’s called acceptance, the first step.  She desperately wanted her daughters to attend college and they did!  So how did it happen for me?

We moved to Kentucky when I was a rising 4th grader.  My Dad worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  Believe it or not the public schools received money for each TVA child that attended a public school at that time.  Children were grouped and my Mom was not happy that I was grouped into the lower achieving group and she marched into the school and let it be known that her child should be in the highest achieving group.  I believe that is called having a Big Voice.  Her Big Voice got me moved and that changed the trajectory of my entire life or so I believe.

The Power of Attention, what you focus of you get more of is an interesting thing.   I am beginning to remember more and more stories of Mom and how she shaped my life and made me strong, resilient and find my Big Voice.

One more story!  It’s March 1997.  I just found out that my husband (former now) was having an affair. I was going to see my parents.  How on earth could I tell them?  What an angst!  I never tell my Mom anything.  I fly into Knoxville, rent a car to meet them at a condo in the Smoky Mountains.  I walk into the condo and my Mom exclaims, before she even hugs me, “How old is she?”  Excuse me but who has invaded my Mom’s body?  Is she truly this understanding?  Does she finally get what I am feeling?  Yes!  Cross my fingers and hope that it is happening.

So fast forward to November 11, 2009 and the video.  BOOM!  The connection happens!  It’s electric, charged, different.  The entire day is different.  She is different.  I am different!

I am still working on the story!  It’s a work in progress and one that I feel gratitude for in my life.

Have You Missed Me?

I’ve been gone since May 12.  Well let’s be honest, it’s been longer than that! Mike’s been sick for over a year.

The love of my life died on May 12.  I’ve intentionally not posted anything on my Ripple Facebook page.  I’ve been taking the time to just grieve, to welcome sad into my life, to just sit with sad.

I had the privilege of loving Mike and knowing him for the past 13 years.  The best part is that he “got” me.  He encouraged me at every step of the way of me launching my business in South Carolina.  My life would look very different if Michael were not in my life.

I had a song that I would sing to Michael because EVERY word captured what my heart felt for him.  Thank you Celine Dion for the words!

Because You Loved Me

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I’ll be forever thankful baby
You’re the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You’re the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘coz you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I’m grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don’t know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘coz you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You’ve been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘coz you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

I’m back friends!  I’m certain that sad will be traveling with me!  Welcome sad and come be with me because I can handle it.  Michael, you made a huge Ripple in my life and I am forever changed because of your love.

Mike and Jessica

My Heart Is Full of Gratitude For Bill McSpedden

Yesterday I noticed that a High School friend had posted a photo of her father in uniform from World War II.  

Sgt Bill McSpedden

My family moved to Greenville, Kentucky.  I was 9 years old when my father was transferred with the Tennessee Valley Authority.  I spent the next nine years of my life living a wonderful magical life in that sweet small town.  But yesterday made me wonder what had I missed.  I obviously missed that Mr. McSpedden had served his country. I wanted to know more so I sent my friend, Helen, a message asking if she would be willing to share some of her father’s story.  

It’s easy for me to conjure up images of Arlington Cemetery and the flags on each marker.  It’s easy for me to pause and give thanks to all the women and men that have served their country, my country.  But today I want to thank someone specifically.  Someone who looked over me as I was growing up.  Someone who kept me safe as I was growing up.  Someone who kept Greenville, Kentucky safe. So thank you Bill McSpedden for fighting for my freedom. 

Here’s what his daughter, Helen wrote from her heart.  

Memorial Day is very special to me.

I believe Veterans are heroes and deserve our highest praise. My dad, Bill McSpedden, was a member of The Greatest Generation and served in The 8th Army Air Force. He was stationed in London, England. My thoughts of Dad during this time deal with matters of the heart.

