Respect the Apology

Why in the world is it so hard to say, “I am sorry?” I’m not a big fan of speaking the phrase, since it implies, somehow, I was in the wrong. Who likes to be wrong? Our roles as parents and educators can impede courageous moments to admit fault, to our charges, since we are coming from an automatic place of position. We are the authority figure and while this position should be respected, our power can be misused at times, with thoughtless acts that require an apology. We may think, it’s inconsequential or unnecessary, but our behavior will be modeled in our homes and classrooms. If we would like to see our students, without prompting, immediately and sincerely apologize to others, then we need to show them how it is done. We are the leaders and if we want our children and students to display integrity and know genuine connection, we need to apologize for our wrongs, even the accidental ones, and ask for forgiveness. You know the beautiful moment a child’s eye brightens over knowledge and joy. The same extraordinary flash occurs when we validate our children, and display respect for their being, giving them the choice to accept our misdeeds and decide if forgiveness should be rendered. The link below details the respect of a real apology and how to make one. Enjoy!
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

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Balancing Act – 3 Practical Tips that work

Balancing Act – 3 Practical Tips that work

Life is one crazy, unique, balancing act, leaving the average American: stressed, fatigued, sick, depressed, and overwhelmed. We often meet the criteria for a prescription drug advertisement, listing all the ailments above. The fact maybe; the scales of life are tilting a little too low for us to thrive. We can have a knowing-feeling something is wrong with the way we “do life”. Yet, we keep grinding through the same actions or inactions each and every day, hoping something will eventually change. We cannot wait for change to come our way. We must be the change we seek. Our choices in life can create the balance we so desperately need. The fine art of having balanced lives is such a popular topic, evident by the numerous self-help and “how to achieve balance” books lining the shelves of libraries and book stores. I admit to perusing those aisles, wanting to reduce the stressors of work and family, but the mere thought of reading a 500 page book on a balanced life made me nauseous, and meditating an hour, in a twisted position, with screaming children in the background seemed ridiculous. With some reflection, I realized, I do juggle several balls in the air at once, and, although, I am not perfect and drop balls left and right, I can honestly say, I am content with my current balancing act–challenged but not fried! Here are three, very practical tips, I use every single day to manage the madness:

1. EAT A GOOD BREAKFAST
If you refuse to eat breakfast, no matter the excuse, I guarantee you stress galore for the day. As a nation we sleep less, eat less of the good stuff and eat more junk, making us feel like slugs, all the while expecting our brains and bodies to engage at warp-speed. As a fitness trainer, I have heard of every excuse, using a few, myself. I always regret the donut, not out of guilt, but, because it always makes me feel like – a slug! Multiple studies reveal the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. According to a USDA study, adults will have better concentration, productivity throughout the morning, and suffer from less illness. For children, the impact of breakfast is enormous! The American Dietetic Association claims, children will have: better concentration, be more alert, more creative, better problem solvers and have better social interactions. More schools are practicing first period breakfast class, because, the end result is a student body ready and energized to learn. Taking 10-15 minutes to prepare and eat breakfast is an efficient and achievable way to start the day with some zing!

2. SAY NO!

This one is harder to implement if you are a people pleaser, but the freedom to say, “No”, creates confidence and gives wiggle room in life. My default answer to everyone at one point in my life was, “Yes”. I hated to say – “No”- to anyone; friends, family, co-workers. Flattery had me hooked and guilt kept me locked in. I did not want to disappoint others. In fact, I would end up crashing, and disappointing everyone, including myself. By accepting everyone’s request, I was setting myself up for failure. I love, Alicia Keys’ song, “I am Superwoman”, blasting and singing loudly like a personal anthem but at times, we need to accept our humanness. Perhaps, one can accomplish, A through Z, in a 24 hour period, but at what cost is it being done, and just because it can be accomplished, does it mean it should? Swirl that around in your head for a moment. If you have never said “No”, try this. Thank you, (person) for thinking of me for (XYZ). At this time I am concentrating on (pick a ball you are juggling). Do not make excuses for why you are saying no, because, bottom line, whoever is asking probably does not need a running list of all of your life responsibilities, they have their own too. Say no with graceful, confidence and don’t add, maybe I can… When I personally hear “Maybe”, I am hanging on to the hope of, “Yes”. Let your “No” be “No.” Friends and family will respect the boundaries you are setting for yourself.

