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Thanksgiving has different meanings for all of us. For me, it is a time to slow down and spend quality time with my family. I am thankful and grateful for them every day, but on this day, traditionally we are together as a family. Having adult children now, we all go in different directions on a daily basis. So, when we get time together on Thanksgiving, we take advantage of the time to connect. 

I read an article recently on the meaning of Thanksgiving and the author lists three expressions of gratitude for this day.
  • To gather in unity - It is refreshing and invigorating when people come together, in celebration of a common purpose. It is a reconciliation of differences as well as a time of healing. In sharing our victories as well as our struggles, we find strength and hope.
  • To teach the young - In stories retold, each generation brings purpose and significance to the richness of their heritage. Faded pictures, sentimental knick-knacks, traditions before a meal all form a Thanksgiving family legacy.
  • To prepare the heart - In gratitude, we humbly reflect upon all the gifts (family, friends, health) that saturate our lives. By "giving-thanks" we choose to extend ourselves and give to others less fortunate. Out of the abundance of our hearts, we are able to offer our resources to help others.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find the joy in gathering together.

Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  at 8:50 AM
  
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. At the 11th hour on November 11, 1918, the Armistice with Germany went into effect to formally end major hostilities of World War I. After an urging from veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor and recognize all veterans. 

Though we are a long way from the days of World War I, it was on the first Armistice Day in 1919, in which President Woodrow Wilson uttered the following words to set the stage for honoring our veterans:
"To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations."

I draw your attention to the word gratitude. We observe and honor our veterans because we are grateful for their service to all of us. They have protected and defended the freedoms that we enjoy. Let us never forget that. When you come across a veteran, let your words and actions show your gratitude not only today, but all days.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Nov 11, 2018 at 4:17 PM
  

November is the month for gratitude. Having gratitude means we express humility and thankfulness for the people, opportunities, gifts, and talents afforded us.


I shared the following with our students on Wednesday, November 1 in my monthly video talk on character.


The year was 1933. The Great Depression had reached its lowest point as nearly 15 million Americans, 20 percent of the population, were unemployed and over half of the nation’s banks had failed. Others who remained employed had their wages reduced which also decreased their buying power. Soup kitchens, breadlines, and a growing population of homeless people were common across many cities and towns in the U.S.


Despite all of these challenges, many Americans learned how to make do with what they had. They developed an attitude of gratitude and learned how to be grateful for what they did have and not what they were going without.


We have learned throughout our history that it’s not what you don’t have, but what you do with what you have that counts the most. That type of perspective only happens when you have gratitude. Folks during the Great Depression may have eaten the same type of meal for days on end, but they learned to be grateful that they had food.


Marty Bryan, age 84, from Columbus, Ohio shared, “I lived through The Great Depression and can remember eating beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I was four years old but at least we had something to eat. Others didn’t.”

Another resident from Columbus, Ohio, Maxine Bartelt, age 87, recalls. “Eating was different in those days, too. We didn’t come to a table and complain because the food wasn’t what we liked. There were not many choices. We ate or went without. Some days bread and gravy tasted very good.”


The point here is this. We all have challenges and struggles we have to deal with from time to time. And it can be easy to get down because of those challenges. But it’s during those challenging times where a focus on being truly grateful for what we have will get us through. Because no matter what issues we may have, there is always someone out there in the world who has even greater challenges.


Take a moment and think about what or who you are grateful for in your life and let that sink in. For me personally, I am truly grateful, thankful, and joyful that I have the opportunity to serve as the principal at L-DHS every day. I am grateful and appreciative that I have a supportive and loving family at home that allows me to be in this role at Lee-Davis because quite frankly "I’m living the dream" every day.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Nov 03, 2018 at 3:25 PM
  
The advances in technology in a lot of ways have made our lives more convenient. We have access to information at our finger tips. We can communicate with almost anyone at any given time. We can share our lives with the world through various social media apps. However, the same advances have also complicated our lives by placing more demands on our time. People have access to us 24 hours a day. We have emails that come in non stop. People are constantly checking social media to see what's going in in their world. The stress of these demands can lead to negative thinking.

One final step to creating a positive mental attitude is to simplify your life. The busier and more complicated life is, the more difficult it becomes to remain positive. When you have too many demands on your time and too many obligations, you have little time for fun, spending time with people who can lift you up, or just having down time to reflect or be at peace.

Take an inventory of how you're spending your time and see where you can drop things from your to-do list or other "stuff" you can get rid of. Reducing the demands on your time and in your life will lighten your load and allow you to feel more positive. You'll find you have more time for family and friends, fun, or just time to relax and rejuvenate.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 28, 2018 at 5:56 PM
  
Over the last two years I have read a book entitled The Positive Dog with students I mentor. It's a book that emphasizes which dog are you feeding, the positive dog or the negative one. One of the strategies recommended in the book was to take a daily gratitude walk and reflect on what you are grateful for in life. Starting each day in this manner fills your mind and soul with positive thoughts.

