The tables we set

As parents, grandparents, principals, teachers, coaches, business and organization leaders, we all set our “tables” over time. We choose the decor, tone and atmosphere. We make it formal or casual. Relaxed or not. Heavy or light.

When we set our family, school, classroom, team and/or organization table, how does it look? How does it feel? Does it matter?

Is it a table that our people join with joy? Is it a table they leave with confidence?

Is it a table that encourages authentic conversation? That welcomes different points of view?

Is there a sense of humor? A sense of respect?

How do we set our table — or tables? Do we set it only for today — or with tomorrow or years ahead in mind?

As we prepare for our children to circle back to the nest this year, we think about what we bring to our tables, whom will join us, what will be taken away, and whom will return. Only time will tell how well we’ve done.

It oozes out. And our children are watching.

People need to be heard. When they’re not, the resulting negative energy oozes out the sides of a family, school, team, business, community into provocative conversations on social media, in the parking lot, around the water cooler, and elsewhere. When a group, organization or community goes negative, we generally know how it happened if we’re honest.

To build a sense of positive community, we must come together and create clear communication systems that facilitate timely sharing of important information and ongoing opportunities for people to constructively share their ideas and concerns — and to be heard. Also key: the group must support the high expectation that members will speak up in a positive way with the community in mind.

When a collective of human beings functions well together, we can feel it. The energy is positive. People speak freely because they feel safe. They feel safe because they can be themselves, with confidence. When a highly-functioning, positive group faces inevitable challenges, people deepen their understanding of each other and stick together, becoming stronger through their shared struggle.

When a group fails to function constructively, we feel that, too. The environment is toxic because people talk more about each other than they talk to each other. The distrust, discomfort and frustration is palpable, and the negative energy begins to take on a life of its own. Everyday challenges throw the group easily off course; and eventually it falls apart.

This week, let’s take an honest look in the mirror. Let’s ask ourselves what kind of energy we bring to and see within our family, school, team, business and community.

If we’re in a positive, upstanding community, let’s celebrate it!

If we’re not, let’s find our +Voices, get the undiscussables on the table, and work together to change it.

And let’s remember all the while that our children are watching. And they’re learning from us.

See me

I am your child.

I am your student.

I am your husband.

I am your wife.

I am your brother, your sister.

Your mother, your father.

Your friend.

Your neighbor.

I am a human being doing my best.

And I need you to see me as I am.

I need you to SEE me as I AM.

I need you to allow me to be myself with you.

I want to tell you my truth.

Can you hear me?

I am screaming at you with my eyes wide and my mouth shut.

I need you to give me the gift that comes in a simple card that reads:

You are not me.

You are you.

And I love you.

As you are.

I need you to tell me this to my face:

I love you even when and especially when you don’t agree with me because we have so much to learn from each other on this journey.

Why is that so hard?

What are you afraid of?

Why do you tell me not to feel what I’m feeling when I’m feeling it?

Why do you tell me to believe what you believe when I am still searching?

Why do you dream for me when I have my own dreams?

Why do you think you get to choose whom I will become?

Please know this.

Just because you are older or smarter or richer or poorer or ____-er does not make you wiser.

I have seen wisdom spring from unexpected people and unexpected places.

Like youth.

And inexperience.

And silence.

Especially when that silence is imposed.

Please. It is awful not to feel loved.

Hear my voice.

See my face.

Feel my pain.

Set me free.

AS+IS PARENTING: Authentic Success Is Sustainable

Three of our four kids are now beyond high school, with the last one not far behind. As mothers, this is a year of two college send-offs, a new job, the beginning of a fourth college search — and one empty nest. Not to mention the inevitable tears, fears, cheers and drama the come with major life transitions — for the young and, dare we say it, the (growing) old!

If there’s one big thing we’re learning, it’s the importance of seeing — and loving — our kids AS+IS, meeting them where and as they are, and supporting them as they grow, change and mature into whom they want to be.

We’re also learning the importance of going with The Flow, and that the cliche “they end up where they’re supposed to be” is as true as it is annoying. Finally, we’re embracing The Rollercoaster. If you’re a parent, you probably know what we’re talking about: the crazy, eighteen-years-plus ride of highs, lows, twists, turns, stomach churns and — depending on the choices we and our kids make — plenty of joy along the way.

Our 2016-17 theme — AS+IS PARENTING — will explore the idea that Authentic Success Is Sustainable.

Because let’s face it. It’s a whopping-big leap of faith to let our kids unfold naturally over time, with appropriate boundaries and support, so we can ultimately let them go and watch them hopefully bring their best selves to The World.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be boring. But together, we can strap in for the ride of our lives. Will you join us?”

Sarah & Trish

We grow into each other

Snax rice trees

The way we parent, teach and coach has a direct and indirect impact on the energy of our family, school, team and community.

Like these gorgeous, old, live oak trees that grow up, out and into each other in our neighborhood, so do our decisions as parents, teachers, coaches and administrators. What goes down at our kitchen tables, in our classrooms, in our team huddles and in the principal’s office also travels up, out and into the lives of others in our communities.

And with technology, we are now connected like never before.

Here’s to a mindful +Spring!

Sarah & Trish

But who IS around?


The first time graffiti appeared in a bathroom shared by middle and high school boys, the community was quite shocked. When the negative behavior continued despite administrator’s best efforts to stop it, many people became frustrated, including the students themselves.

One day, some student leaders came to the middle school principal and said, “The school really needs to fix this. What is the administration going to do?”

“Well, boys, this is happening when adults are not around,” the principal said. “And we are not going to punish everyone for the actions of a single person or a small group by putting in cameras or requiring hall passes to use the bathroom. That is not the culture of our school.”

The room grew quiet. “So what will happen?” said a student. “Because you’re right. This goes on when adults aren’t around.”

“But who is around?” asked the principal. The boys looked at each other, and then one said. “We are.” They each nodded in agreement. “That’s right,” the principal said. And soon after, the vandalism stopped.


To read about our +Student Coalition concept and other fundamental +Works ideas, click here to download a PDF of our +School Community Guide:

From rage to courage: What we’ve learned

There’s a reason the word “rage” lives in the word “courage.” It was rage and real despair that led us to start +Works. Becoming activists was a positive way for us to channel our anger over what we saw as a lack of positive attention on bullying in our Houston neighborhood.

When the Houston Chronicle ran a front-page story in March 2010 about a bullied 8-year-old Blackshear Elementary student who jumped off a balcony, we got busy getting serious.  We stopped crying in our coffees, put on our professional creative/strategic hats, and got to work.

Here is what we have learned since then:

Until people are personally touched by a tragedy or near-tragedy, bullying is quite easy to ignore.

Despite the passionate work of the years-long, anti-bullying movement, we still live in a tough, hyper competitive society, and our kids must learn to survive and thrive in it. While it is important to continue working to create safer, more positive communities, we can best make an impact one resilient child, one resilient parent at a time.

Our kids need to be “emotionally vaccinated” early and often to build resilience. This happens over many years and is a community’s most important work. Not unlike going to the pediatrician’s office and signing immunization forms, we, as parents need to say “yes” more often to opportunities for our kids to experience adversity, failure, heartache and disappointment to build the resistance and resilience they will need to be successful. This can be a painful process; fellow parents, educators, and coaches need to support students who struggle.

As parents, we need:

To be more confident and resilient ourselves. We need to reflect on the kind of adults we want to raise, make everyday decisions toward that goal, and connect with like-minded parents for support along the way.

To follow our instincts and say no — early. The few times we’ve gone against our instincts, we’ve regretted it. Today’s parents have ample opportunities to make The Hard Call: whether or not to allow advanced technology, group and co-ed sleepovers, provocative entertainment, M-rated video games, and underage drinking in our own homes. Saying no to our kids and other parents early vaccinates and strengthens us to make the tougher calls as the years roll on.