3. TALK OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF

Don’t judge! We are already rambling to ourselves, constantly, about what needs to be done or said. For example, you might be, mentally rehearsing an excuse why the extra project you volunteered for is late (Should have said, “No”-go back to tip #2). Giving an audible voice to our thoughts can clear the clutter, and even focus us on what is truly important. Focus brings about a calm, constructive feeling. Obviously, you need to use good judgment, as to where and when to try this exercise. I do not recommend doing so in front of your classroom while students are taking a test, could prove to be a bit distracting, among other things. A perfect time to try this little exercise is in the car. Now days, if you are driving legally and talking on a cell phone, it looks like you are carrying on a complete, engaging, conversation with yourself, anyway.

I know life is challenging and circumstance can demand every ounce of energy you have in your body. I can’t promise the cure to the unbalanced life styles we live. What works for one person might not work for another. The good news, there are choices available and the opportunities to make positive ones are plentiful. Good Luck or good-balance!
Please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Math Blame – Taking responsibility for learning

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that, is making you unhappy.” – Wayne Dyer

I should have been required to recite and analyze Mr. Dyer’s quote many years ago in high school and college. I was a model student, involved in: student counsel, extra-curricular activates, and excelled academically. I even worked diligently to the point of attending two schools my Junior and Senior years. I would wake early, be at school by 7:30, take classes through lunch so I could finish up my academics, and then catch a bus to Arts High, finishing around 5:00 in the evening. I loved it, and I worked hard, but, in one area–Math.

I blamed my lackadaisical math skills on my teacher, Mr. Y. He was an older teacher without personality, and we immediately clashed upon meeting. There were days he would meet me in the hallway before class would start and say, “Not today”. Fine with me, I would casually make my way to the principal’s office, where I would get some work done and no one challenged me or called me on it. Like I said, I was a model student, continued to receive A’s and B’s in all my classes in both schools, but fail math. I knew this particular teacher had a reputation for “giving” bad grades to students. So, I felt completely entitled to my blame. It was his fault I was so frustrated and flailing.

I believe the blame game is a way of life for many students and people in general, pointing their fingers at others for their personal flaws, inadequacies, and circumstances. Why bother accepting responsibility for what effects you directly; hmmm—because– it effects you directly, and typically no one else. Other times, like in my case, we can be oblivious to our blaming behavior because we feel overwhelmingly, justified in our judgment. If blame is not acknowledged and dealt with quickly, then a hard to break habit can spread across every aspect of one’s life, avoiding responsibility altogether. We can become stunted and have a horrible feeling that others control our life. This of course is an illusion. We, and only ourselves, have the ability to make choices that control the outcome of our lives.

The truth was, I didn’t like math, and it didn’t come easy to me, so, I dismissed it completely. I was doing fine in everything else. If I was slacking in math, and had a perfect scapegoat to take the fall for my arithmetic agitations, so be it.

Even in later years, I would tell people of the horrible math teacher I had, and that was the reason I didn’t understand logic problems. Ironically, I struggled years before and years after Mr. Y’s classes. Were all those teachers to blame also for my frustration and poor grades? I just refused to accept any responsibility for my learning, and in hind-sight, I know I could have put forth some effort. I never went for extra help, even though teachers were always available. Other things, places and people were more important. And, I would at times blame myself – “I just can’t get it” or better said, quit on myself.

My high school was really small, and Mr. Y knew what I was capable of. I think he was in the right for kicking me out, because I had no intention of even trying to learn Algebra II, which I had to take twice. If I was wise, I should have put forth the effort the first year, so I would not have to endure the second year too. But, I was too busying quitting and blaming to understand simple algebraic concepts.

These days, I am inspired by the children running through my house asking their father for math problems. I married a man who majored in chemistry and, yes- math. The boys are excited to get “hard” problems, and work through those challenges. Knowing my personal struggle in this area, daddy makes sure I am in the game too.

Mr. Y, I owe you a huge apology for carrying the burden of my responsibility all these years. I’m not sure if you were a good teacher or not, but it was my responsibility to at least try and learn.

Is it time for you to apologize to someone for carrying your burdens? Be accountable to yourself and for yourself.

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

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“IS YOU UGLY?”

“IS YOU UGLY?”