My dad always made friends where ever he went, so I know he made a positive impact on others. He was even offered ownership of a business in England, if he wanted it, after the war was over. Dad wanted to return to his home in Nashville, TN. Dad’s life was forever changed when he was in London, he found the love of his life, my mom. After he met mom, he told his friend in the truck, “I just met the girl I’m going to marry.” When he saw this beautiful, redhead with eyes of blue, his heart melted. She was working as a telephone operator and Dad was there to pick up something and received a call. He had to go in my office to use the telephone. She said “Bill filled the office.” He was tall, dark and handsome. After he left, the girls in the office told her, the Yank had been asking questions about her. Is she married, ect. Love found a way, I am happy to say. Mother’s parents lived on a lovely street and all the neighbors loved it when Dad visited mom at her parent’s house. They married in London, England. That’s why I love England so much and collect everything from The Beatles to English china. My parents built a home in Greenville, Ky. They raised 3 daughters and all of us grew up in that house. I still love to walk in that house, my forever home. Sgt. Bill McSpedden and Edna Woodley are my heroes of World War II. Mother leaving her home country to follow her heart was an act of bravery. That is just a small part of their story, their special love story. Memorial Day, I thank God for protecting Daddy and for giving him this gift of love. God Bless America and thank you to all those who have served and are serving this great nation of ours.

Sgt. Bill McSpedden and Edna Woodley
The Happy Couple!

Practicing the Power and Skills of Conscious Discipline® Puppy Style!

I’ve grown up with dogs all of my life!  I have fond memories of dressing our Boston Terrier, Ginger, in tutus and painting her toe nails red.  And then there was Scooter who had so much energy and could make me laugh and smile.  

Jessica with Ginger in Greenville, KY.
Jessica with Ginger in Greenville, KY.

Yes, I have a love affair for terriers!  They have such an attitude and a flair for independence.  Amos Moses, a Wire Haired Fox Terrier, was my first child.  Sorry Jay!  Everyone on the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, knew Amos Moses because he would regularly visit other neighborhoods and would be returned home safely on the bus.

Jay's first birthday with Amos Moses helping!
Jay’s first birthday with Amos Moses helping!

And then the real love affair started with Scottish Terriers!  

Jesse with Alex on the left and Jezebel on the right.
Jesse with Alex on the left and Jezebel on the right.
Gus and Maddie meeting the bunnies!
Gus and Maddie meeting the bunnies!

This week Bailey came into our home!  She’s 2 months old and full of that Scottie attitude and Scottie energy.  Did I mention that she loves my feet, toes, fingers and arms?  Read on!

So what does a puppy and Conscious Discipline® have in common?  

Well, I’m coaching 8 schools at the moment that are implementing Conscious Discipline into their centers.  The teachers often make comments that it is so hard to change their language with children.  Yes indeed it is hard to change how we’ve been talking.  It’s like learning a new language and it takes practice, practice, practice.  And in walks a cute Scottish Terrier helping me to hone the powers and skills of Conscious Discipline.  

So here’s hoping that Bailey can help all of us learn the language of safety and helpfulness.  Here’s to Bailey helping us to find our Big Voice.  

Language lesson for this week!  

The Power of Attention:  What you focus on you get more of! 

The Power of Love:  Seeing the best in others.   

Bailey loves my feet, toes, fingers and arms.  What I mean by that is that she bites them.  It’s fun for her, painful for me!  Puppy teeth are incredibly sharp.  OUCH!  I can allow her to make me angry OR I can “pivot,” take a deep breath and focus on what I want it to look like.  “You’re wanting my attention, so you nipped my feet. Ouch, it hurts when you nipp!  You can bark like this for my attention.”  

Pivoting changes how I feel inside so that I can bring a more positive state into this experience where learning can take place for both of us.  

I know this sounds weird using Conscious Discipline with a dog but Bailey gives me the opportunity to practice, practice, practice the powers and skills of Conscious Discipline.  It takes time to re-wire my brain.  It takes time to re-tool my tool box and I’ll jump at the chance to practice.  

“Let’s go Bailey,” says this Southern girl with an assertive voice.  

Welcome Bailey!
Welcome Bailey!

Verbal Vomit part 2 or Only YOU Can Prevent Negative Inner Speech

Time for the thrills and chills of the Ripple. Please be sure to keep your hands and feet inside the cart at all times and enjoy your ride.

I think we’ll begin with questions.
I’m a big fan of questions and the following are the ones Jessica and I asked…we suspect they’re pretty similar to the ones you asked…let us compare…shall we?

