Stealing My Joy

For four days, I had to cancel my restorative practices school site visits due to illness. Finally, I was  well enough to venture out one day last week.

As I approached the school, I realized that I was really excited about working with the new Intervention Center staff at the junior and senior highs. Tears brimmed my eyes.

The previous six weeks had been discouraging. A training day didn’t go well. There was miscommunication about expectations. Too many participants crammed into a training room. A few PowerPoint slides weren’t updated and caused some confusion. The afternoon sessions were split into two groups but the noise made it difficult to focus.

Some site team members barely participated. If I used proximity, they’d pretend they were doing something. They were so disruptive in the morning, I almost gave them the choice to participate or return to their campus. Looking back, I wish I had.

The challenges grew in my mind as I spent days at home not feeling well. Not having interactions with others further isolated me. I couldn’t remember when I felt so dejected.

As the first tear dropped on my cheek, I remembered something. I’m not going to let circumstances steal my joy. “Lord, thank you for the opportunity to become a restorative practices trainer and consultant four years ago. You knew it would be a perfect fit for my skills and values.”

I wiped several more tears from my face taking care not to smear my makeup. “Lord, thanks for using my education and experiences to work alongside K-12 educators.” 

As I grabbed my briefcase-like black purse from behind my seat, my excitement increased. With a bounce in my step and a broad smile, I entered the school office.

I enjoyed my interactions with the staff. I was energized and engaged. The two hours flew by.

When I returned to my car, I dialed my husband on the speaker phone. He knew by my voice that I’d had a good day. After the call ended, tears re-appeared. More tears of joy and gratitude. “Lord, I’m thankful You reminded me that my joy can’t be stolen by circumstances.”

Psalm 28:7

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in him,

and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”



New International Version.

neon-expression-joy-sign [public domain pictures]

Proud Owner of Weeds

A few weeks ago I realized something that made me happy. Cheat grass, dandelions, carpetweeds, smooth crabgrass and other unidentified weeds had invaded my grass and the flower beds. Not just a few weeds but the weeds had proliferated.

I bet the backyard doesn’t have as many weeds. It’s a smaller area and I spend more time out there. But I was wrong. It actually made me happy. Spotted spurge (photo) covered over one-third of the grass – they reseeded rapidly. They have a dark purple splotch in the center of their leaves, making them an easy week to spot. I usually pull them when they are 2 to 3 inches. But not this year. They’d branched out like spider webs.

I smile. The reason I have weeds this year is because I’m not home day after day pulling weeds. I recall the first year I was on medical leave. It was seven years ago and if I did anything at all, I’d pull weeds. I sat in the front yard for hours. Neighbors often commented, “When you finish, you can start on my yard.” I could barely put together a coherent sentence to respond. But at least I got some sun and fresh air.

This was a different year. While I’d been writing a few articles, traveling to Arizona, Idaho and Palm Springs, presenting restorative practices workshops at schools, consulting with 16 site team leaders and doing research for new workshops – the weeds grew. And they grew. And grew. I barely noticed them.

My smile turns to a grin. The weeds are thriving this year. I’m thriving too. That makes me happy.


Using the 4 Ws and 1 H for Adolescents’ Adventures

Summer is almost here. And with summer comes a flurry of activities. If you’re the parent of middle schoolers or high schoolers, they are constantly bombarding you with requests like these:

“Can I go to the baseball game with Manual?”

“Can I go shopping with Maria?”

Sound familiar? There’s a way to make your life simpler, be better able to answer your adolescents’ requests, and help your emerging adults become more responsible.

Transition Responsibility. When your kids are younger, you verify activity details with the other parent(s). When your children enter early adolescence, you can transition this responsibility to them.

Getting Details. We used the 4 Ws and 1 H when our daughters wanted to go somewhere with friends. This placed responsibility on them for getting the activity details so we, as parents, could make an informed decision.

The 4 Ws and 1 H. Here are some questions that your adolescent will find answers to that corresponded to their specific activity. These answers will ultimately help you answer their question, “Can I. . . ?

W1: Who else is going? Who’s supervising you?


W2: What will you be doing? What do you need from me?


W3: Where are you going? Include specifics like which lake or which park?


W4: When are you going? When do you need to be there? When will you be done?


1H: How are you getting there? How are you paying for this? How are you getting home?