I’m told directly or indirectly, in some way, there is something unbeautiful about me every single day, and you are told the same. A screaming voice on the radio asks, “Do you have dark unattractive spots on your face? Is your tone uneven? Suffer no more!” I never realized I was suffering. I just wanted to listen to some music. I have become acutely aware of the insistent messages I am filtering, directly related to how I look: my hair is too curly, my skin too blotchy, my nails too dull, and, for added measure, I stink and need a stick of this and a bottle of that. So, when I came across a newspaper clipping dated a year ago, highlighting You Tube videos by preteen and teen girls asking, “Am I Pretty.” I wanted to do some more investigating. After one year, would the video pleas continue, and how did our young women really feel about their self-images?
Without empirical data, intuitively, I knew women, young and old, struggled with positive self-images (and esteem). Out of an unconscious place, we often practice self-deprecating talk, shaping our self-portraits. You and I know and love women who insult themselves, and it makes my heart cringe when I hear the loathing. The statistics are much greater and harsher than I had imagined. Dove® Research key findings from their latest research include:
• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
• Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves
• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful but do not see their own beauty
• More than half (54%) of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
The numbers are high on how lowly we see ourselves. The impact for women is huge, because, 60% of girls cease doing what they love because they feel bad about their looks and 75% of girls with low self-esteem (poor self-image) report negative activities, such as eating disorders when feeling bad about themselves. Our society’s obsession with “pretty” quells the spirit and defiles the wonders of the human anatomy. Just consider the life and death risk factors when having plastic surgery. Yet, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons report 14.6 million cosmetic plastic procedures performed in 2012, a 5% increase from 2011. Out of those millions, thousands of women are being wheeled into the morgue in search of beauty.
Curiosity must have killed the cat- or it’s nerves- because, I subjected myself to watching and listening to naive and innocent girls beg in question, “Am I Pretty” but really stating, “Please, say I am worth something.” The same videos from a year ago were still posted, with possibly censorable parameters, considering the extreme foulness of comments. But, from what I could gather, there was no uptick in similar postings. Perhaps, girls were learning lessons from those who exposed themselves to the ugly elements of the world. Last year, one girl had a whooping 4 million hits, and, this year, to date, has 7 million, with a slew of emotional beat downs in the “comment below” box. I wonder if she thinks, she is pretty.
With such an overwhelming emphasis on what we look like bombarding us each and every day, I have to admit it’s a question young and old ask themselves, usually privately. Now, the polar-opposite question is being streamlined on video, “Do you think I am ugly?” Talk about opening yourself up to emotional Russian- Roulette! The cries for attention and the truth displayed by their question reveal an obvious diagnosis of low self-esteem and poor self-image. But how do we encourage and build positive images of beauty? In an excerpt from Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, the author brings forth a truthful and powerful answer to the question on beauty our young girls are asking via live from YouTube:
“The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s over to shoot guns in the field. ‘Why you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face. ‘Well? Is you?’
I blinked, paused my crying. ‘Is I what?’ ‘Now you look a here, Egenia’-because Constantine was the only one who’d occasionally follow Mama’s rule. ‘Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?’ ‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed. Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand; something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me. ‘Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.’ Constantine was so close; I could see the blackness of her gums. ‘You gone have to ask yourself, am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’ She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.”
There needs to be some virtual and personal thumb-pressing going on for our young ladies, conveying the message of personal choice, not, “Yes, you are pretty”. Constantine did not soften this girl’s state of mind by telling her, “No, you aren’t ugly. You are the prettiest girl in the whole wide world.” Wisdom knew better– her opinion would be irrelevant. If this little girl believed she was ugly, then no words would convince her to believe otherwise. According to Constantine’s definition on ugly, there are some seriously-hideous folks out in this world, and they need to be called out on their ugliness.
7 million people could have told our YouTube girls they were gorgeous but would they believe it? The choice is always yours to make when it comes to being pretty or ugly, it is not in the eye of the beholder- it is in your own eye.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
*SOURCE: Dove Research: The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited

60 Bystanders

The realities of the case in Steubenville, Ohio, where two football players allegedly raped a 16 year old girl are unfolding, in the second day of testimony being heard today. Reviewing the articles, pictures, posts and video surrounding this horrifying event has brought me to a perplexing place. According to a news story released early this morning (see link below) there are 60 possible witnesses between the defense and prosecution. 60 potential individuals who could have attempted to intervene on behalf of the girl and even the boys. Instead, there was a flurry of pictures taken (conveniently deleted) and voyeurs, to what is now a cataclysm. No one was courageous enough to intervene? Really – 60 people?!! Instead, we watch young men repulsively comment on video to what he feels is hysterical – rape. The details coming out of this tragic situation flow like a Lifetime movie, except, this is a real life nightmare for three young people. Self-destructing choices continued to fall like beastly dominos and yet bystanders continued to watch, and click, and post for their amusement. We must encourage, and educate our young people to make self-respecting choices that are carried out under any situation, and to move to action because; it is the right thing to do.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/trial-to-begin-in-ohio-hs_n_2866339.html