A basic understanding of child development.  When we understand what is normal for the age — especially when it’s negative — it is easier to keep our perspective and take age-appropriate actions when things go awry, as they often naturally do.

 ”To see the child in front of us,” quoting Race to Nowhere creator Vicki Abeles. Every child is unique. Not every child will be good at everything, nor should they have to be. We need to support our kids in discovering their interests and talents. We need to embrace the low-cost lessons that come their way.

To talk to people and not about people. To build more positive, upstanding communities, we need to face our everyday fears and challenges directly with confidence.

Finally, we’ve learned that speaking up can be excruciating, but it’s worth it. And although we still have our moments of rage, we have many more moments of courage. That courage builds the kind of confidence that comes from experience and from hopefully learning from our own mistakes. It’s the kind of confidence we hope to pass along to the next generation.

Will your heart stop — and listen?

A Voice Called Justice

by Katherine

The other day, someone whispered justice,

The other day, I didn’t listen.

The next day, it whispered again,

And the next day, I didn’t listen.

The day after that, our girls were kidnapped,

The day after that, I blew it off.

Another day later, race was still discriminated,

And another day later, I still ignored it.

The next morning, my brothers couldn’t worship freely,

And the next morning, I turned my head.

That evening, our sisters couldn’t speak freely,

And that evening, I walked away.

One more day after that, someone told me I was weak,

Then one more day after that, I took a look around me.

I heard that voice, that whisper again.

And once more, it cried out justice.

But this time, my heart stopped and listened,

And this time, I decided to make a difference.


Katherine is a student at Founding +School Community Pershing Middle School (HISD) and our 2015 One +Voice Grand Prize: Writing winner. CLICK HERE to enjoy again our 2015 One +Voice Creative Awards +FlipBook:

In peace, with courage

This week

we gather with the people we love

and care about and care for

We hold hands

across our tables

across the ages

across all points of view

to give thanks for all we have

our food

our families

our friends

our freedom

And to to talk about our world

and the kind of family and community and country

we want to be

We hold each other close

and again, we let each other go

back out into the world,

in peace,

and with courage.


Happy +Thanksgiving.

Sarah & Trish

It’s a cool house

The long-awaited three-day weekend was looming and the buzz on campus was the party being planned at her schoolmate’s house. She was excited to be included in the group text – something that had yet to happen in her high school years. She only hoped her parents would let her go. Not wanting to appear nerdy but knowing she had to ask, she said to a friend, “Will an adult be there? My parents will want to know.”

Her friend looked at her knowingly and said, “Yeah, but you don’t have to worry. It’s a cool house.”

Arriving at the party Friday night, she was shocked to see a house packed with kids, booze flowing and no adults in sight. She felt awkward when one clearly drunk student said, “What are YOU doing here?” Nervously, she looked for a familiar face and spotted her friend. “I thought you said an adult would be here,” she said.

“The parents are here,” she said, laughing. “They just don’t care what we do. I told you, it’s a cool house.”


In contrast, there is a program gaining momentum in a Houston high school called Eagle House, named after the school’s mascot. By becoming an Eagle House, parents make a bold statement to the community that they will support each other in raising teenagers to make healthy choices and to be people of character.  Eagle House parents agree to actively chaperone teenagers in their homes. They pledge to not provide or allow the use of drugs, alcohol or pornography or to permit gossip, hazing, bullying or humiliation on their watch. They are open to contact from parents in their community regarding teenager activity in their house, and their family’s name and contact information are listed with fellow Eagle House members on a protected page on the school website. This concept is very adaptable for elementary and middle school homes, where many parents today crave support around issues/questions surrounding advanced technology, video games, sleepovers, provocative entertainment, and other issues keeping people up at night. As we say, we are all in this together.

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