Quick Learners. It didn’t take long for our early adolescent daughters to catch on. We wouldn’t give them an answer until we had all the details. When they asked and had incomplete information, we’d mention what we still needed. We’d say something like, “When you know which movie you’re seeing and the time, we can make a decision.”

Accountability. When you transfer responsibility to your son or daughter, you are also holding them accountable for their plans. You also know what they need from you. Don’t be surprised if your answer involves negotiations like, “How about it we take you and Jessica’s parents bring you home?”

What about you? The 4 Ws and the 1H worked well for us. How do you think it could work in your home? How could it make your life easier? What would it teach your soon-to-be adult?


All images from

Ten Ways to Live Restoratively by Howard Zehr

  1. Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institution and the environment.
  2. Try to be aware of the impact-potential as well as actual-of your actions on others and the environment.
  3. When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm-even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.
  4. Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.
  5. Involve those affected by a decision, as mush as possible, in the decision-making process.
  6. View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.
  7. Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)
  8. Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.
  9. Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.
  10. Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, homophobia, and classism.

Source: Zehr, Howard. The Little Book of Restorative Justice. Appendix IV. New York: Good Books, 2015.

Note: Appendix IV is a resource that may be useful to the reader or for use in discussions or presentations. It may be reproduced with proper citation.

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Restorative Practices Changes Treatment of Students

Often we focus on how restorative practices can change our students and school climate. But it
can also change us . . . those responsible for implementation. One Cohort 2 (2014-2015), year 3 administrator tells his/her story.


“Restorative practices has affected me personally by changing the way I interview and question kids about behaviors by using restorative questioning techniques.


This has affected me by creating a shift from punitive actions and a ‘remember what you did’ mindset to working to develop a sense of community and responsibility. This has led to a more productive and trusting relationships with students and parents.


It has changed the way I interact with my own children.”

How has restorative practices affected you personally?


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Experts’ Advice on Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools

This post features advice from experts in the trenches, a certificated staff as well as an administer, both from Cohort 2, Year 3. With only four weeks of school left, this is great advice to keep in mind.

Site Team Leads (Administrator) Advice:

  • Make meaningful decisions as a team
  • Get whole staff agreement on plan
  • Include ALL credentialed AND classified staff
  • Open training to ALL staff
  • Revisit Restorative Practices with staff often

Certificated Staff Advice:

  • Maintain consistency with school side implementation of restorative practices
  • Hold regular staff discussions and trainings on restorative practices
  • Students need ongoing weekly lessons on how they should be safe, respectful, and responsible at school.

Which of these advice tips can you use this week?


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Too Many Carrots But No Jesus

I hadn’t been to the library recently and I needed a new novel, so I stopped at our local bookstore. I breathe in the scent of new books as I enter the store. I glance at the bestselling books as I head towards the novels. I notice that many of the aisles where books used to be are filled with games and puzzles.

I roam the aisles and see a children’s Easter book display. I decide I’ll check this out since I like to buy my grandchildren a new Easter book every year. I’m looking for Easter books based on the real reason for Easter. I’m searching for engaging stories that depict Jesus’ triumphal entry on a baby donkey and other events.

Like the book I gave my granddaughter Kylie, when she was seven-months-old, The Easter Story (2006). This 200 word board book for toddlers is by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Mary Ann Utt. Kylie chewed on this book while I read her the story.

But after roaming several areas of the children’s department, I don’t see what I’m looking for. The clerk isn’t busy, so I inquire, “Do you have any religious Easter books for school-age children?”

“We have one board book, but that’s for younger children. Let me look around.”

The clerk checks different sections. Not finding anything she mentions, “I’m going to check the sales table. I’ll be back.”

I can never spend too much time browsing children’s books, so I don’t mind that she’s gone awhile. Spring is my favorite time of year so I continue flipping through the “Easter” books.

Some books feature cute stories about baby animals with precious drawings. Others are about egg hunts, the Easter bunny, silly stories, and spring. Today’s book special is Too Many Carrots.

Where’s the beautifully illustrated book with breathtaking drawings, Peter’s First Easter (2000)? This book written by Walter Wangerin, Jr. and Timothy Ladwig, published by Zondervan is for 4 to 8 year-olds. Parents and grandparents, you’ll treasure this book too.

The clerk returns with the answer I get every spring when I inquire about Easter books. “We don’t have any other religious Easter books.”

“That’s really sad that you don’t have books about the true reason for Easter,” I reply. I think, maybe if more parents and grandparents requested these books, bookstores might start carrying “The True Story of Easter” alongside Too Many Carrots.