Why is inner speech so important?
Why should we be paying attention to this?
In the long run it governs your behavior.
The End.


Had you going there for a minute didn’t I? You were like, WHAT? That’s IT!?! But you were about to get back in line and ride it all over again weren’t you?
Of course you were.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, we did exactly the same thing when we were working, only it went a bit like this:
Robyn: OK this is the last sentence we wrote last time.
Jessica: Read it again please.
Then Jessica asked those two questions and immediately answered them in one sentence.
Then Robyn got that deer in the headlights look about her and responded with something to the effect of: no one is going to believe it’s that simple.
So we found ourselves getting back on the ride.

Point being (you mean there’s a point?) Yes, I assure you there is.
It really is as simple yet complicated as:  In the long run, inner speech governs your behavior.

Imagine that as parents and teachers we are going ‘round with great big highlighters (Robyn’s is pink), and throughout our day highlighting any number of things we experience and by this highlighting, we’re reinforcing that particular behavior. (You with me so far?)
When we highlight children’s behavior, we tend to judge, theoretically because if we highlight their behavior  we’re helping them learn, right?
When we highlight and judge children’s behavior, we are creating their inner speech.  The thing is, we are particularly good at highlighting the “bad” behavior. Our intentions are well meant…if we point out what isn’t right about their behavior then they will learn what is right. Um…emphatically no.

What we as parents and teachers, absolutely need to do (starting right this moment) is stop judging with our highlighters and notice children’s behavior and actions as helpful, thoughtful, or kind.  Consider this, if we only highlight the bad things we are being hurtful, and this is the kind of “hurtful” that sets a pattern that can last a lifetime.
Stop judging what kids do as “good” or “bad”. Seriously, stop judging.

Our brains are pattern seeking, so if we’re forever highlighting the negative that’s what our brain begins to search for. What you focus on you get more of!  It’s your choice what to pay attention to, are you focusing on the helpful or the hurtful? We must begin to see through new eyes and encourage our brains to pick up new patterns. It is imperative to change our focus and re-pattern our brains because we are creating their inner speech and it will last a lifetime!

Every child does helpful things.
Pay attention.
Observe without judgment.
Learn to see things from the child’s point of view.
It only takes once.  

Noticing even one helpful thing begins to change the pattern in the grown-up’s brain. Verbalizing it to the child creates that positive pattern in his or her brain. And continues to re-pattern your own brain…you see where we’re going with this right?

When you notice and describe, “brain food” is created, feeding your brain in a positive way, creating new patterns. Feeling a sense of accomplishment creates a serotonin boost, and that is seriously yummy food for your brain!
What you give to others you strengthen within yourself…it’s all about the yummy brain food which creates new patterns, which makes more yummy brain food…it’s a catch 22…but in a good way!

Here’s a little checklist to jump start your delicious, pattern-building brain food:
What is YOUR inner speech saying to you? The way you talk to yourself is the way you will talk to children (and other adults too)
Notice helpful acts however small.
Verbalize what you see.

Positive inner speech is a gift that continues to give…you’re not just starting the patterns, creating the inner speech, you’re teaching the child to do this for herself…and for others!
It is always bigger than you think!


Thank you for riding the Ripple with us, please exit the cart to your right and enjoy your day.

Here’s a shout out to Dr Becky Bailey for sharing Conscious Discipline that inspired us to write about inner speech…now that’s a Ripple!


ABC’s of Being Thankful

It is with a heart full of gratitude that I share this writing by my friend and colleague, Robyn Moncure regarding her musings on Thanksgiving.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.  Enjoy!
Jessica Shields Flowers

Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday, I oftentimes feel its nothing more than an excuse for gluttony. I don’t like the idea of a National Holiday coercing me to acknowledge or express my gratitude…because the thing is, I’m thankful every single day of my life. So, in the spirit of celebrating the Giving of Thanks, I’ve written this alphabet of gratitude.

A       I am thankful for autumn. I love the crisp air, the cool days, being able to wear my favorite things: jeans and boots and sweaters. I love the idea that though the world is in its dying time, there is no real dying, only the time needed to gather strength.

