Creating An Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist School

Last week I wrote about my journey as a Southerner, as an anti-racist. It wasn’t easy to write yet I was proud to write it, especially as a Southerner. I’m also passionate about early childhood education and the intersection of these two is perfect for me! Right?

I had the pleasure of being the director of a fabulous community of learners from 1985-2004 outside of Washington, DC. We worked hard as a community, teachers and parents together, to achieve accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children. NAEYC We built a state of the art outdoor classroom. It was an incredible 19 years for me working with parents and teachers to understand the three important elements of providing a quality early childhood education while offering an affordable price to parents and striving to provide worthwhile compensation to the teachers. It was not perfect for sure but we were always working toward a goal. However I think the most worthwhile work was working to instill anti-racist and anti-bias values into the school.

I began to think about writing this post with the intention of finding all of the resources that guided me in my journey while the head of a school in Northern Virginia. I remember having coffee with Louise Derman Sparks at an annual NAEYC one year. Gosh I wish I could remember the year! Just the two of us! I had my journal out with my list of questions. I left there feeling on fire and that I was the luckiest person in the world. So I googled Louise right now and BOOM. What a gold mine I found. I’m linking it here for you.

Enjoy the links! I did!

Anti-Bias Resources and Self-Study Guide

Anti-bias Strategic Planning Sheet

Guide For Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books

Anti-Bias Children’s Books Bibliography

I’m addicted to podcasts while walking. I found this podcast back in December and thought about Louise. It’s important for early childhood environments to reflect diversity from crayons to baby dolls. I’ve linked you to the podcast telling this story with the episode notes.

Black Toys R Us

From children’s books, to cartoons, to the worlds of fantasy and make believe, it can sometimes seem as if Black characters are on the side-lines, or don’t exist at all. Especially around the holidays, Black parents get creative to find toys for their kids that reflect just how beautiful and special they are. 

More than three decades ago, Yla Eason took matters into her own hands when her Black son said that he couldn’t be a superhero because he’s not white. Trymaine Lee talks to Yla, about why she created Sun-Man, one of the first Black superhero toys in America, and the challenges she encountered along the way. 

And we get some words of wisdom from Trymaine’s 8-year-old daughter, Nola, on why representation in toys matters.

Today, I am fortunate enough to be a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor and train folks around the country. I love weaving my stories from my time as a leader in my community of learners and my experience in coaching in classrooms.

What are your stories regarding your journey into teaching children about anti-bias and anti-rasicm? Louise taught me well. The early years are where children learn their pre-prejudices. We have to start with ourselves first! Take a look at this video and hear Louise talk. I look forward to reading your comments.
Anti-bias lessons help preschoolers hold up a mirror to diversity

What is your Ripple?


Thoughts For This Moment In Time!

I am a Southerner! Lots of folks live in the South that aren’t Southerners! I’ll just leave that one there! 

I would ask my Mom over and over again when I was a young adult about her growing up. Her answers fell short of my hopes and expectations. My Dad would ask me this funny question. Make sure that you have that beautiful Southern drawl. Do you have it? “Sugar, what’s the difference between a Yankee and a damn Yankee? A damn Yankee moves to the South and never leaves.” Turns out his Grandparents had a store in Pelahatchie, Mississippi and the carpetbaggers came in after the Civil War and took it over and left them penniless. Are you getting the picture? Finally my Mom told me about a book she had just finished and thought it may answer my questions about how she grew up and she was absolutely correct. Check it out. Cold Sassy Tree.That book was my “ah ha” moment. Really, check it out because it was written in the period of time that my Mom and Dad were growing up in Mississippi, 1913 and forward.

I am a Southerner! 

I was born at the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi during an ice storm way back in February 1951. That’s a part of the story that I was told by my parents. I did not grow up in Mississippi but I spent many a happy summer on my Grandfather’s farm in Pulaski, Mississippi. Just to be sure this was my Mom’s parents. I remember bringing the cows home in the evening with my Grandfather. I still have that cow bell! I remember shelling peas with my Grandmother. She taught me how to make a cake from scratch; don’t over mix the eggs with the sugar. And I dearly loved going out to the watermelon patch to pick my very own watermelon with my Grandfather. My youngest son’s middle name is after him, the best story teller of all! My Grandfather was born on March 3, 1883. My Grandmother was born on October 19, 1885. Do the math! That’s just 18+ years since the end of the Civil War. So it’s no wonder that I grew up “hearing” lots of stuff! 

I went to Ole Miss in the age of Archie Manning. I married the week after graduating from Ole Miss in September 1972. I have never “lived or worked” in Mississippi. To tell you the truth I fled the South because I just plain hated what was happening. I felt it was an embarrassment and the worst of it was that I hated my accent. A bit of white privilege now that I begin to reflect but I get ahead of myself.

Fast forward to 1995 and I had the great joy of joining a national group of folks, Ecumenical Child Care Network (ECCN) based in Chicago and an arm of the National Council of Churches. Sadly ECCN is no more in existence. Anyway, I was elected to ECCN’s national board in 1996. ECCN won a fabulous grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation to work on anti-racist, anti-bias issues. There was a WingSpread Conference  and Johnson and Johnson played a part. These two years of anti-racism and anti-bias work changed me forever. I never knew about “red lines.” I never knew to look at children’s literature with this kind of perspective. I just never knew so many things and now I do know. Again, white privilege.

Once again, fast forward and the Pandemic hits in the Spring of 2020 and the murder of George Floyd happens. Let’s say Breonna Taylor’s name. And the list goes on and on and on and my heart breaks. I begin to remember Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. I was in Jackson, Mississippi when both of these tragic events occurred. I was four years old and 12 years old respectively. Again, there was a lot of whispering with the adults in my life. I knew something bad had happened but only whispers. Thankfully only whispers. Oh, is that white privilege? 

So I’m not just moving away this time like I did in 1972.. I am actually living in Charleston, South Carolina! Let’s be clear that I live in a blue county surrounded by hot red counties. And this time I am going to do it different. It feels different this time for me! I am going to do this different not only for my country but for my grandchildren and the children that I am honored to meet when I coach in classrooms across the country. We’ve got a chance to re-birth our county this time. I so hope that we as a country can get it right this time. I credit Mara Gay with that phrase.

This time I am going to become informed and speak up because silence is complicit. So I began to intentionally read and listen once again how to be an anti—racist. This list was of great help to me. Maybe it will be of help to you! 

So here’s what I am reading and listening to as we begin to re-birth our nation. Podcasts are first because they are my new addiction! Bailey, my Scottish Terrier, and I and do a lot of walking these days so listening to podcasts and books are my new best friends.

Baratunde All of his podcasts are amazing! Just click over to find them!

Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black . He’s the executive producer and host of two podcasts: How To Citizen with Baratunde and We’re Having A Moment which CNET called “the most important podcast of 2020.” He’s also the creator / host of the weekly pandemic show, Live On Lockdown. In 2019, he delivered what MSNBC’s Brian Williams called “one of the greatest TED talks of all time”. Right now, the writer, activist and comedian is using his powerful voice to help people understand this revolutionary moment with his unique blend of insight, humor, and empathy.

Baratunde is a rare leader who exists at the intersection of race, technology, and democracy and seamlessly integrates past, present and future. 

It’s Been A Minute With Sam Sanders This guy is just so much fun! Listen to him. You won’t regret it!
Each week, Sam Sanders interviews people in the culture who deserve your attention. Plus weekly wraps of the news with other journalists. Join Sam as he makes sense of the world through conversation.

Throughline: NPR I love history so it’s just obvious that I would enjoy this podcast.

The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Being Well Okay, so this isn’t overtly about anti-racism but it is about trauma and let’s face it, racism is trauma.
Here’s the most current podcast:
How To Cope During A Pandemic with Dr. Bruce Perry

Ibram X Kendi This is the person that I really am paying attention to during this time. Click over to read about him.
Well that quote literally takes my breath away. Here’s the book that I listened to last spring:
How To Be An Anti-Racist

Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. 

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.
You can follow him on Facebook also!

To end? I felt so confused as a child growing up and going to church. We would sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” but actions spoke volumes to me. Racism is anything but loving.

So please comment below with how you are using your voice. Do you have any other resources for me? Looking forward to making Ripples with you!

Pandemic Celebrations

In the beginning of the Pandemic I didn’t post on my Facebook Ripple page. I was busy. That’s another story! It’s been 10 months since then. I am making the time today to write and reflect. Christmas 2020 has come and gone which means that the New Year is on the horizon. It’s time to reflect on the year and oh what a year it has been. It’s one for the history books and that is an understatement. 