Student Stress and One Whacked-Out Dream

Vibrant, multi-colored baby sheep rose up from the ground and surrounded me. They were perfect, adorable, little puff balls, leaping off a cliff. I was trying to stop them, but there were too many. One, slightly bigger, baby sheep approached me. He was a delicious, milk chocolate hue and his eyes were huge. He proceeded to talk fluent “Baa” to me, but I did not understand, then he smiled sweetly, and jumped off the cliff. That was my whacked out dream last night. I really didn’t need an interpreter to tell me, this was my subconscious dealing with today’s event. My oldest son is on his way to an amazing environmental science field trip that will be four days long. This would be his first time truly away from home. My anxiety decided to manifest in an unusual dreamscape, resembling a video game. I am a bit stressed, but I am not alone.
Stress is a way of life these days and According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA),” Many Americans — both adults and youth — experience high levels of stress.” As an adult, I am able to recognize my anxiety, give the proper attention and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, young individuals typically do not recognize stress and do not have the skill set to cope appropriately.
It is estimated that 10% of our teen population suffer from anxiety disorders due to stress. Guidance counselors and social workers are giving more health referrals for students who are dealing with stress and witnessing more hospitalization with anxiety and panic attacks. Stress is on the rise and crippling our children.
The causes of stress for children are extremely broad but one study in Baltimore identified the five top most experienced stressors for students: 1) school work, 2) parents, 3) romantic relationships, 4) friends, and 5) younger siblings. The same study found that boys and girls dealt with these stressors in significantly different ways and recommended separating the sexes for some stress management activities. The study also recommended that programs should teach students how to react in a healthy manner towards stress. The TURNING STONEchoice program implements techniques that will equip students with knowledge, allowing them to identify stress, or other obstacles in their lives, and how to work through these challenges in a positive way.
Schools across the country are taking action to de-stress the student body. Some schools are using service dogs to roam the halls in between classes; other schools are replacing traditional chairs with large exercise balls. Extended homeroom times are the norm in many school districts, allowing students to catch up on their work or meet with a teacher for extra help.
These ideas are needed and refreshing but one dimensional. Most of the programs being implemented are focused with relieving the symptoms of stress, not promoting students’ skills to recognize what stress is, or make self-empowering choices that reduce or eliminate stress to begin with. Relievers are necessary since we can never escape the realities of stress. Equally important, is a student’s understanding of his/her unique stress tolerance and their ability to make positive decisions that bolster their confidence, keeping stress in their dreams.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

TURNING STONEchoice Model – Annie Sullivan

March is Women’s History Month and the National Women’s History Project selects a theme each year because, hey, women like to add detail and accessories. While searching through their archives, I came across 2012’s theme – “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment”, and although it is so last year, education and empowerment are timelessly relevant! The NWHP honored a group of women, who were pioneering teachers and advocates to advanced learning. One of the honorees embodied both distinctions despite having only one student her entire teaching career, Annie Sullivan.
I was well aware of Sullivan; the first person to successfully teach a deaf-blind and mute child, Helen Keller. I even recall the movie, “The Miracle Worker”, rightly named for the tremendous effort and compassion it took to reach Keller, and the accomplishments that followed. What quietly inspired me was Sullivan’s personal journey, prior to meeting Keller.
Annie Sullivan was no stranger to adversity. By age four she was legally blind, by age 9 she was orphaned after her mother died of tuberculosis, and her father abandoned the family. She and a brother were sent to the poor house where he died a few months after their arrival. Tragic events weaved the tapestry of Sullivan’s childhood; yet, she found an interest in learning while being read to by prostitutes. Understanding the opportunity education would give her, she requested to be sent to school. Her experience at the Perkins Institution for the Blind was a tumultuous transition, having difficulty with authority figures and lagging behind in social graces, keeping her isolated. Nevertheless, her thirst for knowledge and her ability to adapt pushed her educational endeavors forward. She claimed, “Gradually, I began to accept things as they were, and rebel less and less. The realization came to me that I could not alter anything but myself…”
Annie Sullivan is an exemplary TURNING STONEchoice model. She understood she could not control life’s events, but could control her responses. She chose to live a full, and purpose filled life, regardless of the circumstances, making self-empowering choices that eventually not only benefitted her and Keller, but generations of teachers and students that would emulate her teaching model. If not for her awe inspiring choices as a young child there would be no Miracle Worker.
Please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice