International Day of Happiness

I’ve had this blog post in draft mode for a while but since I’ve just discovered that today (March 20th) is International Day of Happiness it was just the right nudge I needed to push publish. As I looked further into the history of this day, which is only in its fifth year, I was amazed to discover its global roots and I have to say that there are tons of cool resources to check out. So, I turned the draft into a published post and wouldn’t you know…it brought me great happiness!

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s Resolutions. I guess it’s my need to commit to something I know is going to work. So when I heard about this idea of #oneword I knew it was something I could commit to. It’s hard to tell where the idea originated but this post might be one of the first inviting people to decide on a single word that would be your mantra or guide for the year ahead.

For the last two and a half months this 9 letter word, happiness, has continually been guiding my thoughts and actions.

you will be exactly happy as you decide to be (1).png

Here’s how I’ve woven happiness into the fabric of my days:

It’s the little things

Each morning when I send my two boys off into the world I try to say the same small, but meaningful words, “Be kind. Have a great day!”. I used to list off a litany of reminders to them, “Don’t forget to…”; “Be sure you…”; “Did you remember to…”

I know now that choosing happiness for myself involves talking positively and wishing happiness to others, especially my loved ones, and with fewer words.

Moments matter


When my boys were young I was pretty obsessed with photographing their every move.

A few years ago a virus infected my computer and external hard drive and many of my ‘precious’ photos were lost. I say ‘precious’ because honestly, I took so many of the same dang experience that the preciousness was lost in the sheer quantity of photos that I’d have to spend time looking through and curating. In the past, I would’ve been disappointed with the blurriness and strange shadows in this photo but now I love this shot because it was only one of a few I took at the Mardi Gras parade at Universal Studios during our trip to Florida. I love our genuinely HAPPY smiles!

Now I know that the moment is what is precious, not the proof of the moment. Of course, I still take photos but tons less so I can be happy in the moment instead of trying to capture the perfect shot.

Less really is more

A few years back I stumbled upon this awesome book from Joshua Becker, The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own. I soon found his story compelling since at the time I was in the middle of ‘spring cleaning’, you know the traditional routine where we go through our piles of STUFF and purge our accumulated items in anticipation for the spring season. This routine usually involves bins…lots of bins, baskets, shelves, closets, basically anything that gives us the illusion that we’ve organized our life. After the organizing and reorganizing I’ve always been one to donate and garage sale our items when we’ve outgrown or they’ve outlived their purpose but what happened next would be where I would go wrong…I would purchase and purchase and purchase thinking happiness came in the form of new outfits, chairs, or tchotchkes.

Now I have chosen to own less and be happier as a result. I highly recommend checking out Joshua’s blog, Becoming Minimalist, and his course, Uncluttered, if this piques your interest.

Mindset and Mindfulness

Changing my mindset from finding happiness to creating my own happiness has been the biggest part of all this. Science and research help convince me that change is necessary but my heart is where I feel the effects of the change. What’s sculpted this happiness mindset for me as been information such as, This Is Scientific Proof That Happiness Is A Choice.

But also certain people and their work have spoken to both my head and my heart. Bloggers like Rachel Macy Stafford, whose book Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love, sits on my nightstand for daily inspiration (books are the one collection I have chosen not to be minimalist about!). Also, Brené Brown has been a real inspiration. From her excellent books to her educator’s course, Daring Schools, I am constantly learning something about happiness from her work.

And then there’s the Mindfulness Movement. Having practiced yoga for several years has given me the foundation for meditation, focusing inward, and returning to ‘the breath’. A while back I stumbled upon Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story, and now routinely use his app, which is also great for someone who may be new to the whole mindfulness mindset.

I am so happy to have shared my #oneword2018 with you on this International Day of Happiness! How might you weave happiness into the fabric of your daily life? I’d love to hear how you create happiness!

Oh and…be kind and have a great day!

IDoH (1).png

What Does It Mean to #Billieve?

Imagine giving a press briefing after every time you lose.

You have a rough day when nothing goes well…your lesson tanks and all the students are ‘revolting’…your emotions get the best of you and you say things to a coworker or family member that you immediately regret…


Untitled documentIn these ‘post-loss’ times how do you handle yourself? How do you see the loss and your next steps? Do you blame others, brush it off as the world is against you, or internalize the failure and ‘turtle’ (ya know: stay in-dressed in your sweats-eating ice cream out of the carton-feeling bad for yourself?)?


As a Billiever (aka, a serious Buffalo Bills fan, really…just google it) I have seen year after year of loss and squashed hopes. I harken back to the Glory Days of Marv Levy, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, and the gang that brought us 4 Superbowl games (and yes all losses). I was in High School for those 4 memorable years and they were right up there along with my memories of prom, friendships, and meeting up at the ‘Silo’.