B       bugger…bloody…bum…bollocks…berk…blighter…bleeding…and those are just a few of the British slang words I love. Everyone should have a bit of fun fitting these colorful words and phrases into everyday language.

C       Church, it may seem an odd thing to say when I don’t have a current church home, but I grew up in a wonderful church, where I learned not only to believe what I was taught, which truly shaped my beliefs, but where I became brave enough to ask questions which lead me to develop who I am spiritually.

D       Lizz and Maggie’s Daddy has been my friend through thick and thin for a solid 25 years, and even though we have hurt each other a-plenty we are still good friends and I wouldn’t want it any other way. He gave me the greatest gifts I ever received rolled up into the most perfect little women. He is a good man and I’m glad I had a chance to know and love him. I am thankful to have had him in my truly strange and wonderful life.

E        This one is so easy…Elizabeth. She made me a mommy! She has given me such fun and love, many frights, and the most epic fights. I am in awe of this young woman, my first daughter. She is absolute perfection, I have always longed to hold her precious yet stubborn soul in my hands and softly croon words of love. She has challenged me to be a better mom and a better woman. My love for her is greater than the whole wide world.

F        Thankful for flowers! Anything that blooms really…trees, shrubs, bulbs, plants…doesn’t matter, it blooms and I’m a happy girl.      

G       I don’t know how I could be any more thankful for giggles…but I’ll continue to try! Little tiny baby ones, great big loud ones, even the ones when you’re standing in the kitchen trying not to pee your pants giggling so hard no sound comes out! My favorite giggle belongs to a brown-eyed girl; just ask her big sister, she truly has the best giggle ever!

H       I wish I could get a Hogwarts letter and live in the world Jo Rowling created for Harry Potter. The books that moved a generation…and I relished every single word…at least three times. Loyalty and love and trust and loss…and the coolest Godfather EVER!

I        See, I was going to say intellect…but I decided to go with icepick. The amazingly wonderful (albeit metaphorical) icepick I keep handy so I can stab when the mood strikes. The coolest thing is getting to share it with my friends when they need it…this icepick makes the rounds.

J        As much as I love the light, I am a girl who tends to spend a goodly bit of time down in the dark…the rabbit hole is my way of dealing when the going gets rough. As much time as I spend deep down in the melancholy, I’m aware enough to understand and appreciate the joy I experience in my life. It truly comes from the least expected places, keeps me guessing, encourages me to bathe in the light it brings.

K        From as early as I can remember, there has always been a kitty in my home. Sweet soft little fuzzballs of love, purring and nuzzling and lying slap on you when it is least convenient, isn’t that the best?

L        Love is my very favorite word…and that is saying quite a lot as I am a fan of words. What would we be without love? I have been blessed in my life to experience the giving and receiving of so much love. I love with an open heart and an overwhelming ferocity and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

M       Every single day of my life, I am thankful for Maggie. The little girl who almost wasn’t. With one touch of her hand, she taught me an entirely new way to love. She is joy and verve, giggles and unbelievable sass…and a dash of evil just to keep us guessing. She lights up my world with her deliciously undefinable “Maggie-ness”. I love her more than the moon and the stars.

N       I’m so thankful for my nieces and nephews! Frankie and Savannah started it all, wasn’t much longer before Darien came along. Then I got Josh, Cari, Sarah and Caleb, Emily the Pickle and her little Dylan too. Clay came into my life and kindly brought his sister Evie along to play. Baby Ian, who is now a big kid, and recently I’ve kind of become the aunt of a young man called Jack. These babies big and small are part of my brood and I love each and every one of them with my great big heart!

O       I am thankful for the opportunities I have been presented with, one in particular…VBCC. One phone call from Jessica started the happiest time in my life. I loved being in that truly amazing place with those women who cared so deeply about children and each other. I learned so many things about myself, about how to be a better mom, about how much a roomful of little children can change the world as we know it. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I will always treasure my time there.

P       I don’t have an overabundance of patience, but what little I have, I am eternally thankful for. I’ve been told patience is a virtue…I don’t know about all that, but I’m going to keep trying to learn.

Q       I ask questions, so many questions. I’m a curious girl; I like to know what’s the what. I believe you can never ask too many questions…even the futile ones that start with how or why. I will keep asking until I have no more breath…because it is my favorite way to learn.

R       The first man I ever loved carried the initials R.W.C. My Grandaddy was the sweetest man, he was also damned cantankerous…but I liked that about him too. He taught me how to stand up for myself and let me argue with him and took me to father-daughter dances and he made coke floats for Brookie and me because we didn’t like root beer. He took care of me even when he didn’t have to and he loved me like nothing you ever saw.

S        I am thankful for sunshine.

T        My accidental best friend…found sitting on the sofa one cold night. She is the other half of my brain…even though distance and time have come between us, that feeling didn’t change for me. T is the one…my true soul mate. I love her the ocean wide, forever and ever amen.

U        I’m thankful for umbrage, the ‘shade from tree foliage’ definition, not the ‘resentment’ definition. As a child I was an enthusiastic tree climber, loved to be high in the branches, shady leaves keeping me cool. I love the trick of dappled light under trees, and though I no longer climb, I am very happy to spend time on the ground beneath them.

V       Well done Sister Suffragettes for working tirelessly to achieve the goal of Votes for Women! The 19th amendment is the ultimate Girl Power! We were given a gift and a duty…bring it ladies!      

W       The Wall Boys. C and GMcG quickly became at home in my heart not long after I began to love their dad. This wonderful young man and delightful little boy have enriched my life and I intend to know and love them a long long time.

X        Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla the pronoun song! Thank you Schoolhouse Rock for grammar rock and America rock and…well…all the rock!

Y        Time is a tricky thing, sometimes it knows things we can’t seem to…in this case, time knew it would take 38 years and a completely broken heart for me to be ready to love Ben. He arrived on my radar quite by accident as the boy who grew up yummy, but he made his way into my heart with purpose. He helped me rediscover that I am brave and lovable; he is teaching me how to be nurtured. He reminds me what it means to feel safe. He loves my babies as his own and shares his babies with me. He is the holder of my heart and I love him in ways I didn’t know I could.

Z        This is zany madcap humor. I’m thankful for the Pythons…for all funny things really, sense of humor is unique to each person, and I’m very grateful for mine, however twisted it may be.

Verbal Vomit or How Jessica’s Inner Speech Rippled into Asking Robyn to Help Write a Blog.

I hate writing!  Please don’t tell me that I have to blog.  That means I have to write and I hate it, I tell you.  What part of this do you not understand?

But I don’t WAAAANT to write!

What you focus on you get more of.  Well duh, but I really hate writing.  What do I want?  I want to be a brilliant writer and make a Ripple for parents and teachers.  How can I be brilliant when all the brilliance is already taken? Have you read Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury?  There isn’t enough brilliance to go around.

Does this sound like a grown up toddler? This is the emotional state of the brain talking; verbal vomit for sure. This so isn’t helpful and keeps me stuck.   So how can I focus on what I want instead of what I don’t want?
PIVOT.  How to do that?  Be a STAR. Smile, Take a deep breath And Relax. 
(In this case many breaths) and focus on what I want.
I want to write.  So how can I make this happen? Why can’t I be the writer like Nancy Lusk or Sharon Winstead or even Cina Deaton?  Then there’s Robyn Moncure.
I stop dead in my tracks and something inside me shifts.  I become “conscious”. Two phone calls later and voilà Robyn has agreed to write with me.

I gotta snap out of this!
Be easy, your mom just died.
I have to stop moping and get out of this bed, but I don’t feel like doing anything.
Lizz has applied to and been accepted at schools, you have to make sure she’s all sorted.
Oh my God Elizabeth is going to college in August! She’s leaving too. Why am I’m always getting left? I feel awful, I need to get back in my bed.
STOP THAT! You have got to get over it!
But I don’t have a Mommie! And Lizz is going away! And I’m STILL a college student and I don’t even know if I’m doing anything right! I feel awful, I need to get back in my bed. Why am I planning to teach middle schoolers when I love pre- schoolers?
We’ve been over this a million times; you can’t support yourself with pre-schoolers.
Oh yeah. I should call Jessica, she always inspires me. If she is doing something cool, perhaps I could get involved…I don’t want to dance around with people though…it makes me feel uncomfortable. Am I wasting all this financial aid money finishing my degree? I feel awful, I need to get back in my bed.