This year, specifically the spring brought me opportunities! The entire nation came to a grinding halt. I claimed it as a time to reflect and reclaim pieces of me that I had lost in the midst of training and coaching over the past ten years. I’m going to be honest that this didn’t come easily. I went kicking and screaming! Ask my friends! So I befriended reading again and discovered my love affair with podcasts! 

I came home to Johns Island in mid August after spending the first 5 months of the shut down in Morristown, New Jersey with my youngest son and his family. I dove back into training in August  but now it’s virtual training! On a whim I included two slides in my presentation about books and podcasts that were of interest to me. I was utterly shocked at the overwhelming response when folks would inquire after the training to send me the titles of the books and podcasts. This is so very heartening to think that folks are hungry for a change in their life, in our country! 

So I am going to attempt to list them. 

Here some of the books! 
The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog  by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz

From Basic Books

In this instant classic of developmental psychology, a renowned psychiatrist examines the effect that trauma can have on a child, reveals how PTSD impacts the developing mind, and outlines the path to recovery. What happens when a young brain is traumatized? How does terror, abuse, or disaster affect a child’s mind — and how can that mind recover? Child psychiatrist Dr. Bruce D. Perry has helped children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, murder witnesses, kidnapped teenagers, and victims of family violence.
In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Dr. Perry tells their stories of trauma and transformation through the lens of science, revealing the brain’s astonishing capacity for healing. Deftly combining unforgettable case histories with his own compassionate, insightful strategies for rehabilitation, Perry explains what exactly happens to the brain when a child is exposed to extreme stress — and reveals the unexpected measures that can be taken to ease a child’s pain and help him grow into a healthy adult. 
As a senior fellow at the Child Trauma Academy, Dr. Perry and his clinical group worked with hundreds who endured severe childhood neglect and abuse with incredible resilience and strength. Through the stories of children who recover — physically, mentally, and emotionally — from the most devastating circumstances, Perry shows how simple things like surroundings, affection, language, and touch can deeply impact the developing brain, for better or for worse. In this deeply informed and moving book, Bruce Perry dramatically demonstrates that only when we understand the science of the mind can we hope to heal the spirit of even the most wounded child.

The Deepest Well  by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

From Good Reads
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego — a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual assault — who galvanized her journey to uncover the connections between toxic stress and lifelong illnesses.

The news of Burke Harris’s research is just how deeply our bodies can be imprinted by ACEs—adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, parental addiction, mental illness, and divorce. Childhood adversity changes our biological systems, and lasts a lifetime.  For anyone who has faced a difficult childhood, or who cares about the millions of children who do, the scientific insight and innovative, acclaimed health interventions in The Deepest Well represent hope for preventing lifelong illness for those we love and for generations to come​.

How To Be an Antiracist  by Ibram X Kendi

From Good Reads
Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. 

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society. 

Leadership In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

From Good Reads
Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others

Here are some of the podcasts! 

Brené Brown  Unlocking Us
You can listen on Podcasts or Spotify. I’ve included only one episode, the most recent. This is from December 2, 2020

In this episode, I talk with David Eagleman, a neuroscientist, New York Timesbestselling author, TED speaker, and Guggenheim Fellow, all about the brain and how it works. It’s mysterious, malleable, constantly changing and up for new challenges. We dig deeper into the research in his book Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain on the power of being uncomfortable and trying new things and how important new experiences are for continued brain development and health.

It Was Said by Jon Meacham
I listened to all of them!

It Was Said is a limited documentary podcast series looking back on some of the most powerful, impactful and timeless speeches in American history. Written and narrated by Pulitzer Prize winning and best-selling author-historian Jon Meacham, and created, directed and produced by Peabody-nominated C13Originals Studios in association with HISTORY Channel, this series takes you through 10 speeches for the inaugural season. Meacham offers expert insight and analysis into their origins, the orator, the context of the times they were given, why they are still relevant today, and the importance of never forgetting them. Each episode of this documentary podcast series also brings together some of the top historians, authors and journalists relevant to each respective speech and figure.

How To Citizen with Baratunde

Take a listen to this one! Season One: Episode 15 Kindness as Our Pandemic Response with Dr. Michael Osterholm  

How To Citizen with Baratunde reimagines the word “citizen” as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power. So many of us want to do more in response to the problems we hear about constantly, but where and how to participate can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Voting, while critically important, simply isn’t enough. It takes more to make this experiment in self-governance work! Listen in to learn new perspectives and practices from people working to improve society for the many. Join writer, activist, and comedian Baratunde Thurston on a journey beyond politics as usual that will leave us all more hopeful, connected, and moved to act.

Hope Through History  Jon Meachamp
You’ll love his voice! I love that he’s a historian from the South.

Welcome to Hope, Through History, with Pulitzer Prize Winning and Best Selling Author and Historian, Jon Meacham and directed and produced by Cadence13, in partnership with HISTORY Channel. HTH explores some of the most historic and trying times in American History, and how this nation dealt with these moments, the impact of these moments and how we came through these moments a unified nation. Season One takes a look at critical moments around the 1918 Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the polio epidemic and the Cuban Missile Crisis. These stories of crisis—the term originates in the writings of Hippocrates, as a moment in the course of a disease where a patient either lives or dies—are rich, and in our own 2020 hour of pandemic and slow-motion but indisputably real panic, there’s utility in re-engaging with the stories of how leaders and citizens have reacted amid tension and tumult. The vicissitudes of history always challenge us in new and often-confounding ways; that’s in the nature of things. Still, as Winston Churchill once remarked, “The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope”—the hope that human ingenuity, reason, and character can combine to save us from the abyss and keep us on a path, in another phrase of Churchill’s, to broad, sun-lit uplands.

Being Well  with Dr. Rick Hanson and his son Forrest Hanson

Bestselling authors Dr. Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson explore the practical science of lasting well-being, and teach you how to build reliable inner strengths, overcome your challenges, and get the most out of life. New conversations every Monday.

Here are a few of my favorites! Their notes/details are full of great links!
Unlearning Bias and Prejudice with Dr. Jack Glaser We’re all subject to forms of bias and prejudice. On this episode, Forrest and Rick are joined by Dr. Jack Glaser, an expert on intergroup bias and racial prejudice, to explore what we can do to overcome our innate tendencies.
Compassion, Power, and Human Nature with Dr. Dacher Keltner Does power corrupt? Where does compassion come from? And do positive or negative emotions serve as the basis for our true nature? Today we’re exploring these questions with Dr. Dacher Keltner, a world-class expert on emotion, power, and morality.

Last Thoughts

The New Year is on the horizon! I feel hopeful, just barely but that is my tendency. I feel hopeful that we will all be able to come together again as one big family and celebrate and hug! It’s because of my dog, my son and his family and these books and podcasts that I am healthier! I walk on an average of 3 miles a day as I listen to books and podcasts. I have a commitment with two other friends each day to text them when I am finished walking. What is your commitment for the next year? Are you willing to take a moment to comment below with your commitment? What will your Ripple be for this new year of 2021?

July 4, 2020 in Morristown, NJ!
July 4, 2020 in Morristown, NJ!
Bailey’s first Christmas on Folly Beach, SC! 2013

Teaching Disappointment and Experiencing The Unthinkable!

Today I entered a classroom to coach.  I’ve been coaching in this classroom for over a year; a Head Start classroom full of four year olds!  It’s typical to coach children through disappointment but today was different.  It took my breath away.  

It’s Monday.  It’s raining!  

I met up with the classroom in the cafeteria as they finished breakfast and right away C is crying;  big tears that literally roll down her beautiful round brown cheeks.  Her disappointment is real.  She was the line leader last week but not this week.  That’s rough!  

I do my thing of coaching disappointment.  

“You were hoping that you were going to be the line leader this week.”
Breathe with me.
You can handle it. I am with you.
You have a choice.  You can get behind the line leader or you can choose another place.  What’s best for you?” 

It’s the usual coaching stuff. I call attention to the children that their friend C is having a hard time because she isn’t the line leader this week.  I coach the children to put their hands on their heart, take a deep breath and silently wish her well.
C continues to cry as the classroom walks down two long hallways to their classroom.  They are the Owl Class.  They are a School Family.™  It is hard for everyone.  I am breathing and wishing her well and thinking about solutions.  

C  fell apart over lots of things this morning; missing her Mommy, her right leg hurts, she can’t play in the center that she wants.  Everything is a really big deal.  Big tears!  It’s loud and long. Then K announces to C and E that they are going to fix my hair and makeup.  I comply.  There are great moments of connections and playfulness with all three girls. C has turned the corner or so I thought.  

It’s time to line up to go back to the cafeteria for lunch and it’s happening again.
C thinks that she is the line leader.  There is no amount of empathy and choices that will make this go away quickly.  Sitting with disappointment, sad’s first cousin, is hard and can take time.  She needs lots of connections and I am noting this so I can feed this back to the teacher. 

 And then it happens!  

E says to me, “ Why is C crying so much.  She cries all the time.”  

I say, “C cries a lot because she doesn’t know how to handle disappointment.  It’s hard for her.”  

E:  “I can make her feel happy.”  

Me: “So you can help her to feel happy again?”  

E:  “Yes!”  

Me:  “How can you do that?”  

E:   “I can wish her well and breathe with her.”

And down two long hallways to the cafeteria E puts her arm around C’s waist all the while telling C to breathe and she could handle it.  It didn’t take long for C to stop crying.  She was breathing and smiling.  E literally was taking in deep breaths and exhaling with the most loving face that one can imagine.  

It took a child and not an adult to make the difference.  She’s been coached how to do this.  



Disappointment is a part of everyday life.  I wasn’t taught by my Mom how to handle disappointment in a healthy way.  Were you?  I was taught to just stuff it, avoid it, ignore it!  This works for a while but believe me it will come knocking on your door in the long run.  I have stories and they aren’t pretty.  

Most adults approach this situation with information.  “You’ll be the line leader again.  I promise. Let’s count how many days.”  Or “You were the line leader last week and now it is Malik’s turn.” On and on the information goes.  The intention is meant to be helpful but their intention misses the mark and doesn’t help the child.  

So what’s missing when an adult has an encounter with a child that is feeling disappointment and sad.  Empathy is missing!  Empathy is the skill of the Power of Love in Conscious Discipline; helping children to accept the moment which integrates the brain for personal responsibility and self-control. This is a really big deal.  I have witnessed this over and over again as I coach in classes across South Carolina and Vero Beach, FL.  Most adults will respond with a “you’re okay” or with some kind of information.  We’ve got to do it differently.

So let’s make a commitment to our children to meet them where they are and coach them to welcome their feelings and find the solution.


It might sound like this.

“Your eyes are like this.”  Pause
“Your mouth is like this.” Pause
Make eye contact and breathe while opening your heart and holding a place for this child with no judgments.  It’s called “wishing well.”
“You seem sad.  You were hoping Mommy could stay all day and play with you.  You have a choice.  You can blow Mommy kisses good bye or you can wave your hand to say good bye.”

I’m thinking about E.  I’ve memorized her face.  I have engraved this memory on my heart forever and I send her well wishes and the great hope that this tool was packed forever in her tool box of life.  Maybe one day I will meet her again as a teacher or a professor in a university or the president of the United States?

Coaching Children Through Upset: Lessons from a Purple Crayon

Conscious Discipline® is a lifelong practice and an ongoing journey. I’ve been a Certified Instructor for a decade, and I’m still learning valuable lessons about myself and my interactions with others. Often, these lessons and “ah-ha” moments come in unexpected places—like a conversation with my grandson about his cherished purple crayon. 


The Purple Crayon

It’s November 2018. I’ve flown to New Jersey to celebrate my grandson’s fourth birthday. I am his Yaya! Aren’t four-year-olds so much fun? It’s always fun to go to my son’s home. I enjoy their company immensely and feel so grateful for what I have in my life. 

So, it’s time for me to return home. My grandson wakes up from his nap and decides he wants to go in the car to take me to the airport. He grabs a handful of crayons to take in the car and off we go. 

We are on the Interstate when my grandson looks at the crayons in his hand and immediately exclaims with great concern, “There’s no purple crayon. Turn the car around. I need the purple crayon.” 

I am sitting in the back seat hoping to just grab the last minutes with him. My son looks at me from the rear-view mirror and nods his head. 

Yaya: “Oh, you were hoping that Daddy could turn the car around so you could get the purple crayon.” 

Grandson: “Yes, turn the car around. I need my purple crayon.” 

Yaya: “Daddy can’t turn the car around. That’s hard to hear, but we have some choices. We can see what colors are in your hand, or you can let me hold the crayons and we can see what colors you do have.” 

Grandson: “No, I want my purple crayon.”


You Talk Too Much

I believe that this went on for two more rounds and then this thought hit me with full force! I was doing it again: I was trying to talk my grandson out of his upset. It took my breath away. 

I am a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor, for goodness sake. What am I doing? I am unconsciously doing to my grandson as I had done to my son when he was growing up. I’m immediately reminded of the great Joe Jones song You Talk Too Much, recorded in 1960:

You talk too much, you worry me to death,
You talk too much, you even worry my pet.
You just talk, talk too much.

Thankfully, I have three “ah ha” moments, and I have them before we arrive at the airport. 

I stop talking and simply fill the space between us with love and acceptance. I begin to breathe and believe that he can truly handle this. There is silence in the car. After a few minutes, he stops yelling and crying. WOW! 

I say my goodbyes, rush through security and get to the gate, and reach for my journal. I must write this down. 

Airport Reflections: Internalize the Powers and Skills, Then Coach Children

Dr. Bailey speaks about the internalization of the seven powers and skills of Conscious Discipline and how it can take time, even years, to adopt this new way of thinking and being. I was certified in 2010 and have worked faithfully to internalize these powers and skills. 

Though difficult, this personal mindset shift and skillset upgrade is vital. Not only does your state dictate the state of those around you, but you’re also incapable of teaching to others what you haven’t mastered yourself. This is why in moments of upset, we must look at ourselves and our own state before we begin coaching the child.

So, here are my three “ah ha” moments inspired by that missing purple crayon. I hope my reflections help you in your journey of internalizing the powers and skills. You’ll see that they are related. 

1. We can’t shield children from upset and disappointment.
It is just plain hard to see your own children with big emotions. Then add your grandchildren into the mix? Wow, is all I can say! Rushing in to shield children from their big emotions is instinctual. But if we choose this path, then we rob our children and grandchildren of the opportunity to learn how to manage themselves and self-regulate in hard times. If we choose this path, we make the moment about us and miss the opportunity to coach the child with whatever feeling they are experiencing. 

I’ve learned the hard way that my grandson can truly handle the small disappointments, which leads to handling the big disappointments that are part of everyday life. It’s still challenging, but that’s a win for sure. 

2. Breathe and set your intention before you start talking.
I’m talking too much when children are in their survival or emotional state. Let’s just keep it real. I used to believe I could talk them out of that feeling and “happy them up.” And I quickly and unconsciously slipped into my old habits with my grandson. Fortunately, I recovered before I said goodbye to my sweet family. 

This “ah ha” moment has served me well as I have coached in early childhood classrooms. I am a brain detective now. I access what brain state the child is in, take a deep breath for me, and then pick the right tool that will help the child regulate. Noticing is imperative, empathy a must and choices are necessary. Then I stop talking and simply fill the space between the two of us with love and acceptance. My face is soft, and my eyes are filled with love. My intention is to be helpful by supporting and teaching the child. I connect with that child and trust myself to recognize when I should talk again. 

3. Believe in your abilities.
Lastly, I’ve learned to believe in myself and my ability to truly be present with a child that is in distress. This last “ah ha” has hit me hard and has been so beneficial in my trainings and coaching. This is not a strategy; it’s a belief! This comes from your inner being. It is truly how you live your life. We must allow the child to sit with the feeling and believe that with support from a loving and kind adult, the upset will end. It is sort of like the weather: It comes and goes.

Final Thoughts: A New Tune

In the movie Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Fred Rogers wisely says, “Silence is one of the greatest gifts we have.” 

Sometimes, in our rush to stop the upset by saying the right thing, we forget the importance of silently being present, offering love and acceptance, and allowing children to feel their feelings. We must truly tap into the powers and skills, remain calm and connect. 

Let’s change the tune in our head to another classic song, Let It Be. Listen. Can you feel the difference?

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer, let it be. 

Feel the difference so you can be the change. It isn’t easy, but you can do it! Like me, you’re sure to receive lots of reminders along the way—maybe even in the form of a purple crayon. 

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!