I really have no choice but to be a Billiever. You see, some of my earliest memories are standing at the edge of my lawn on Abbott Rd flagging cars to park in our yard for Bills games, being land-locked at our house each gameday (traffic for hours), and my Dad exclaiming, “Pizza with the works!” after each win. After all, my 4 older brothers and I were in a football family growing up a half mile from the Bills stadium. I have a lot of history with the Buffalo Bills and I’m not the only one. If you want to smile and enjoy some feel-good emotions, just take a look at the effects of our recent Big Win. Also, my friend Teresa Gross (@teresagross625) shared her thoughts about this awesome football community in her post, A Football Community Celebrates.

So, what does it mean to Billieve?

It means taking each loss as a next step forward. It means staying positive…at least positive enough to know that one loss doesn’t mean the end. It means, as Bills coach Sean McDermott stated, you “continue to grow” and “learn lessons” to help you move forward. It also means you rally together for the good of the team. If you haven’t heard about all the awesomeness of Bills fans lately check out the generosity towards the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation after Andy Dalton threw the winning touchdown pass that made the Bills Playoff berth possible.

You might think this post is all about football but it’s not. It’s about being reflective and continuously looking ahead to grow…professionally, personally, or as a sports team. One loss doesn’t define you…heck even several losses don’t define you!

Just ask the Buffalo Bills and the #Billievers!

My Why

“Are you working?”, my husband or kids will ask. Whether I’m on vacation or it’s a weeknight, I can often be found listening to a webinar or podcast, working on some PD or conference material, reading a blog post, participating in a Twitter chat, or any number of activities I wouldn’t classify as ‘work’. Their question is very much appreciated since I’ve always been conscious of balancing the many roles in my life: Wife, Mother, Teacher, and what this post is about, Learner. I am careful to be present throughout my sons’ many sporting activities and the family activities that fill our weekends and nights. I put my phone away, get outside with my boys, look at people when they’re talking to me…all that. But when I can, I’m Learning.

I’m reading Tracey Zager’s book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, (which I highly recommend!) for a Book Study I’m co-leading in my district right now. In the Acknowledgments she states,

“Kids, I hope, with time, you’ll more fully understand why I was so busy during the writing of this book and be proud of me. In many ways, I wrote it for you and your teachers.”

When I first read that I paused and considered why it resonated with me. Throughout my 20 years of teaching my husband would ask why ‘work’ was still taking some of my time. “Doesn’t it get easier each year?”, he would ask. That question doesn’t bother me like it used to early in my career because my answer is, “Well, no because I am a Learner and I’m always seeking to find new and better ways of doing things.”. Have some things about teaching become easier over the years? I hope…my content knowledge, my organizational strategies, my lesson planning…sure. But I still come home with the unsolved problems my brain continues to seek answers for…this is my WHY.

If I could drill down to the top 3 things that are my WHY, the problems I am looking to resolve, they are:

  • How to help teacher build relationships with students and manage a classroom so that learning can happen all while making it a positive, happy place to be for teachers and students.
  • How to help teachers teach elementary math so students enjoy math and don’t struggle in the older grades.
  • How to help teachers integrate technology as meaningfully as possible by grounding it with good pedagogy, rather than thinking of it as just as another new thing that will be the silver bullet and everything else that is good goes out the window.

So, I don’t think of this as ‘work’ because it’s part of the fabric of who I am…a constant Learner. And I do this Learning for my kids and their teachers. It’s my WHY.


The Power of 3 Little Words

Be an encourager. The world has enough critics already.

What’s the saying “you won’t find me running unless something’s chasing me”? Well, one day I was taking the path of one of my longer walks. It’s really quite enjoyable- it has ups and downs, a small neighborhood and a busy road, trees offering shade and scorching sunshine. On this day I found myself thinking, “I wonder what it might be like to run a little?”. No commitment- isn’t running just like…faster walking? I don’t think you need anything fancy- I had my sneakers and music- which to me is all you need to run.

Now I’m not ready to call myself ‘a runner’, I’m not into labels, but that day when I was running I guess I was a runner. Since that day I have run/walked this 3 mile journey with great eagerness and each time with more running than walking.

On the 4th or 5th time I was taking this journey, I was shuffling back (can you picture it?)  and saw this pleasant looking woman, probably 20 years my senior, doing her walk across the street from me. Conscious about my beet red face, dripping sweat, and shuffling I glanced nicely at her and heard her yell, “Good for you!” displaying two thumbs up to me. As I yelled back, “Thanks! You too!” I was filled with a newfound motivation to keep going. I picked up my posture, lengthened my stride, and even smiled a little after she passed. I’ve been thinking about this experience, both personally and professionally…

What motivates you to try something new and challenging?

What or who is there to keep you going…giving you your second wind?

For me it was this nice, older woman. A stranger. Maybe she saw some of her younger self in me? Maybe I reminded her of her daughter? Or maybe she just felt sorry for my sweaty, shuffling self and knew this thing called ‘running’ was a challenge for me? No matter why, this small gesture of encouragement was enough to pick me up and keep me going for the last mile. I had needed a cheerleader and she came along at just the right moment- at the precise time that I was thinking, “What am I doing? I’m not a runner! This is torture!”.