How will children learn about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in a culture focused on eggs and bunnies? Where’s the book Thomas Becomes a Believer: An Easter Story (2002) written by my author friend, Pauline Youd and illustrated by Reg Sandland. This book published by Zondervan is for children 6 and up.

And how will children know that they can accept God’s Easter gift by believing in Jesus? “The Easter Donkey (2014) offers a fresh telling of the Easter story while reminding readers of its wonder. The Easter Donkey tells of Drupelet’s journey to understand the gifts God has given to those who accept them,” (Amazon Books).

This story is written from the donkey’s perspective as he travels with Jesus during what we now call Holy Week. This book by author Donna Thornton along with illustrator Lynne Ballenger Pryor is published by Ambassador International.

How will you teach your children and grandchildren about the real Easter Story? The books I’ve featured are some of my favorites to share with my grandchildren.

But this year, our two oldest grandchildren, who are first and second graders, are using Resurrection Eggs to tell the Easter story. Both grandkids are early readers so they read the booklet’s description and find the corresponding item that goes in each egg. Then they re-tell the story again as they take each item out of the egg so the sibling can read the story.

Interestingly, this is the 20th anniversary of the Resurrection Egg. There are several versions of these available including one that is a “do it yourself” project for children. The great thing about the eggs is that they are a hands-on way to learn.

No matter how you choose to tell children about the real Easter story, the important part is that you tell the story of hope over and over again. As children get older they understand more of the complexities of Jesus dying on the cross and three days later rising from the dead. Have a blessed Easter.



“The Shack” Answers Why Bad Things Happen

Even people, who don’t believe in God, often blame Him when they experience tragedy and loss. Many beg God for answers during extremely difficult circumstances, like heartbreak and catastrophes. During these times both believers and non-believers question, if God is real, why does He cause bad things to happen to good people? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He stop it from happening? If God loves me, he wouldn’t have taken my child away.

This is the situation in which we find Mack Phillips, husband and father of three, in the recent movie, The Shack. He’s begging God for answers to life circumstances he can’t comprehend nor believe.

The Camping Trip. During a camping trip with his three children, Kate, Josh and Missy, Mack experiences a crisis with one child that leads to a tragedy with another child while his wife, Nan, remains at home.

The Crisis. Mack and his three kids arrive at a beautiful lake and set up camp. Kate and Josh canoe on the lake while Missy colors at a campsite table. When Mack hears a scream and sees the canoe capsized, he runs to rescue his son from underneath the canoe. Mack is beyond relieved when he resuscitates his son. It seems that everyone camping nearby is watching the incident. A predator uses this opportunity to kidnap Missy.

Where’s Missy? When Mack, Kate and Josh return from this near tragedy, they can’t find Missy. After learning she’s not with friends, forest rangers and police start searching for her. Not long into the movie, we discover other girls just like Missy have been murdered. Upon finding Missy’s bloody clothes in the shack, it is assumed Missy has been tragically killed.

The Invitation Arrives. This event triggers Mack’s decline into depression. By winter time Mack is suicidal and challenging his faith in God. Why God? Why did my Missy have to die? He asks questions that seemingly won’t be answered. That’s when Mack receives an unmarked letter in his mailbox from “Papa” to join Him at the shack. Papa is Nan’s name for God.

At the shack, Mack meets the triune God: Papa who is God, Jesus, and Sarayu, the Holy Spirit. Many Christians get stuck at this point because God is portrayed as a black woman. Interestingly enough, many non-believers seem to hear the movie’s messages loud and clear.

God’s Character. God cares deeply for each person. He often says, “I’m especially fond of you.” God’s love is never ending and unconditional. He knows the future. He longs to reconcile with every person. He offers forgiveness and shows us how to forgive others. We can choose to forgive even those who’ve forced unthinkable pain upon us. He offers hope. And He answers Mack’s troubling questions, but not how he expects.

Why? Because of sin and mankind’s choices, evil in the world happens. God does not cause it, but God allows tragedy to happen. God explains that He is always with us and can bring “incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies.”

I highly recommend The Shack for anyone who’s ever experienced pain and suffering and asked difficult questions about life. This movie offers love, forgiveness and hope. And who can’t use these in the midst of life’s trials and tragedies?

P.S. The original 2007 book, The Shack, is even better than the movie and tells the entire story.