One of the next steps to creating a positive mental attitude to practice daily gratitude. You can take a gratitude walk or keep a gratitude journal to reinforce your thinking. For this to be effective, it must be intentional and become part of our daily routine. We are creatures of habit and creating a habit of positive thinking can have a tremendous positive effect over time.

Another step is to stop reacting. Small negative events may occur during your day and can cause feelings of frustration or anger.Someone may something rude to you or cut you off in traffic. Don't let that ruin your day. You still own your actions to the thoughts you have. Teach yourself how to control your reactions and find other ways to respond to minimize the negativity. One strategy is to find humor in those situations and chalk it up to experience.

Another strategy is to associate with positive people. We tend to take in and reflect on the emotions and attitudes of those we spend the most time with. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up, who are confident, who find the silver lining. and who support you.

Next week's post will complete this series on creating a positive mental attitude.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 21, 2018 at 9:00 PM
  
Dawn Staley, the current women's basketball coach at South Carolina, played her college ball at the University of Virginia. During her time there she wore a rubber band on her wrist. Anytime she made a negative play, she would snap the band on her wrist as a reminder that it was a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and play on. That simple action allowed her to control her thoughts.

We have the same power. Negative thoughts come into our minds and are usually tied to something in the past or something in the future. It could be a mistake you made or thoughts about a future event you're not looking forward to. Either way you no longer have control over what happened or what the outcome may be of a future event. You can only control your thoughts and actions in the moment.

The first three steps to creating a positive mental attitude are awareness, breaking the negative thought, then replacing it. Find your own "rubber band" by recognizing the negative thoughts, "snapping" out of it, and then re-framing the thoughts with more positive words of action. In other words, identify the source of the thoughts, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move forward. 

The next series of blog posts will focus on other steps to creating a Positive Mental Attitude.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 14, 2018 at 6:37 PM
  
There is really nothing like experience.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Michael Jordan.
"I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."

He learned to fail forward. The mistakes he made as a basketball player or in business taught him valuable lessons. He chose to turn those lessons into new learning. He took time to reflect on his experiences and how he could improve himself toward greater success.

Often times young people who fail at something tend to develop a fear of failing especially if it's a similar task or situation they have failed at before. When there is a fear of failure, the tendency is to either not try again at all or give a half-hearted effort so the excuse becomes "I really didn't try." It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When your mindset shifts to failing forward, you develop the courage to move past the failure by focusing on what you learned from the experience. Your reflection on your past mistakes or failures is key to establishing your next steps and overcoming your fear.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 07, 2018 at 2:19 PM
  
According to Andy Warhol, "You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you."

Here are 10 personal victories to celebrate in everyday life. 

1. When you befriend a person who seems lonely or out of place.

2. When you find the perfect gift for someone and make their day.

3. When you learn how to do something - change a tire, cook your favorite dish, use a new app - that you couldn't do yesterday.

4. When you decide your past mistakes will no longer define you.

5. When you drink enough water, eat healthy food, exercise, and get enough sleep - all in one day.

6. When someone younger asks for help because they look up to you.

7. When you share something you have plenty of with someone who has less.

8. When you stop procrastinating and just do that thing you've been putting off.

9. When you tackle all the clutter in your room and finally organize it to your liking.

10. When you apologize to someone you have truly wronged.

Remember, it's the little things that can make a big difference.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 30, 2018 at 5:44 PM
  
Personal victory is really the mastering of self. It doesn't happen by chance. According to Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People there are three basic habits that can lead you to personal victory1)Be proactive; 2)Begin with the end in mind; 3)Put the first thing first.

Being proactive means mentally setting yourself up for victory. It's a decision. It could be as simple as deciding you're going to clean your room or making the decision that you're going to do your homework instead of watching Netflix or playing Fortnite. 

Begin with the end in mind is about what you want to accomplish: your room will be clean or your homework will be done. You feel that sense of accomplishment no matter how big or small it may seem.

Put the first thing first is about what you value and make a priority. When it's a priority, it will get your attention and focus. What gets your attention and focus gets done.

Once you get the concept of personal victory, the next step is learning how to celebrate the small victories. Next week's blog will focus on those victories.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 23, 2018 at 10:17 AM
  
"Words are the singular most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble." - Yehuda Berg (International best selling author and speaker)

Considering the "powerful force" of our words, how can we discipline ourselves to consistently speak in a way that conveys respect, gentleness, and humility? One way is to take time to THINK.
T - Is it TRUE?
H - Is it HELPFUL?
I - Is it INSPIRING?
N - Is it NECESSARY?
K - Is it KIND?


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 16, 2018 at 8:05 PM
  
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