During another running journey I was surprised to see a tiny, furry caterpillar working it’s way across the busy road. I was compelled to stop and be that cheerleader for this little creature. Remarkably, it made it across safely, somehow knowing to travel across the road rather than along the road where it would have surely been squashed by the oncoming truck. I wondered what was so compelling on the other side that it felt the need to cross the road? Maybe because I was there, cheering it on, saying…

“Good for you!”

Five Weeks With a Reverse Bucket List

Five Weeks With a Reverse Bucket List.png

There are five weeks of summer vacation left. When I’m in the thick of the school year, especially during the brutal Western NY winter, five weeks of summer vacation sounds immensely long and glorious, let alone the 10 weeks in all. And it is. I’m not going to lie-one of the best things about being a teacher and a mom with school-aged children is that we have lots of quality family time in the summers.

But like I said, five weeks of summer vacation does sound deliciously long and yet each day that goes by I have this internal struggle:

I should be productive. I should be relaxing.

I should frolic and play with my boys. I should enjoy the quiet ‘me’ time while they’re busy catching frogs.

I should paint and clean and put on a new addition to our house. I should sit on my big comfy couch and enjoy a cup of coffee and work through my large reading pile.

You get the idea. It really isn’t a ‘problem’ since it’s one of those good problems to have but, no doubt, it’s a real feeling that I try to manage every day. Check out this great post by @tishrich about this idea. Glad I’m not alone.

And now there’s five weeks left.

Almost every summer I’ve made a list…a ‘Bucket List’ of some sorts. Things my boys and I wanted to experience before the summer ends and, of course, the things I need To Do so that I feel that my time had been productive and that I’d accomplished something by the end of the summer.

Well, this summer we’ve been operating without a Bucket List. And it’s freeing! I think I’d still have the internal struggle of ‘do vs don’t’ but I don’t have The List to taunt me. I am enjoying a less scheduled and more relaxed atmosphere at home and I think my boys are too. Today was a beautiful, sunny day and I woke thinking we’d run off to the zoo or a park or even one of those adventure ropes courses in the woods but really we all just wanted to be home. The boys enjoyed catching frogs that hopped crazily away from their clutches and then planned and negotiated as they created a makeshift terrarium for the 11 little hoppers.

I’m sure if my list told them to do some science by catching frogs and then make a terrarium they’d ask a million questions, groan, and want my step by step along the way. Without The List they are left to whatever their mood calls for them to do- it also helps that the neighborhood kids are really good at catching frogs.

There’s many complaints about children and adults being ‘over-scheduled’ without a chance to learn to be ‘bored’ or figure out what to do in the downtime. I’m experiencing the ‘under-scheduled’ life where it seems doors are opening with so much opportunity to enjoy life and it’s all because we are operating without The List.

I’ll call it a Reverse Bucket List.

What if you ignored the calling of making a list the next time you have a large chunk of downtime and let your mood help you enjoy life more? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

I’m here!


I’ve made it!

I’m here!

I’m nervous and excited like when you are running late through the airport and just make it to your seat at the moment they close the gate and you’re thinking how lucky you are to have made it on time to your flight but remembering that now it means you are off to a new, unknown place that is both exciting and scary.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

You see, I’m not really a ‘writer’. As an educator I know I shouldn’t say that. I always cringe when someone tells me they’re not really a ‘math person’ (no such thing-more on that later) or when I was a 3rd grade teacher and the mother of a new student introduced her son to me as ‘not really a reader’. I guess I mean to say I don’t have much of an inclination towards writing, letting alone publishing my writing to the blog-o-sphere. But I don’t really think of blogging as writing as much as it is sharing your thoughts with the world. (Now that I’ve written that, I’ve made myself more nervous!)

But I’m here. I have thoughts upon thoughts in my head and I’m ready to set them free. I won’t have the best sentence structure- I mean I’ve already broken many writing laws I’m sure- but full disclosure I don’t really care about writing rules.

I care that what I’ve said will resonate with someone as many of the blogs I read every day resonate with me.

What I’ve learned about social media over the years is that it isn’t the ‘evil’ that some people think it may be. Sure, many horrible things happen now because people are more able to share horrible things instantly but sharing wonderful things can happen that way too!

So, what are the wonderful things I have to share? Well, this is where the adventure lies…I’m not precisely sure!

Life being complicated means I am many things (in no order of importance!): an educator- an instructional coach at the moment, an educational technology enthusiast, a math interventionist, a mom of 2 boys- one preteen!, a wife of 15 years, and so many more. I’ve never really fit into a neat category…I’m just me. Which means I will let this blog take me where I want to go, with no neat category.

It will be about teaching, learning, parenting, living…100 percent.

And so...the adventure begins