  • The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William Paul Young, Windblown Media, 2007.
  • The Shack Study Guide: Healing for Your Journey Through Loss, Trauma, and Pain by William Paul Young and Brad Robison, Windblown Media, 2016.

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Fabulous New Restorative Practices Resource

Every few months I scour the internet for newly published restorative practices in schools books and resources. Don’t Suspend Me! An Alternative Discipline Toolkit is more of a resource than a book. You’ll want this resource for you school site.

Book Review. Here’s the review I submitted on Amazon Books. “I shared this book with a restorative practices staff team at a local high school [Davis High School Site Team] a few weeks ago. I have colored post it notes on countless pages. As the book was passed around the group of about 8, more and more positive comments were made. The lead added the book to her ‘purchase’ list.”

Features. “The Discipline Belief Self-Inventory and scoring guide in chapter 2 is excellent. The second part of the book features case studies. But it is part 3 that it truly magnificent. It includes alternative discipline for 13 behaviors. Each behavior incident includes suggestions for alternatives and identifies each one as restorative, instructional, or reflective. These ideas are well done and creative.”

Ready to Use. “But it is the full page strategies, assignments, questions, and charts that are so easy to use and ready to copy for those who purchase the book. When working with busy educators trying something new, this book is ideal and simple to use. Thanks for writing such a practical resource.”

Purchase this Resource. This is a “book” every restorative practices school site team should purchase. Authors Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and John E. Hannigan. Corwin: A Sage Publication, 2017. Available at Amazon Books in paperback for $27.95 or Kindle Edition for $26.55. Since over half the book features pages to copy for book owners, I suggest the paperback.

Slackers or Doing Our Best?

I set my alarm Saturday night for church tomorrow. My husband, Rick, has a Youth for Christ event, so he won’t be around to give me prompts to keep me on task while getting ready.

The alarm goes off and I’m up. I turn the shower on. But I don’t get in it . . . yet. The longer I’m awake, the more off task I get. In the midst of “getting ready,” I put laundry in the dryer and start another load. I hang dry a number of items. I take photos of Mindy, our geriatric cat lying outside looking cute. I walk to the kitchen to put the receipts in the monthly 2017 envelope. You get the idea.

Periodically I ask myself, what am I supposed to be doing? Sometimes I remember – get ready. I often chastise myself for not doing what I need to do. But another question follows, “Are you doing the best you can?”

Am I a Slacker? No matter how many times I ask myself this question, my answer is never, “You’re such a slacker.” It is always the same answer, “Yes, I’m doing the best I can.” With that clarified, I try to carry on.

Lies. But today I recognize this voice. It is Satan and his lies. I think, Yes, I will be late. Being late is better than not going at all. I continue to get ready amidst other random tasks.

Ninety-five minutes after the alarm goes off, I’m finally ready to leave for church. I just have to find my keys . . . get my Bible . . . and choose a coat. I’ll arrive even later. As an adult, I can be hard on myself, are you?

College Acceptance. Are you as hard on your children as you are on yourself? What are your academic expectations for your children? Do you expect straight A’s? Are you pushing your children or teens towards university acceptance at Harvard, Stanford and USC?

“I’m good at _____.” Until about second grade, children typically believe they can do anything and everything. Around second grade children begin to notice that other children may be better at something, like reading, spelling, or soccer. On the other hand, they also begin to identify what they’re good in. For example, my second grade grandson says, “I’m really good in math.” And he’s right. He is. What are your children’s strengths?

Challenges. What do your children struggle with? What is difficult for them and discouraging? Growing up, I always struggled with math. I was told that if I didn’t learn my times tables by the time sixth grade started, I’d stay in 5th grade. My mother made me flashcards (no, we didn’t have the dollar store then to buy flashcards) and I practiced every day. I moved on to sixth grade. However, I had to take basic math my freshman year because I was still so far behind. I went in every morning before school to get help.

Guidance. So how can you encourage your children in areas of struggle? When I earned a C in math, it represented the “best” I could do. My dad dropped me off early at my high school for tutoring. My mom monitored my homework, met with teachers, and made flash cards. They focused more on what I did well, like English, Social Studies, and Home Economics courses. What will work for your children?

Results. I focus the best I can on getting ready for church. I’m pretty late, but no one announces my late arrival from the pulpit or says anything at all. I just join in and praise God that I’d made it there. Your children can make it too with your guidance and encouragement.


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