I feel awful, I need to get back in my bed.

Talk about being stuck!

Before we jump headlong into the deep end of the pool with the inner speech topic, we want to give a bit of our history and thoughts of who we are as friends.

I met Robyn back in September 1995 when she was a young mom and I was a director at Vienna Baptist Children’s Center (VBCC). There was a natural affinity to her. She was fun, brilliant and intelligent. I’ve kept in touch with her over the years. Her children are in high school now and yet we continue to be friends…colleagues.
Focus on what you want. Abundance.

I got to know Jessica when Elizabeth was 18 months old and started going to school at VBCC. Four years later at 14 months old, Maggie started VBCC and that was really the beginning of our friendship.
Jessica was going through serious events in her personal life and I was struggling with being a young stay at home mom. Maggie had spent the first year of her life very sick, we almost lost her twice. And finally as she was growing healthier and I was able to get back into the swing of normal life, I would go sit in Jessica’s office and talk with her.
Years later when I found out those conversations were happening during that difficult time in her life, I said to her, “why didn’t you just tell me to leave?”
That’s just not who she is.
Jessica has a great deal of love in her…and she is not remotely stingy about sharing it! She is filled with joy and verve and a positivity that can truly knock you over. I always feel renewed of spirit after speaking to or spending time with her, she is quite a bundle of energy in the most positive sense of the phrase.
Jessica takes life’s lemons and finds such creative ways to turn them in to delicious lemonade.
I am awed by this, for I am the kind of girl who takes the same lemons and almost literally lobs them back.
My life would not be quite the same without Jessica, and I’ve been thinking about how she made this lemonade of an idea and offered me a glass at a time when I was thinking I very much needed some.
And they say there is no such thing as bringing to you what you need? Pfft!
We were both very conscious!

What we’re setting out to accomplish as writing partners is to share what we’ve learned and continue to learn everyday about ourselves, children, parents and educators in a honest and playful way.
At last! Buckle up and hold on, we’re finally getting to the fascinating and sometimes confusing topic of inner speech!

We had a conversation about thinking in pictures vs thinking in feelings. Thinking in pictures is a bit like asking, what will it look like?
You see, it’s all visual, and theoretically if you can see “it” clearly, you’ll have a better idea of how to verbalize “it” or better make “it” happen.
Thinking in feelings is asking the question, how will it feel? This is more along the lines of expecting to feel a particular way about whatever the “it” is.
If “it” will feel positive you will take a different approach to verbalize or make “it” happen than if “it” feels negative.
When you are a child, you understand language but have immature inner speech; therefore, the adults in your life are responsible for starting to create that inner speech. This is a much bigger responsibility than most adults ever realize!

Here’s what we discussed about our own inner speech.

Jessica’s reflections:
At home in anticipation of my youngest son’s college graduation in 2002, the photographer asked us to have a bit of fun as she documented my family’s celebration. So, I did something I thought was funny and like lighting, my mother pulled on my wrist, looked directly in my eyes and said quite firmly, “Young lady!”
It was quite a jolt to me! I was immediately a seven year old again in my adult skin.  I framed that photograph to help remind me to turn down the volume of my inner speech and believe in myself.  I have to commit to this on a daily basis.

“Young lady!”

You see, I am a bit of a Tigger who grew up with a Mother who was a bit of a Piglet.  Now there’s a combination!  As adults we are writing our children’s inner speech. What we say to them becomes their inner speech and all of my life I have lived being a Tigger with the inner speech of feeling guilty for being gregarious, engaging and enthusiastic. I didn’t have the capacity to appreciate who I am; who I was created to be.  That photographer actually caught the moment that I became conscious of what inner speech my parents had written. “Hide your light under a bushel. Do not call attention to yourself.” As a child, I translated this to I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough.

Robyn’s reflections:
I seem to have an inner speech that sounds super critical and a bit like I’m not quite good enough. Wow I need some new inner speech.
But you’re a grown up and it’s too late to change that now, just keep your head down and keep going.
Clearly the adults that created my inner speech knew nothing about the lasting impact their descriptions of my pictures would have. I make a conscious effort every single day to adapt my inner speech, to make it kinder and gentler, to make it supportive and nurturing.
Oddly enough, I always wondered what it would feel like if one day I just turned into the bird for which I was named, opened my strong wings and flew away.

I opened my strong wings and flew away.

Notice I said how it would feel…not what it would look like…I’m just saying.

Now that we’ve shared a bit about our friendship as well as our own inner speech, stay tuned for our next installment:
Verbal Vomit Part Two or Creating Positive Inner Speech; How Your Words Can Nurture or Hinder

Consequences are Your Friend!

Consequences were not my friend for most of my life, not for me, not for my children.

Consequences eluded me most of the time that my children were growing up.  I believe that’s due most in part because of how I was parented.  Consequences, punishments, feeling bad were the name of the game.  Thankfully, my perspective has changed over the years.  It is as if I have a new pair of glasses that allows me to see the world a bit different.  That’s all it takes.  A small ripple shifted my entire perspective.

Consequences are everywhere!  Research says that 75-85% of behavior is determined by consequences.  Now that is one big RIPPLE!  Once I began watching this in myself and in classrooms, I got it or rather I am beginning to get it!

Consequences are meant to teach. What can I learn from this mistake?  I am unable to learn anything when I feel bad about myself; it’s counterproductive.  It is more about allowing myself or your child to sit with the strong feeling, taking responsibility for whatever choice made at that moment and then learning from it.  It could be that I choose not to go to the gym or your child chooses not to do their homework.  The learning comes from sitting with the strong feeling.  What could I choose differently next time?  It could be as simple as saying to myself, “I am not going to the gym today rather than I should go to the gym and then not go.”  I believe this kind of thinking literally changes the chemistry in my brain because there is no judgement involved.

With your child, it is believing that your child can handle this feeling of OOPS, I should have done my homework because the consequence was a zero.  The zero is the natural consequence.  Now here is the trick.  My old self would have “punished” my child which stole the opportunity for my child to learn.   The consequence was a zero.  You are there to coach your child.  Reflective thinking with your child is critical.  “What could you do differently next time? ”

Once you shift your thinking, consequences will be your friend.  Make a Ripple in your family or in your classroom for this coming year.  Look for those natural consequences and allow yourself, allow your child to sit with the moment and learn from the OOPS.  It will be a gift that keeps on giving.

Who’s your new friend?



Hope is a Good Thing!

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Understanding the Brain State Model
I can honestly report to each of you that I am HOPEFUL.    Yep, that’s right, HOPEFUL IN CAPITAL LETTERS!

Last May, Ripple was awarded a contract with South Carolina First Steps to help children in three high-need counties become ready for school through early childhood social, emotional, and behavioral development.

What is South Carolina First Steps?  The following is taken straight off their web site.

Nearly one in seven SC children are assessed as not ready for first grade. In some communities, this statistic is as poor as one in four, or greater. Research studies repeatedly show that children who arrive unprepared for first grade’s challenges have a difficult time catching up and succeeding throughout the rest of their school years. Many of these students drop out of school or do not find fulfilling productive jobs after high school as a result of their slow start.

South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness was signed into law in 1999 to help improve school readiness for the state’s youngest learners. First Steps is a comprehensive, results-oriented statewide education initiative to help prepare children to reach first grade healthy and ready to succeed.

I am the lead trainer across Charleston, Georgetown and Horry Counties and began the training in June.  Another piece of the contract is for me to go into the classrooms to coach and mentor teachers.  This began Friday, September 16, in Georgetown, South Carolina and then with Carousel Early Learning Center in Charleston on September 19 and The Learning Station in Conway on September 23.

Success stories are rampant across all three counties.  “We’re the baby whisperers!” was a comment in Georgetown said proudly.  Teachers are beginning to understand that teaching self-control begins with them.  Authentically connecting with each child makes a difference.

Yep, hope is a good thing and I believe that changes are happening that will lead to stronger families that create stronger communities.  Let the Ripple continue.